This week I returned to Tor to take a look at “The Hundredth House Had No Walls” by Laurie Penny. You can read it for free here…
This was a fun and cute read about a bored king of the Country of Myth and Shadow who can summon anything into being with his magical storytelling abilities. As it turns out, having godlike powers with no limit make life quite boring for the king, as there’s no challenge or excitement to life, so he takes a trip to New York and falls in love with a woman there.
This story unexpectedly ended up being about character agency. Voice-wise, there is a lot of fourth-wall breaking and on-the-nose remarks about literary expectations both big and small.
So the King decided to do what kings do in these situations and go and wander the world in disguise as a normal, non-royal person. He took only a small entourage—just twenty Knights of Wild Notion, plus their ostlers, servants and squires most of whom, as is traditional, were actually girls dressed as boys.
If you like a bit of self-referential cheekiness in your fiction, this will probably be your jam; for others it will be a turn-off. I generally don’t like commentary like this (I’m not a fan of Good Omens or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for example), but this is a shorter work and the details were cute, so I found myself along for the ride. The combination of a fairy tale feel mixed with modern details was fun as well. Basically, I had a good time reading, but I have the inkling that this is the kind of story that’s love-it-or-hate-it.