Small Places is a no-nonsense urban fantasy fairy story.
Jamie, a shy, lonely boy, runs an errand for a witch as a child, helping them ease a family friend's experience of cancer. Thirteen years later, Jamie's own mother is suffering from terminal cancer as well, and he's come back to his childhood village to spend more time with her before the end. He receives a card from the witch, Melusine, asking for his help – and casting his mind back to his childhood experience – goes to see her, hoping she can help his mother.
Amidst freak earthquakes and storms, he's drawn into working with the bad-tempered Mel in an effort to find out what's wrong with Gaia, the earth spirit, as they visit the Seelie and Unseelie courts, finding the former racist and the latter paranoid, meeting stoned fauns and beer-brewing trolls along the way.
It'll appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovich's Rivers of London series, Charles de Lint's work or Clive Barker's Abarat series.
(Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from Storytellers On Tour for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own and are honest and unbiased.)
Small Places by Matthew Samuels plodded along at a slow but comfortable pace that suited the quaint characters. If you're looking for a book that'll grant you time to appreciate the magical, charming atmosphere and settings the author created, you'll probably love this. Though I expected more action sooner, many other facets of the story held my interest well, including the exciting, otherworldly scenes, the mystery aspects of the work, and the splendid world-building. I adored the assortment of unique characters, especially the nonbinary character, Merovech. There's some profanity and mild gore, so I think Small Places is more suitable for mature young adults and older audiences.
Matthew Samuels told the story from Jamie's first-person
perspective, but while Jamie was a decent, sympathetic main character, a few
other characters stood out to me more. Jamie's palpable grief added extra heaviness
to the work, but it was balanced out well by a good amount of humor. Despite an
epic climax, the abrupt conclusion felt somewhat incomplete. Jamie's arc seemed
clipped, as I was left wondering what he'd end up doing with his life. At the
same time, since my other questions were answered and I could infer what wasn't
explicitly stated, the ending was satisfying enough. All in all, Small Places was a delightful,
imaginative urban fantasy read that I recommend to lovers of the genre.
Trigger Warning: Strong language and violence throughout, with some graphic injury detail, scenes of involuntary restraint, giant spiders, dead animals, implied cruelty to animals, some fantastical creatures of a horrifying nature, cancer, mention of previous self-harm, and an instance of a drink being tampered with.