Book Review: A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton

A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology

Editor: Dhonielle Clayton
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books (December
Hardcover, 416 pages
Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult, Anthology/Short Stories


From We Need Diverse Books, the organization behind Flying Lessons & Other Stories, comes a young adult fantasy short story collection featuring some of the best own-voices children’s authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Libba Bray (The Diviners), Victoria Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Natalie C. Parker (Seafire), and many more. Edited by Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles).

In the fourth collaboration with We Need Diverse Books, fifteen award-winning and celebrated diverse authors deliver stories about a princess without need of a prince, a monster long misunderstood, memories that vanish with a spell, and voices that refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. This powerful and inclusive collection contains a universe of wishes for a braver and more beautiful world.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Samira Ahmed, Libba Bray, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Kwame Mbalia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tochi Onyebuchi, Mark Oshiro, Natalie C. Parker, Rebecca Roanhorse, Victoria Schwab, Tara Sim, Nic Stone, and a to-be-announced debut author/short-story contest winner.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

I don’t usually care much for anthologies. In my experience there are usually one or two (maybe three if you’re REALLY LUCKY) good stories, a few that are just okay, and several that are downright awful. NOT SO with this anthology! Of the 15 stories included, there were only TWO I didn’t like at all. Most of them were on the good-to-OMG-SO-AMAZING scale. Every single author in this collection was new to me, with the exception of Libba Bray. Several of these stories sent me clambering to buy full-length books by the authors. I am SO GLAD I picked up this anthology – the stories are amazing and it let me to a lot of wonderful new-to-me authors.

A Universe of Wishes by Tara Sim – 4 stars
Such interesting world building, and the relationship in this… *sigh* Loved it. Just loved it.

The Silk Blade by Natalie C. Parker – 5 stars
BUT WAIT, WHAT HAPPENS?! Several of the books in this anthology leave it up to the reader to imagine what happens next, but none of them left me furiously flipping the last page back and forth desperately searching for more like this story did. Absolutely went and yeeted some of Natalie C. Parker’s books onto my wishlist after reading this amazing story.

The Scarlet Woman: A Gemma Doyle Story by Libba Bray – 1 star
Why is this book even in this anthology? It doesn’t really fit with the rest of them… Also, I think you need to have read the Gemma Doyle books/series/whatever to get anything out of this story (which I have not, so maybe that’s part of why I hated it…) It reads more like the opening to a new book in a follow-up series to the original series than a stand-alone short story. Dislike, will not be reading any of the Gemma Doyle books, moving on.

Cristal y Ceniza by Anna-Marie McLemore – 3.5 stars
A Cinderella retelling, yes! Our Cinderella in this story goes to the ball to bed the King and Queen of a neighboring country to allow persecuted queer couples from her kingdom seek asylum in theirs. She’s hopeful of their reception because of how accepting they are of their son, the prince, who is trans. I struggled with the liberal use of Spanish and had to keep looking up translations, which pulled me out of the story a lot. A lovely – and powerful – story, and one of the last lines had me bawling. “All those like us, we belong to each other.”

Liberia by Kwame Mbalia – 5 stars
Another book that had me scrambling to find more by the author. This one is the first story in the anthology that is strongly sci-fi rather than fantasy, and I LOVED it. Immediately went and bought the first Tristan Strong book by Kwame Mbalia, because this is the type of book I want to be reading to my kids.

A Royal Affair by V.E. Schwab – 5 stars
HOW HAVE I BEEN SLEEPING ON V.E. SCHWAB!?!?! Immediately ordered the entire Shades of Magic trilogy after reading this short story, as well as adding several of her other books to my wishlist. This story made me sob, and is what had me starting to scream about this book as a whole to my friends as I realized ALL the stories are actually really great.

The Takeback Tango by Rebecca Roanhorse – 4 stars
Another strong sci-fi short story, this one about a heist! Yes!

Dream and Dare by Nic Stone – DNF
Princess Dare goes missing at the same time a Beast appears in the woods. Dream goes searching for the lost princess. Bet you can’t guess what happens. Oh wait, you probably can. I just wasn’t a fan of the writing style on this one, and it’s the only story I actually DNF’d.

Wish by Jenni Balch – 4 stars
This story blends sci-fi and magic with a genie-type of character who is summoned to a space station off of Venus. I want more of Lane and Ariadne – more, I say!

The Weight by Dhonielle Clayton – 4 stars
I think this went over my head a bit? Because at the end I was left going “wait, but what… what does it MEAN?”

Unmoor by Mark Oshiro – 5 stars
Tears. Tears, pouring down my face. Why are so many of the stories in this book intent upon ripping my heart out of my chest and stomping on it? I love it, give me more.

The Coldest Spot in the Universe by Samira Ahmed – 5 stars
*unintelligible sobbing as I add everything Samira Ahmed has ever written to my TBR* Really strong speculative fiction vibes in this one – a warning that we can’t keep on trashing the planet the way we’ve been.

The Beginning of Monsters by Tessa Gratton – 5 stars
This is just so beautifully written. Also, I love the an/ans pronouns. Definitely adding more by Tessa Gratton to my TBR.

Longer Than the Threads of Time by Zoraida Cordova – 5 stars
Oh my GOSHHHHHH, I am going to need the rest of this book in a novel (or at the very least novella) format. *grabby hands* Yes. All the yes.

Habibi by Tochi Onyebuchi – 3.5 stars
I didn’t like this story much at first – I wasn’t a fan of the epistolary format, and Quincy seemed so rough. Oh, my gosh, am I glad I kept reading though. This story had be sobbing at the end. What a way to end this book.

I give this book 5 stars as a whole because there are SO MANY AMAZING STORIES. Also because of reading this book I bought about half a dozen new books by these authors, and added at least a dozen more to my TBR and wishlists. I’ll also be checking out some of the other We Need Diverse Books anthologies for sure.

A digital ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

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