the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Claire Humphrey’ Category

Spells-of-Blood-and-KinSpells of Blood and Kin, by Claire Humphrey

published June 2016

where I got it: received review copy





Spells of Blood and Kin was mentioned in my recent 5 Books, 50 pages blog post.  Of the books mentioned in that post, this was the only book that I had a tough time stopping reading at exactly 50 pages.   In fact,  by the time that blog post published, I was halfway through Spells of Blood and Kin,  and finished it 48 hours after picking it up.  I couldn’t put this book down, I didn’t want to put this book down,  I was late to work because all I wanted to do for 2 days was read this book.  If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, of stories that have weight and depth and sensuality and secrets and consequences, this is a book for you.


We all know those fantasy authors who write in a fashion to make their novels longer, because an epic story should have an epic number of pages, or something. Short story authors do the opposite – often self-editing their work towards making their prose more effective in fewer words. Claire Humphrey is a well published short story author, and you can see her short story composition skills on display in Spells of Blood and Kin.  What I mean by that is there is not a single unnecessary word or scene in this book.  Every scene, every conversation, and every paragraph is honed down to a sharp reflective edge, increasing the effect of the words, pushing the reader to engage with the story in a more intimate and imaginative fashion.  That was a lot of fancy talk to say Humphrey is a damn good writer. Spells of Blood and Kin opens with a surprising and unnerving sentence, dives right into the compelling intricacies of the plot, and runs from there. Like with most books, everyone is going to have a different reaction to this book, and much of my personal interaction with this book happened between the lines, in what Humphrey left unsaid.


So, what’s this story about?   Lissa’s grandmother Iadviga has just passed away.  In a stunned state of grief,  the funeral is planned, the church ladies bring piles of food to the house, and Lissa starts going through her grandmother’s things. Not only is Lissa inheriting the house and the debt, she is also inheriting her Baba’s responsibilities among the traditional Russian families in a community surrounded by the cosmopolitan  bustle of Toronto.  On the night of Iadviga’s death, the spell she had been weaving and reweaving for over 30 years collapsed.


For her Baba’s funeral, Lissa was allowed to enter the church building, but not allowed to be in the sanctuary. Because while the church will tolerate the community’s need for witchy women,  magic practitioners are not allowed on consecrated ground.  With one hand the community shuns Lissa and her family, while placing orders for magic eggs with the other hand.

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long hidden anthology

The Long Hidden anthology edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older is diverse, globe spanning, fascinating, inspiring, and gloriously long. so long in fact, that it would be impossible to talk about my favorite stories in just one blog post. So I’ve split it into three.  This is part two, click here for part one.


If you’re just joining us, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History includes over two dozen stories that aren’t usually told, or at least don’t typically make it to the mainstream. If you’re looking for some variety in your reading, and looking to support a worthy project of one of the smaller publishing houses, this is the anthology for you. Global points of view, characters of all genders and preferences, characters who maintain their dignity in front of the worst humanity has to offer, people who were brutalized and/or executed for standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.  These are the stories of people who stood up and were heard, when surrounded by people who told them to shut up and sit down, if they deigned to speak to them at all.

As I mentioned in the first article on Long Hidden, many of the stories had me doing web searches to learn more about what really happened. To that end, I have included some weblinks in the hopes that you too will be interested in learning more about the contexts in which these stories swim. Some of the characters might be fictionalized, but none of their circumstances are.


Here are some thoughts on my favorites of the middle of Long Hidden:

“The Witch of Tarup” by Claire Humphrey (Denmark 1886)  – Dagny has just recently come to the hamlet of Tarup, and a few weeks after she wed Bjorn Moller, he suffered an apoplexy (perhaps a stroke?) that rendered him unable to speak. The wind has stopped blowing, the windmill has stopped moving, and with no way to grind it the wheat will rot. Dagny is desperate for the assistance of the village’s local witch, and visiting the local wives for information. On a lyrically repetitive wild goose chase they send her, offering hints and suggestions, of who to get a scarf from, and who to have coffee with, and the like. A method of communication with her husband is finally suggested, and she learns who the witch is. This is one of the more light hearted stories in the collection, and quite fun to read.

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this blog post is part of Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story. If Apex picks up enough new subscribers this month, they’ll be able to include a fourth original story in future issues, and how awesome would that be! Click here for more info about Operation Fourth Story. Already a subscriber? click here. But don’t just take my word for it,  check out these other recent Apex Magazine blog posts:

Books, Bones, and Buffy interviews Cameron Salisbury, Managing Editor

Two Dudes in an Attic reviews Issue 55 (Dec 2013)

Bibliotropic reviews Issue 58 (March 2014)

Lynn’s Book Blog reviews issue 57 (Feb 2014)

Over the Effing Rainbow reviews issue 59 (April 2014)

Beauty in Ruins reviews issue 54 (Nov 2013)

Genre-Bending reviews issue 55 (Dec 2013)

new!  Bibliosanctum reviews issue 58 (March 2014)

apex 58

And for those of you who would like to take my word for it, here are my thoughts on issue 58, the March 2014 issue:

I’m yet another newbie when it comes to short fiction magazines. I’ve subscribed to Asimov’s for maybe two years now, and have picked up the occasional promotional issue of short fiction magazines at conventions and bookstores and such. But these new fangled electronic magazines you say? Read it on my phone or e-reader, you say? say WHAT?

Once I got over the omg this magazine is on my phone thing, I suddenly realized omg this magazine is on my phone, this is wonderful! I don’t need to worry about it not fitting in my purse or getting all mangled in my purse (a part of me is still mourning that poor, poor issue of Asimov’s that I shoved in my purse and it got completely mangled by my keys), or it getting soaked in the mailbox (the fate of too many Asimov’s). okay, so having Apex Magazine on my phone is pretty neat. And hello gorgeous cover art! Julie Dillon is one of my favorite artists! ok, so it’s pretty to look at, as portable as chapstick, and easy to navigate, but what about what’s in it?

Each issue of Apex Magazine includes a short note from the editor, a few short stories, poetry, interviews, and a non-fiction essay about issues that are near and dear to genre fans. The March issue opens with a short essay from Editor Sigrid Ellis (who I recently interviewed), where she talks about crossroads, the fine line between flying and falling, thresholds, and breaking through those thresholds, deciding if we are falling or if we are no, flying. She’s not just randomly talking about decision trees, she’s introducing you to what lies in the pages ahead. Characters in transitions, characters who are standing at the precipice, people at the cross roads of what will define the rest of their life. And you know what? Falling or flying, it’s up to the person in the air to decide which verb applies to them.

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.