Read This: The Twelve All in Dread
The Twelve All in Dread, Juliana Rew’s new story collection, is slightly silly and gently funny. It takes liberties with a number of familiar myths and legends, and occasionally delves into darker themes. The Twelve All in Dread finds magic everywhere. From a distant planet to the British Isles, and from modern cities to isolated mansions, someone, for good or ill, will cast a spell.
The first six stories introduce the titular Twelve–the witch Tesseracta Rowan and her eleven sisters, her parents, and assorted other associates and antagonists in a magic-inflected world. These tales are part of a larger story cycle, which accounts for us not getting to meet the whole family..
“The Twelfth Witch” gives us the trials of grad school and job hunting, and the pitfalls of going into the family business.
“Ebony and Stainless Steel” is a brief vignette with just enough space for a dogfight.
“Banish Mishanter” introduces two other sisters as Tessa encounters the devil in the details in Scotland.
“Outlook Good” sees Tessa experiencing the strange space where her magic sends people she needs to get out of the way.
“Snapdragon and Foxglove” has three of the sisters’ powers threatened because of their animal connections.
“Your Mother Should Know” reveals the mysterious origins of the twelve sisters’ mom.
The second half of the collection is more varied, more adult in tone and content, and its selections more self-contained. It begins with a related pair of stories set in post-Arthurian Camelot:
“The Wet at the Top of the Stairs” lets a bit of accidental Lovecraftian horror loose in the legendary castle.
“Rage, Rage, Against the Dying of the Age” gives us the Viking conquest of Britain and the magical protections that keep the legacy of Camelot safe.
“The Horrible and Terrifying Deeds of Alcofribas the Bold, Son of the Widow Althea, of Whom Little Is Known” retells the old fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” with a dose of sibling rivalry.
“A New Shop!” has a different kind of magic that is far more than the main character has bargained for.
“How to Become Your Witch Friend’s Trusted House-Sitter” is a cheery guide to getting along that ties into the first six stories. I found this one especially charming.
“Blood Moon” a Lovecraft-infused gang war featuring Sonia and Howard. If it is not part of a longer story, it definitely should be.
Overall The Twelve All in Dread seems geared towards a YA audience, with many of Rew’s wryly humorous quips and references added as treats for an older crowd. This makes the volume as a whole lighthearted, even when the descriptions of magical effects and events are a bit gruesome. My takeaway: It’s fun, and it works. Happy reading!