book review – a universe of wishes by dhonielle clayton, samira ahmed, libba bray, zoraida córdova, tessa gratton, kwame mbalia, anna-marie mclemore, tochi onyebuchi, mark oshiro, natalie c. parker, rebecca roanhorse, v.e. schwab, tara sim, & nic stone

i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

this review is part of the blog tour for a universe of wishes, organized by terminal tours.

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

A Universe of Wishes by Dhonielle Clayton, Samira Ahmed, Libba Bray, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, V.E. Schwab, Tara Sim, and Nic Stone

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).
In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.
AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, Victoria Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone, and a to-be-announced debut author/short-story contest winner

short story #1 – a universe of wishes by tara sim – 4 stars

this one was a sweet and beautiful little story – i loved the world-building and the idea of harvesting wishes! seeing the two boys go from “business partners” who are untrusting of each other to more-than-friends who go on midnight picnics melted my heart. this is my first time checking out tara sim’s work, and i definitely will be reading more of it in the future.

representation: queer main characters

short story #2 – the silk blade by natalie c. parker – 3 stars

for such a short story, the world-building was incredibly rich. i loved the author’s use of detailed descriptive language and the tournament scenes had me on the edge of the seat. however, i wish the story had been a little bit longer so we could feel the sexual tension grow between the two main characters – it would have made the romance more fleshed out.

representation: queer main characters

short story #3 – the scarlet woman by libba bray – 2.5 stars

i have never read any of the gemma doyle books, so i was a little confused and found it difficult to fully immerse myself into the story. however, i really liked the new york setting and the jo march vibes in this ; if i had read the series beforehand, i definitely would have enjoyed the short story a lot better! reminder to self: read the gemma doyle series.

representation: queer side character

short story #4 – cristal y ceniza by anna-marie mclemore – 5 stars

this cinderella retelling was absolutely perfect. i haven’t read any of anna-marie mclemore’s books yet, but their writing is famous for being beautiful, which was also the case in cristal y ceniza. the main character shares a moment of genuine connection with the prince, and he truly sees her instead of having to rely on a pair of glass slippers to track her down, and i loved this little spin on the original fairytale!

representation: latinx main character, latinx side characters, queer side characters, transgender side character

short story #5 – liberia by kwame mbalia – 3.5 stars

i am not a big reader of space fiction, but this short story made me realize that i should probably read more of it. the author’s writing is so hauntingly captivating: kweku’s dedication to honoring his family on earth, the love that he shows towards his plants, and the determination he has in bringing them safely to a new world brings me so many tender feelings.

representation: black main character, black side characters, queer side characters,

short story #6 – a royal affair by v.e. schwab – 5 stars

it has been a while since i read v.e. schwab’s shades of magic, and to be honest, i have mostly forgotten what the series is about, but it did not make a royal affair any less enjoyable for me. the story is about alucard’s illicit romance with the prince, and what ultimately comes between the two of them and ends their relationship, and i was hooked from start to finish. also, it just feels so good to be able to see some of my favorite characters again. ❤

representation: queer main character, queer side character

short story #7 – the takeback tango by rebecca roanhorse – 4 stars

this short story is so fun – i’d describe it as heist society meets illuminae. vi, the main character, who, along with evie, her artificial intelligence companion, commits a “personal” crime – stealing back artefacts from her home planet which are held in a museum – and meets a charming boy along the way. i really liked the intergalactic setting, and the way the story made me reflect upon where the so-called “discovered” exhibits in some of the most famous museums in the real world truly belong.

representation: dark-skinned main characters

short story #8 – dream and dare by nic stone – 5 stars

first and foremost, can we talk about the title of this story? just look at the clever play on words – how it can mean to dream and dare to do something, and also contains the names of two main characters! this story does an amazing job challenging the damsel in distress stereotype, conventional gender expectations, and toxic masculinity, and i really loved the use of symbolism in it.

representation: queer main characters

short story #9 – wish by jenni balch – 4 stars

this was such an adorable little story, and i loved how it drew inspiration from the genie and the lamp tale. despite only having just met each other, the two main characters, ariadne and lane, develop a quick friendship, and i was so moved by lane’s determination in helping ariadne fulfill her wish. the story also has chronic illness representation, which i rarely ever see in the young adult genre!

