Widow's Welcome by DK Fields (Tales of Fenest: Book 1)

9/10 A collection of well-told tales spun by clever hands into something new

Everyone knows that stories have power. The telling of stories is something that connects every generation both to their own time and each one that came before, right back to the very beginnings of humanity’s own tale. There’s no doubt that we enjoy a good yarn. But here in Fenest, it all works a little differently. In this world the act of storytelling is political. (I’ll leave you to decide just how different that really is). The story, the teller, and the audience each play their own part in determining who will hold office for the next term. War is so last year, it’s all about the telling of tales now. Spectacle and persuasion are the name of the game - and there’s everything to play for. (Again, how different?) Sadly, this year’s looking like a tragedy. On the stage lies a mutilated corpse…

It seems, at first, to be a simple whodunnit. A body is found, its stitched lips suggesting that someone wanted this particular storyline silenced, even in death. But Detective Cora Gorderheim isn’t the type to let anyone or anything stop her from finding the truth; itself a particularly elusive type of story, slippery to grasp even if found. Her role as Detective has been hard won and even when she discovers her investigation bleeds into the grander narrative of the elections, she stays the path. Like everything else in the book, there’s more to her that meets the eye, but she performs as much for herself as for the reader and it makes her hard to read. Even so, there’s something about her, something kept back, and it’s impossible to resist the mystery of a character left untold.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the book is the inclusion of two stories about the world which don’t, at first, seem immediately or obviously linked to the murder mystery plot, but may be integral to the larger narrative. Possibly crucial. No, probably. Definitely? Now, as an aside, I don’t like short stories. At all. They always feel so limited, unfinished, like there’s more to be said on the page that never comes. That the authors managed to put two (TWO!) mini stories inside this book and have them so gripping that I’d half forgotten the main story in my enthusiasm... well, to say that’s an impressive trick is to undersell it.

The stories themselves are staged for the election, crafted to impress, to win political power, and to do much more besides. Their function is multifaceted, but they hit the right note on every level. Even, or especially, in their simplest form: a story. And what is a story? An account of imaginary or real people told to entertain. That’s the dictionary definition, or one of them. Of course, we’re not really sure whether the characters in the performed story are conceived as real or imaginary to the characters in the book we’re reading. And that line is blurred further by what comes after, as a terrifying plot line suddenly becomes real either because it is real or because people believe it to be. Oh, it’s twisty. Every time you peel away a layer, you find something unexpected. And I know there’s more hidden just out of sight. The show isn’t complete just yet, more performers must have their time on the page. Because of this, the end wasn’t so much a closed curtain, it felt more like possibility… a second act is coming. Like all the best stories, it’s also a puzzle. But this is less like one of those flat, table-top creations that are only fun for the cat who gets to bat all the pieces to the floor, and more like a puzzle box, intricate and full of secrets.

Widow’s Welcome isn’t the usual fare, it’s a collection of well-told tales spun by clever hands into something new. It’s a book of stories within stories, the dark shadow of what’s to come hidden beneath them all. I genuinely can’t wait to see where this goes.

Genres: Mystery, Fantasy Fiction, Gaslamp fantasy

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Our interview with DK Fields

Hello and welcome to Fantasy Book Review!  We're thrilled to be talking to the writing duo that is D.K. Fields.  Tell us about yourselves, please. How did the writing partnership come together? And how [...]

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DK Fields's Tales of Fenest series

Widow's Welcome

Tales of Fenest: Book 1

The Stitcher and the Mute

Tales of Fenest: Book 2

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