SF Novella of the Month, May 2022: Uncommon Charm

The #sfnovellaofthemonth for May 2022 is Uncommon Charm by Kat Weaver and Emily Bergslien, out now from Neon Hemlock Press.

When I started this book, which is labelled on the publisher’s website as a “gothic comedy,” I wondered if there might be such a thing as a truly gothic story with a light and gladsome heart. This novella is certainly built of all things gothic—the great old houses, brimming with mystery and menace; the weight of dark and tragic pasts; the sense of something inexorable and inevitable building—and yet its fundamental sweetness and good humour subvert these classic tropes into something new. This isn’t to say that Uncommon Charm is not possessed of gravity. Indeed, its frothy silliness and the acidly comedic voice of its narrator quite belie the heft of its themes, such that said themes slowly creep up on readers and catch them all unaware. This only serves to heighten the novella’s effect.

As always, I do not want to say too much in this review and spoil any of the story. I will say, though, that this is a lovely read for people who like stories about characters escaping cycles and refusing to be weighed down by the burdens of a past with which they did not have any involvement. This is, too, a lovely story about friendship, family, and learning to fully inhabit one’s own life while taking care not to neglect the other lives one impacts. Funny and touching in equal measures, Uncommon Charm is both a pleasurable diversion and a genuinely thoughtful meditation on the value of choice and self-determination.

I received a free digital ARC of this title from the publisher to cheer me up when I was sick with COVID-19 (thanks, dave, it really did cheer me up). All opinions are my own, though I am undeniably a Neon Hemlock fangirl and probably not very objective about their titles.

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