representation: main character with blood disorder (immune thrombocytopenic purpura)

short story #10 – the weight by dhonielle clayton – 4.5 stars

this story encapsulates the true beauty of science fiction – absurd and impossible, yet highly entertaining. the concept of having imprints of your loved ones on your heart, and being able to quantify love judging from how deep the imprints are etched, is so interesting to me. at the end of the story it is clear that love can as simple as being in the company of someone who matters to you.

short story #11 – unmoor by mark oshiro – 5 stars

imagine a world where garbage is sorted, mail is delivered, and memories are erased using runes and magic spells. this is the world where unmoor takes place, where felix, the main character, tries an unmooring service to erase memories of his ex-boyfriend. having only read mark oshiro’s realistic fiction work before, i was pleasantly surprised how effortlessly they weaved magical elements into the story. also, the ending’s really unexpected and delivers a powerful message.

representation: queer latinx main character, queer filippino side character

short story #12 – the coldest spot in the universe by samira ahmed – 4.5 stars

if you have read internment by samira ahmed, you should know how she good she is at writing dystopia. the coldest spot in the universe was no different. the story is set in the future ten years from now: the earth is no longer fit for human habitation, and a student archaeologist is determined to look for traces of an unknown girl, whom she sees in a photograph and is already long dead. from the dual perspectives of the unknown girl, who writes diary entries, and the student archaeologist, who records voice logs, the truth of what exactly happened is slowly uncovered. with the climate crisis, this story is unfortunately all too relevant.

representation: south asian muslim main character, queer side characters

short story #13 – the beginning of monsters by tessa gratton – 2.5 stars

i wanted to like this – i really did! – but maybe high fantasy simply is not for me. i struggled to process all the information – a sophisticated political system with small kings, human body redesigns, cults, and assassination – it was just so convoluted for such a short story. i also found the romance a bit rushed. this story definitely would have been executed better in the form of a full novel.

representation: genderfluid main character, queer main character

short story #14 – longer than the threads of time by zoraida córdova – 3.5 stars

i enjoyed this! longer than the threads of time is a modern retelling of the rapunzel fairytale, set in new york city. our rapunzel, a girl named danaë, has been imprisoned and ignored for decades, and one day, a teen brujo, fabe, decides to pay her a visit. what makes magical realism interesting to me is how it can make fantasy blend in with mundane reality, and this story is a perfect example of that: in particular, the scene where the two teenagers drink coca cola together in the magical tower really stood out to me.

representation: latinx main characters

short story #15 – habibi by tochi onyebuchi – 5 stars

this is the perfect story to end the anthology with, and deserves all the stars – i never would have thought that a short story could make me cry, but here we are! told in letters exchanged between an imprisoned black boy and a palestinian prisoner dreaming of life and happiness beyond bars, this story touches on important themes such as political persecution, humanitarian crises in jails, and last but not least, hope and love.

representation: black main character, palestinian muslim main character

overall, i really enjoyed this diverse anthology, which includes stories from a wide range of genres centring around magic, dreams and love. reading this in cold weather was quite the experience – it brought me so much warmth, like a hot cup of ginger milk, if that makes sense – and it would definitely make the perfect gift for yourself or your loved ones this holiday season!

have you read a universe of wishes, or other books by the authors who contributed to this anthology? what were your thoughts? let me know in the comments!

(speaking of dreams come true, go check out yore oyster’s recent blog post on the 12 best airbnbs in hong kong here. once the pandemic is over, do come and visit my hometown! it’s such an incredible city <3)


6 thoughts on “book review – a universe of wishes by dhonielle clayton, samira ahmed, libba bray, zoraida córdova, tessa gratton, kwame mbalia, anna-marie mclemore, tochi onyebuchi, mark oshiro, natalie c. parker, rebecca roanhorse, v.e. schwab, tara sim, & nic stone

  1. I’ve been really into short stories lately, so I’m super excited to read this book! It’s very high up on my holiday wishlist, hehe.

    I love how you structured the review, breaking down each of the stories! The Takeback Tango sounds so, so good. Great post! ❤


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