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Small Miracles

Small Miracles

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This allows us some of the novel’s best, most light-hearted amusing, and yet tender and poignant moments, as these two characters interact. Although there is no impending, world-ending disaster lurking in “Small Miracles”– this is considerably lighter fare. But its lightness doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile, intriguing book. I read (or listened to, actually) this as one of the SPFBO8 finalists, and while giving all titles a fair shot, I'm not going to pretend that this one won me over. I thought it was absolutely terrible, but that big caveat is there to say that this is absolutely not to sort of book I would ever read under my own steam (hence no rating), so there's every chance that if you like this sort of thing, it will at least work for you. I am currently working on a Victorian faerie tale, however, which I’m very excited about! Now that I’m writing in the Victorian era, I get to explore the gothic genre, which is a bit darker. I still have some whimsy and some humour in the book, but I also get to flavour it more like a ghost story, and add a bit more gallows humour to it. The characters are allowed to be a bit more flawed, and the atmosphere feels more dangerous. This first Victorian faerie tale takes a lot of inspiration from the movie Labyrinth —so if you had a thing for David Bowie in eyeliner taunting the young heroine, this one might be for you. I also loved the footnotes and the humour within them; it takes a good author to do these well and Atwater does homage to Pratchett (Jay Kristoff did quite well in Nevernight) in pulling these off. I must admit to some muffled laughter and nose snorting giggles on the morning commute whilst reading them. I think my favourite one was…

Intisar Khanani writes books that were made for me. She wrote Thorn , which is a retelling of The Goose Girl (one of my favourite faerie tales). Her books are young adult in the best sense, in that they follow younger characters as they question authority and grapple with their place in the world. My favourite thing about Intisar’s work is that she often puts her noble characters through an arc where they have to humble themselves, and that’s why I loved Thorn —it was, in some respects, a deconstruction of The Goose Girl . But it’s still a great, enjoyable book on its own merits, and it has this inexplicable spark of loveliness which I’m not sure I can fully explain. Olivia Atwater is an author based in Canada. She is best known for her Regency Faerie Tales trilogy, which comprises Half a Soul (2020), Ten Thousand Stitches (2020), and Longshadow (2021). She has also written the fantasy novel Small Miracles (2022), a novella with her husband, and non-fiction works about writing. Half a Soul was about the evils of too much politeness and not enough kindness… so readers who find that lesson resonates with them might think for a moment about what subjects they’ve been politely evading lately. Small Miracles is about the secret wonder of mundane, everyday things—so I hope readers come away from it with a new appreciation for the small things which make them happy. Okay. So, just one look at my name and you may figure I’m a fan of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s book, Good Omens. You would be correct, reader. There are numerous witty footnotes spread throughout the book, again like Pratchett, that amusingly prompt the reader to keep their own personal tally of the sin lost or virtue gained on the balance books. I loved this feature of the worldbuilding, and laughed out loud at some of the footnotes.And, I absolutely adore the theme of gods or demi-gods or beings such as angels, interfering with the lives of mortals, and producing unplanned-for results. The overriding sense here is one of hope and optimism, and despite Gadriel meddling to try and tempt Holly to sin, you know everything is going to work out for the best, in the end. His/Her purview is minor transgressions. He’s/she’s not really evil despite the fallen angel status, but rather mischievous, and his/her agenda is not really sinister. What Gadriel does is prod humans to succumb to minor temptations, and thus achieve overall increased happiness and satisfaction with their lot in life.

Of course even a gentle chocolate infused story such as Small Miracles requires a villain and a threat, and there is more at stake for Gadriel than losing face with Barachiel. Those who have dabbled in C.S.Lewis’s The Screwtape letters may be familiar with the name Wormwood (or indeed if they have perused the Book of Revelations). Suffice to say the character is not a positive one and their arrival in the midst of Gadriel’s mission significantly ups the stakes, without losing the gently whimsical nature of the narrative. I admit, Small Miracles was one of the books in our batch that instantly caught my attention. When I reached the “fallen angel” part in the blurb, I was sold. Mentioning angels is a sure way to perk up my attention. I’ve never read Olivia Atwater‘s books before, although I’ve heard a lot about Half a Soul and intended to read it at some point.Nielsen, Rune S. "Author Interview: Olivia Atwater". runesnielsen.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2022 . Retrieved March 2, 2023.

