Phillips, Pierce, Priest

Keeping with the theme of short works, today I present one children’s book (Middle grade? The term wasn’t in use when the book came out.) and two short stories, the work of Holly Phillips, Tamora Pierce, and Cherie Priest. If the work of any of the authors sounds interesting to you, please do check them out — and if you have enjoyed something by them that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments.

“The Small Door” by Holly Phillips

I struggled with this story a bit. The descriptions are very well done, and I can see everything vividly in my head. The juxtaposition between what Sal wants (to go to the fair) and what her sister Macey wants (to learn about their neighbor) is interesting, but in the end, although Sal learns the neighbor’s secret, it felt insufficient. Knowledge is gained, but nothing changes.

To me, it felt like the story was saying there might be hope for some, but not to count on it — and I’m not really one for downbeat stories. I don’t know if this is representative of Phillips’ work, and I would be willing to read something else by her to find out. However, not my favorite read of the week.

If you’d like to judge for yourself, the story is online at Fantasy Magazine.

Holly Phillips can be found at her Website,

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

I’d never read Pierce’s work before. This, her first book, came out while I was in high school, reading Philip K. Dick, comparing Niven & Pournelle’s Inferno to Dante, and learning to play AD&D with my brother and his friends. I wasn’t looking for tales like this at the time.

In fact, I chose this book to read not because it was Pierce’s first but because of a more recent D&D character of mine, a fighter named Alanna. In modern (3.0, 3.5, 4) D&D, however, there are no distinctions between male and female, so that’s where the similarity ends — Alanna of Trebond is expected by society to go to a convent to be educated. The last female warrior died a hundred years ago, and now, girls just don’t get trained to be knights.

So, in time-honored story fashion, Alanna disguises herself as a boy and takes her brother’s place in training, while her brother Thom goes off to learn to be a sorcerer, trained by the sisters and then priests in the use of his Gift. (I hope that in other books, Pierce did more with Thom; he didn’t show up much here.) The world is clear, with history and politics, and a good grounding in what is actually involved in learning to be a knight. I did have some trouble distinguishing among some of the older boys, and the younger pages never seemed to be much more than names. My only real complaint with the book, though, is that it was so short — I really should have picked up the entire quartet to read at once.

I will be reading the rest of the quartet, and quite likely everything else Pierce has written. Despite some serious content, it reads light.

Find Tamora Pierce on-line at

“Tanglefoot” by Cherie Priest

“Tanglefoot” is set in Priest’s Clockwork Century, a world where England recognized the Confederacy and the Civil War still rages, decades later. It is a world of steampower and weirdness, and it is dark and gritty. You can read the story here; if you enjoy it, check out her books set in the same universe, starting with Boneshaker.

I mentioned dark, right? This story takes place in a sanatarium, with the main character working for a mad scientist in the basement. It’s not the science one needs to watch out for in this somewhat spooky story, however.

Priest writes very immersive fiction — The characters feel real, as does the setting. Definitely check the story out.

You can learn more about Cherie Priest’s work on her site,

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