long past and other stories coverRating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: 
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Length: Novel

 

In 1858, mages accidentally opened up three rifts across the world. The rifts tore the earth apart, causing massive floods that changed the landscape of many countries. In the United States, a huge inland sea opened up, burying most of the southern and midwestern states. Along with the water, the rifts also unleashed dinosaurs of old upon the world once again.

Challenge Month 2021I picked this book up for TBR Pile Week in our Reading Challenge Month, as I have been wanting to read it for far too long. This anthology features three stories by Ginn Hale that all take place in this same world, but in different cities and spanning about 40 years. The world building is incredible here, combining magic, dinosaurs, steampunk, and an alternate reality where the rifts changed the world. Hale manages to make all these things work together in a real triumph of world building. I particularly enjoyed how the anthology spans time and place, but still connects to this very detailed and creative world. The stories all feature main characters of color, and address the politics of race and gender of the time. They also include three different types of mages — earth, air, and water — and the lore about magic and how it works in this world is nicely done.

The Long Past

1864, Colorado Territory: Grover lives in Fort Arvada, a frontier town just on the western edge of the inland sea. Grover lives partially in town, but also works as a trapper and a tracker in dinosaur country. Some mages and theurgists have come to town, ostensibly to help those in Fort Arvada in the wake of the floods. Grover is shocked when the airship lands to see Lawrence Wilder, his former lover everyone has long thought dead in the war. It has been years with no word from Lawrence and Grover feels abandoned. But when Grover learns the truth about why the other government officials are really in town, he knows he has to help Lawrence stop them, no matter what it takes. As the men set off for the rift near Fort Arvada, they get a chance to reconnect and Grover learns the frightening truth about where Lawrence has been all these years. Now, it is a race against time for the two of them to get to the rift before those who want to wreak havoc, and even if they make it in time, they may not both make it out alive.

The Long Past is the longest of the three stories in this anthology and by far my favorite. This story really sets up the world building for the book, starting us off at a time about 6 years after the rifts opened. We get so much detail about what life is like in the aftermath, particularly for a town like Fort Arvada that is on the western side of the new inland sea, away from the major cities. There is a western frontier vibe to the story, interspersed with the magic. And then Hale throws in the dinosaurs on top of that and it is such a crazy combination it shouldn’t work, but yet it does, and really beautifully. I just loved Grover and Lawrence together. There is a great lovers reunited storyline for them, mixed with almost a road trip feel as they journey to the rift together. Plus, we get lots of magic and excitement as they fight to stop the bad guys before it is too late. This story is definitely my favorite of the group and I would read more about this time period and these characters in a heartbeat. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read the story.

P.S. Just a nod to this amazing cover, which shows Grover riding his dinosaur, Betty, as the two men travel to the rift.

 

The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus

Chicago, 1893: Ashni Naugai is a wind mage who does a magic show with her girlfriend, Geula Mandelbaum, at the New United America Exhibition in Chicago. Actually, she pretends that it is all fake, as no one can know that Ashni is really a mage or she could be arrested. Ashni is on the run from a man who tortured and imprisoned her for her mage skills and now she just wants to make enough money so that she and Geula can flee across the country. The women have an opportunity to make some quick money helping to find a missing maid. But as they learn more about the horrors of what has befallen the woman, they must put their lives on the line to not only save her, but to protect others from the same fate.

This second story jumps us ahead about thirty years and brings us into a city in the eastern side of the country’s inland sea. We learn that much has changed in the intervening time, both politically, as well as more scientific advances. While the first story focuses much more on the floods, the rifts, and the dinosaurs, this one shifts more into exploring the steampunk side of this world. There is a little bit of mystery as Ashni and Geula dig into the woman’s disappearance, and it ends up connecting nicely with Ashni’s past. This is the shortest story, so it doesn’t have the same depth as the first. It also is much lighter on the romance side. While we know the women are girlfriends, we really don’t see anything romantic between them and they could have just as easily been close friends instead. But this story does do a nice job delving into the politics of the time, particularly with regard to women’s rights, and tying it into the story.

 

Get Lucky

Riverain County, Illinois, 1996: Three years ago, Luc “Lucky” Spivey met bounty hunter Dalfon Elias who was in town tracking an escaped killer. The men found a connection and Lucky hoped for more, but Dalfon left without a trace. Now, Lucky feels like he is seeing a ghost as he stumbles upon Dalfon once again. This time the man is being chased by the evil Swaim brothers, who are clearly looking to kill him. Lucky jumps in to help, getting Dalfon to safety. Once there, he learns the truth about why Dalfon left, as well as more about his own past that Dalfon has uncovered in his new job as a Pinkerton agent. As it turns out, Dalfon always wanted Lucky, and still does. But with the Swaim brothers determined to keep their secrets buried, neither Lucky nor Dalfon is safe.

In Get Lucky, we are brought back once again to a more remote part of the country, although many years after the time of The Long Past. This is another lovers reunited story, and we get a prologue that shows us how the men first met. Then the story jumps into the action as the bad guys are trying to kill Dalfon, just as Lucky is getting him back. I liked seeing these men reconnect, as well as watching them outsmart various bad guys along the way.

 

I found this a truly fascinating anthology and I really can’t stop thinking about it. The first story in particular is a real standout. So if any of these elements intrigue you, I encourage you to give this one a try.

This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two fabulous audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio (you can see the details on the bundles in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand {rize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on TBR Pile Week here

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