Aluminum Leaves: There are other worlds than these…

Aluminum Leaves by Marion Deeds science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAluminum Leaves by Marion Deeds

Aluminum Leaves (2019) is the debut novella by Marion Deeds, who is also part of the review team here at Fantasy Literature. Because Marion is one of our own, we are not going to give Aluminum Leaves a star rating — but we still wanted to highlight her work in the field of speculative fiction. We are very excited to see her share her work with the world.

Aluminum Leaves begins with a house fire; Erin Dosmanos is escaping her crumbling home in more ways than one, as it quickly becomes apparent that she is not only fleeing the fire, but plans to go through a portal to another world. This novella, the first in the BROKEN CITIES series, is the story of how Erin uses her quick wits and specific skills to protect a magical item that is intrinsically linked to her family’s legacy.

Erin is fleeing a powerful wizard who is willing to destroy anything, anyone, and any world in order to achieve his goal of collecting four magical items of great power and using them to serve his terrible ambitions. Erin’s family legacy, along with the legacies of other families across various realities, is bound up in those objects, and her entire life has revolved around keeping one of those objects — a special book — safe from harm. When she stumbles through a portal into another world, she encounters Trevian Langtree, a prospector with an uncanny ability to sense copper and some truly complicated family issues of his own. The future of their worlds, and others, depend on Erin’s and Trevian’s capacity to trust one another despite being perfect strangers.

Skye: I am not the type of reader who is particularly interested in setting. Aluminum Leaves is an exception for me. The setting(s) stood out to me — and maybe it’s because I have a latent admiration for portal fantasies, or because the world-jumping was communicated in a novel way — but I remained engaged with and curious about the world of the story.

Marion Deeds

Our own Marion Deeds!

Jana: I also liked the setting(s), and I thought the portal fantasy aspect was well-crafted and engaging. Erin’s preparations for potential flight into the unknown, even though she had no way of knowing what the circumstances of that flight might be or where she could end up, were well-thought-out and exceedingly practical, which is something not enough portal-fantasy authors take into account. First-aid kits are a good thing, as are water bottles and energy bars. The descriptions of the chaos of the house fire, later echoed in the descriptions of various elemental beings, were visceral and gripped my imagination.

Bill: I’m with Skye on the love of portal stories, and I particularly liked how this one opens up to more possibilities with a host of worlds, but also with a nice twist of a constraint in that some worlds are more tightly linked to each other than others. I would have liked a bit more setting description of this world, especially as the little tidbits we get, such as the sprawling ancient ruins of cities are so evocative. I also liked how the contrasting settings are used to raise some serious social questions.

Skye: For me, there were a few little snags in how the story unfolded — but in the end I did want to know more and see what happens next. In particular I liked the magic system and how it connected to the setting. I liked how we got a little bit of an understanding of how different magics worked, but I still had questions that would make another story in this world interesting.

Jana: The plot progression was a little rushed — I would have loved to spend more time with Erin and Trevian as they travel together and come to understand one another (or don’t, as is sometimes necessary) so that we, the readers, could get to know them better. I hope that in the future we’ll get to learn even more about the magic system and these two characters, who obviously have complicated backstories and magical talents. I have a lot of questions about where the story goes from here, but they’re excited and anticipatory questions that make me look forward to further installments.

Bill: I’d agree with Jana that the plot was a bit rushed. Similar to the setting, I wouldn’t have minded slowing down and spending more time with it (not a bad complaint).  We’re certainly presented with enough in terms of concepts and characters to richly mine — multiple worlds, family issues, loss and grief, other settings unexplored, etc.

With its creative magic system, playfulness of language, and captivating imagery, Aluminum Leaves is engaging and entertaining. We enjoyed this novella quite a lot, and look forward to reading more of the BROKEN CITIES series as well as other future works from Marion. But, as LeVar Burton would say, don’t take our word for it: Go and check out Aluminum Leaves for yourself!

Published in July 2019. Erin Dosmanos barely escapes a devastating firestorm, elemental hunter hounds snarling at her heels. She clutches a messenger bag that holds her family’s most valuable possession: a book in code with copper covers and aluminum leaves. Her family has been charged with its protection for generations. Now they are all dead, murdered, and she must somehow bring the book to safety. Erin crosses a frontera and crashes into the world of Trevian Langtree. In Langtree’s world, elemental creatures abound, technology is at the level of the mid-19th century, and people like Trevian scavenge in ruined cities that show evidence of high-rise buildings and cell phones. Here, magic is real. Here, copper feeds magic. The book is an object Trevian knows from his grandmother’s campfire stories; finding out it’s real changes his thinking of his own history. Between them, they realize that both of their worlds are at risk of a terrifying invasion. While they struggle with linguistic and cultural differences, each must decide if they can trust the other. That fates of two worlds depends on their decisions. Before they can decode the book, the hunter hounds attack. Erin and Trevian flee in search of something, anything, to stop the destruction of their worlds.

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SKYE WALKER, who has been on FanLit’s staff since September 2014 (after a brief time on staff as a YA reviewer in 2007-2008), is from Canada. Their HBA in Anthropology and Communications allowed them to write an Honours paper on podcasting as the modern oral tradition of storytelling: something they will talk about at any and all opportunities. Skye is a communications professional in the non-profit sector. These days their favourite authors include Ursula K Le Guin, Bo Bolander, and Chris Wooding. They can be found on social media @cskyewalker.

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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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6 comments

  1. Congratulations on the release of your debut book!!!

  2. And thanks so much, you guys! You are such generous readers. I thought the ending was rushed, and I should know. Part of that was an adjustment to the word count, as in, “No problem, I’ve got a 35,00 word length and… what? I’m at 30K? OMG!”

    I think it’s safe to say I learned a lot about story structure writing this. In spite of the glitches, I really enjoy the novella length.

    I have started a sequel. We’ll have to see if the publisher is interested.

  3. I’m looking forward to reading this! Congratulations, Marion!! We are really proud of you!

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