Edited by Ekaterina Sedia
In spite of considering myself an avid reader, I don’t actually buy books very often. I have a history of moving every 4-5 years, and after a couple of times moving countless heavy boxes of books, a large personal library just seems cumbersome. However, when I saw a copy of Willful Impropriety in the store, I bought it without a second thought. Young adult fiction, with some Fantasy elements, set in the Victorian Era? Yes, please!
Plus, I had originally heard of the book on the blog of one of the contributing authors, Genevieve Valentine, of whom I’m a big fan. (Also, she tends to contribute stories to more esoteric collections that are not picked up by my library.) Valentine is a bit of a conundrum for me, though. I love both her blog and her fictional writing, but they are shockingly different. Her blog is very funny with acute analysis of current popular culture, while her fiction has a lyrical and melancholy tone, and her story in this collection is no exception.
I was also pleasantly surprised that another of the authors, Caroline Stevermer, was the co-author, along with Partricia C. Wrede, of Sorcery & Cecilia, which I’ve already raved about here. Her story was probably my favorite of this collection, and has inspired me to track down some more of her books Another author, M. K. Hobson, whose story felt a bit like a P.G. Wodehouse story but with magic, also wrote The Native Star, which Kinsey recommended to me a while ago, and while is definitely going on my to-read list.
The introduction to the book describes that young adult literature set in the Victorian Age seemed like a complimentary match, since YA Lit is often about rebelling against the status quo to establish an individual identity, and the Victorian Age sure had a lot of status quo to rebel against. But after more than a dozen stories, I was a little saddened by how many of them ended with the heroine finding a solution in a relationship with a man.
Which, of course, is one of the few historically accurate ‘happy endings’ for women, but the stories didn’t stay so rigidly accurate in other features, so having them return to that trope was a bit of a bummer. The stories that did not include such a pat ending stood out all the more, though.