Friday, January 25, 2019

Review - Jacks and Queens at the Green Mill

Jacks and Queens at the Green Mill (The Shadow Society #0.5)
by Marie Rutkoski
Date: 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Reading level: YA
Book type: short story
Pages: 32
Format: e-book

Few know that the Great Chicago Fire was started deliberately, as a genocide of deadly creatures called Shades. Fewer still know that they didn't die, not quite... but one human will confront the truth when an ominous beauty makes him gamble for his life.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I read The Shadow Society back in 2015. I didn't love it, but I thought the writing was decent. So I figured I'd try this short story that's set in the same world.

It's really more of a character study than a story, introducing Zephyr (a Shade) and Joe (a human). We learn a little about the world's history, although there really isn't much here that's not explained in the subsequent novel. This story takes place in 1926, so it doesn't directly tie in with the events in The Shadow Society, except as distant history.

The language is lovely, and it works fine in this short story. However, I was kind of hoping for a little more plot. And, just like when I read The Shadow Society, I was a little confused by how one fire in Chicago could so alter the rest of the world that their alternate timeline didn't have movies or even jazz music (that premise didn't make sense to me then, and it doesn't make sense to me now; Chicago was not the centre of the universe).

I liked this as a short story, perhaps more than I liked the novel. It left me wanting to know more, and it didn't lean so heavily on some of the YA tropes that appeared in The Shadow Society (like the 19-year-old IBI agent at the top of his game; why is every teenager a savant in YA fiction?).

Quotable moment:

"You're fair," he said quietly.

"Fair?" She wasn't sure what he was driving at.

"Did you know that, long ago, 'fair' meant both 'beautiful' and 'just'? Isn't that nice, the thought that justice and beauty were once twins?"

"You're an odd sort of gangster, to be concerned with justice and words."

"You're an odd sort of anything. But, I hope, you're also fair." A hand pulled a deck of cards from his suit pocket. "Play me for the gun."

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 3.71 out of 5 ladybugs

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