And while this is indeed a less heavy book than “Good Omens” (featuring such portentous figures as the Anitchrist and the four “bikers” of the Apocalypse) the ominous character Wormwood – an inexperienced devil whose mandate is to tempt humans to hell – from C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters”, appears in “Small Miracles”, to provide an antagonist, if there is one, for the book. Gadriel, the fallen angel of petty temptations, is persuaded by her angelic bookie to pay off her gambling debt. No big deal; she has to tempt a sinless mortal, Holly Harker, into sin. Just a little bit, so her cumulative sin metric isn't so low. A piece of chocolate here, a white lie there, done. Only Holly doesn't like chocolate and seems untemptable. Wilson, Nigel Robert (December 1, 2022). "Longshadow by Olivia Atwater". The British Fantasy Society. Archived from the original on March 5, 2023 . Retrieved March 5, 2023.While companionably meeting up over a coffee, Gadriel becomes indebted to his/her non-fallen angelic bookie and sibling, Barachiel, after losing a friendly wager. Barachiel is the Angel of Good Fortune. There were components of the plot that I felt weren’t fleshed out enough, particularly regarding the math teacher interactions. Overall, that is the main reason my enjoyment wasn’t higher, I just wanted this book to be longer. The other component I felt that took me out of the story at times were the points tallies at the beginning of each chapter. Things like lying or eating chocolate are negative points but helping elderly people cross the street or holding open a door give you positive points. It just took me out of the story a bit as the math is presented in the footnotes that are especially challenging to read on a kindle and I ended up just ignoring them at times. It’s just that… I could swear that you were… weren’t you a woman before?“ Gadriel blinked. “Oh!” he said. “I forgot entirely. I suppose most people don’t just change that when they feel like it?”🖊️

It requires considerable skill to write a book that isn't actively a chore to read. A bunch more to write a book that can be swiftly devoured with zero indigestion. Let me start by saying I was amused and entertained throughout Small Miracles. The idea of a Fallen Angel of Petty Temptation who fell from grace because of their own gambling problem is quite charming. Gadriel, said fallen angel, is in deep with their bookie, Barachiel, the Angel of Good Fortune. His/Her purview is minor transgressions. He’s/she’s not really evil despite the fallen angel status, but rather mischievous, and his/her agenda is not really sinister. What Gadriel does is prod humans to succumb to minor temptations, and thus achieve overall increased happiness and satisfaction with their lot in life. The plot of the novel appears simple and fun, at first glance. Described as eminently unremarkable and plain-looking, Gadriel, the chocolate-loving, gambling-addicted main character, is the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations. But he/she has “fallen” more over policy violations than any real horrific sin. I’m an American and even I noticed some inaccurate British terminology. I just don’t get why this had to be set in London — the story could’ve easily worked in NYC or Toronto. Again: this doesn’t personally bother me but I know it’s a dealbreaker for some folks. It wasn’t egregious but definitely present.

This isn’t usually my fantasy stamping ground. I frequently wade through rivers of blood and gore in the company of the most morally corrupt people that fantasy authors can create for me to read. But I have sometimes found that more upbeat reads fill a niche for me and, in general, this story did that. What I really like about writing Gadriel is that while she isn’t a bad person, she’s definitely a petty person, in all possible respects. After thousands of years, she doesn’t see the problem with things like casual thievery or causing someone a bad day just because they annoyed her. But at the end of the day, she doesn’t want to hurt people deeply. In fact, she’d really like to see most people happier than they are. This is so far outside of my wheelhouse that I'm not going to rate it, as it would be unfair to do so. And while this is indeed a less heavy book than “Good Omens” (featuring such portentous figures as the Anitchrist and the four “bikers” of the Apocalypse) the ominous character Wormwood – an inexperienced devil whose mandate is to tempt humans to hell – from C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters”, appears in “SmallMiracles”, to provide an antagonist, if there is one, for the book. Waite, Olivia (June 26, 2022). "Happy Marriages, Petty Temptations and Angel Sex". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 5, 2022 . Retrieved March 3, 2023.



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