Strange Horizons, January 4, 2016
Reviewed by Kat Day
This story begins in ‘The Museum of Printing History’, but quickly moves onto a girl, Erheani, taking part in a sort of interview to become a Master Storyteller. During this process she starts telling the story of the eponymous Tower of the Rosewater Goblet. From there, we weave back and forth, hearing parts of the story she tells, parts of her backstory, her ultimate failure to officially become a master of her craft and, finally, her redemption.
Despite all the changes of viewpoint, the story makes sense and holds together; no mean feat. The characters are well-drawn–I particularly liked Madame Li-Yan–and there are pleasing touches of humor (some unintentional, such as the use of expandable for expendable, which led me to imagine servants blowing up Violet Beauregard-style). For some readers the tale of the struggling writer, stories much loved and admired by her friends and family, who gives up a potentially successful career to pursue her dream but is unable to achieve formal recognition, might resonate. Personally, I thought it felt self-reverential. Does this story reflect Harris’ own experiences? It all seemed a touch bitter to me. A shame really, as there are many good elements here. I rather wished the author had simply related the story of The Tower of the Rosewater Goblet in full. That was a lot more fun.
Kat Day writes a successful, non-fiction science blog called The Chronicle Flask, which you can find at thechronicleflask.wordpress.com. She has a doctorate in chemistry and taught the subject for over ten years, but her first love was always science fiction and fantasy. She hopes to finish her novel one day, if she can get the kids to sleep. She lives in Oxfordshire, in England, and would like to apologize in advance for any stray letter u’s in her reviews.