Book Review: The Underwater Ballroom Society – Birds on the Blog

Book Review: The Underwater Ballroom Society


Flying in today to give you the rundown on a fantastic fantasy anthology I was privileged to receive an ARC of.

An array of fantasy tales adorn The Underwater BallroomSociety anthology, each with an underwater ballroom at its heart. In some stories, I felt the ballrooms were a bit forced – as in, you could tell they were there because of the theme, not exclusively because of the story – but all in all, a rich array of worlds are presented, and many grand stories are told.

An odd thing (or maybe not, considering the fate of the original underwater ballroom and its creator), is that many of the tales have a sadness about them, a hunger for a world as it could be, not as it is. I don’t know if it’s a reflection of the world we are living in today, with all its fears and uncertainties, or a reflection of the setting, but if you’re looking for a cheery rainbows-and-roses book, this isn’t it.

Which isn’t to say that it’s not a smashing good read, because it is. I enjoyed going on every Journey presented here, despite the fact that some are achingly sad at a hard time in my own life. I admit – I had both a treat in store in the form of ‘Spellswept’, one of the pillar stories of this anthology as well as an ARC of the book – and yet, as I read on, I found that I wouldn’t have needed either of them to thouroughly enjoy this collection.

The two pillars of the book are the stories by Stephanie Burgis and her husband Patrick Samphire. Hers, another wondrous entry in her Harwood Spellbook series (of which I hear from her blog that there are to be many more – yay!!!) and his, a wondrous steampunk mystery set in his Regency Mars Universe.

In his ‘Spy in the Deep’, I love the way that M. Samphire has created a strong female character in Harriet George, a woman who is quite capable of taking care of herself and the situations around her – sometimes even a little too much. The lessons she learns along her way to and through her encounters with her Ballroom provide a story that both comes close to home (having some of those same tendencies myself, tho’ in a vastly different life and career), and takes me far a way to a world I will enjoy travelling to again.

And ‘Spellswept’ was, of course, delicious. I adore the way that she takes the tropes of the Regency English and turn them on their heads – that it’s the MEN who must be carefully guarded against ruination, and who are the semi-helpless, emotional creatures who must be indulged, and it’s the WOMEN who lead, who take some of those often male-attributed attitudes of practicality and sensibility, and who handle themselves quite nicely, thank you, in the open, without the need for artifice or apology.

Summed up beautifully in this quote: “…unquestionable law that ruled Angland to this day: pragmatic ladies saw to the politics while gentlemen dealt with the more emotional magic…and no woman could ever be accepted into the Boudiccate without a mage-husband by her side.” that just ticks all my womanly-boxes in the best possible ways.

In short, if you have the Spoons for a bit of the sad along the way, then pounce on this delectable read now, if not sooner! Available now for pre-order and launching into this world on April 30th (and according to the page, only existing in anthology-form for one year, so pounce soonest!).

Chirp, chirp! 😉
Birdy :>O<:

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About the Author Birdy Diamond

She is the One Who Tells Tales. Writer of words. Creator of card-decks. Transmogrifier of talismans. Maker of music. Singer of songs. Lover of Elevenses and Alliteration. Member of sub-species homo sapiens soprani. When not telling tales for her business, she helps tell tales with local singing and theater groups. Text versions of her tales: pseud BardicRaven at Archive of Our OwnAudio versions of tales+posts: JourneyBirds' YouTube channel. Fannish comments: Tumblr. If you'd like to help bring their stories to life, check out their Patreon page and become a Patron.

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