Wilde’s novelette digs into a grim scenario in which guardians become worse than what they guard against. Lin is a Jewel, the daughter of the king of the fantastical land of the Jeweled Valley. Sima is her Lapidary, an advisor and protector who can set, hear, and command the gems that have protected the valley and its Jewels for generations. But the gems can also destroy the minds of Lapidaries. When Sima’s father, the King’s Lapidary, finally snaps, he shatters the protective gems and then kills the king, Lin’s siblings, and the other Lapidaries before dying himself. Now the last Jewel and Lapidary must face or flee an invading army whose commander wants control of the gems, which could enslave the Jeweled Valley and its neighboring kingdoms—or destroy them if not used properly. If Lin and Sima stay, both keeping and breaking their vows (which are repeated throughout the text, sometimes distracting from the story) could lead them to Sima’s father’s fate. Wilde (Updraft) manages to describe many layers of a broad culture and a great loss in a short space, with a satisfying portrayal of how honor and love might survive in a new world born from the destruction of the old. (May)
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