M.L. Farb is a friend and offered me the full Hearth & Bard Tales Series for review. Here you will find the reviews for the three companion novelettes. Purchase links are with the respective reviews.
Return to the fairytale Ruska of M.L. Farb’s first Hearth and Bard Tales instalment with Flight, a novelette after-story to Vasilisa. Where at least one of Farb’s other novelettes takes place almost immediately after the events of the attached novel, Flight catches up with its principal actors, forest-born Vasilisa and manor-heir Staver, over a decade after we last saw them, married now, and settled into their home, though just as sharp as they were when we left them.
A darker follow-up to a perilous tale, Flight differs in tone from other Hearth and Bard Tales novelettes and novels in that its characters are warriors. Their story deals in war, tests, and the challenges of accepting one’s nature, and even years later in this novelette, Vasilisa and Staver still spend their time and energy preparing for conflict both within their home beyond and their boarders.
Conflict, however, finds them as the next generation, their children, struggle with the same turmoil Vasilisa faced as she came of age in her novel. Fortunate then, that this is a family bound by love and magic as a figure from Vasilisa’s past returns to threaten her children and remind us all that it is choices, not blood, that makes monsters.
Return to Nihon and the many-daughtered family of Shisei and her sisters as Shisei labors to bring her own babies into the world. Something is wrong with the children, a child is turned in the womb and Shisei must call on her fox-spirit uncle, her own strength, and the steadfastness of her husband, Takumi, as she fight’s to bring these precious lives into the world.
As with the Fourth Sister novel, I am struck in Birth by how much emphasis puts on the power of familial, sisterly bonds, even as she makes the romantic partner, Takumi, a part of the story. This is a love story about the many broken and beautiful ways people can love each other, whether it is because they’re related by blood, bound through ancestral magic, or have chosen each other above all others. There is peril, pain, and ultimately joy in that love, and Birth epitomizes it beautifully.
Return to the clockwork fairytale of M.L. Farb’s Heartless Hette in this lovely little glimpse into Hette and Konrad’s life after the final chapter of Farb’s third Hearth & Bard Tales novels. Told from Konrad’s perspective, rather than the princess’, the court fool – turned soon to be royal consort is hunting the perfect wedding gift for his bride.
Clocking in at just under 50 pages, there’s not much more to say without wandering into spoiler territory. Suffice to say, old friends and enemies will appear, improbable objects will be juggled, and the whole thing ends with the big wedding we’ve been waiting for.
Bittersweet in places and tender throughout, Farb shows her skill and practice as a storyteller with Gift. Just long enough to tell a complete story, but not so large in scale that it feels she squandered a potential novel idea in the execution, Gift is the perfect little book-snack for those who didn’t quite get enough of Hette and Konrad in the original novel.