The Plot Thickens: A Universe of Wishes

Wishes, they look different for each person who holds one but they each exude the same emotion: hope. In this YA anthology edited by Dhonielle Clayton, A Universe of Wishes gives us 15 tales tied in the plurality of the natural human desire to find happiness on the other side of hopelessness. This tome hosts a bevy of accomplished authors from The Plot Thickens frequent, Rebecca Roanhorse, to friend of BGC Mark Oshiro, to V.E. Schwab.

With wishes, you are guaranteed to run into pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises and A Universe of Wishes delivers its own delights by offering up vignettes into the pre-existing universes of V.E. Schwab’s and Zoraida Córdova’s A Shade of Magic and Brooklyn Bruja series via the stories, “A Royal Affair” and “Longer Than the Threads of Time” respectively. While the latter is more a loose tie-in, the former is situated thoroughly within Red London with one of the series’ central characters. Those familiar with A Shade of Magic’s universe will be happy to join our favorite noble pirate, Alucard Emery, in his darkest hour — his banishment from his familial home and the lead up to his bad breakup with Prince Rhy. A story more about being forced to work contrary to one’s wishes, this tale is more about the dark side of the power of wishes. Córdova’s “Longer Than the Threads of Time” gives Rapunzel a New York City twist as inquisitive brujo Fabían Macías unravels the mystery behind who has been imprisoned in Central Park’s Belvedere Castle for the past five decades. What he learns is that some mysteries are perhaps better left uncovered, even if your heart calls you to fulfill someone else’s wish. Romantic love is also central to Nic Stone’s “Dream and Dare” and Mark Oshiro’s “Unmoor.” Stone’s works within the theme of fairytale reimagining similar to Córdova’s and Anna-Marie McLemore’s stories. Oshiro’s gives strong Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and “White Christmas” episode of Black Mirror – but magic – vibes. 

Not every story in this anthology includes a love interest, as Kwame Mbalia’s “Liberia” and Samira Ahmed’s “The Coldest Spot in the Universe” revolve around the granting of dire last wishes. Both stories are set in post-apocalyptic futures where the Earth as we know it is no longer viable for human life due to human folly. In “Liberia,” we follow a spaceship crew of teenagers selected by their society in a last ditch effort to carry on humanity once the world has become uninhabitable. The protagonist, Kweku, is the ship’s agricultural expert and worries over making sure the plants he cultivates survive to feed the next generation. Feeling the importance of this duty is a major motivator for his protectiveness over his crops when the ship runs into emergencies, but the love he feels for his grandmother and family members who have trained him in this work drives him most. This story brings up a lot about legacy being the fulfillment of our ancestors wishes through the sacrifices they made to make sure their descendants would live on. “The Coldest Spot in the Universe” hits the same thematic harmonies as we read entries made by two different girls from two different times with the same name. One exists in the aftermath of a great climate tragedy, slowly enduring in the days the human population of the world dies off, while the other ventures to Earth on an exploratory mission to learn more about this civilization centuries later. As the explorer gains direct insight into the world left behind, she learns more about the other girl and finds the opportunity to bring her wish to life.

Wishes. Love. Danger. Each story in A Universe of Wishes seems to reinforce that to explore a wish means to court danger. Beside the stories I mention above, Tara Sim’s “A Universe of Wishes,” Natalie C. Parker’s “The Silk Blade,” and Anna-Marie McLemore’s “Cristal y Ceniza,” throw us into hit jobs, betrothal tournaments, and elitist viper pits. In fact, this anthology yields so many intriguing stories featuring diverse depictions of gender, ethnic, and sexual orientation that I found myself enjoying a higher ratio of stories in this anthology than others that I’ve read.