A Season of Monstrous Conceptions

Written by Lina Rather
Review by Kristen McDermott

Sarah Davis is a midwife’s apprentice in London, ten years after the Black Plague outbreak and Great Fire of 1666. Historians of the time called 1666 the annus mirabilis – year of wonders – and Sarah is aware that the unexplainable has become even more common in the ensuing decade. She has witnessed an increasing frequency of what ordinary folk call monstrous births – infants delivered bearing wings, gills, horns, tails – and what she and her mentor, Mrs. June, call touches of the “Other Place.”

In this historical fantasy, such people are “marked” by uncanny forces; those who survive their birth are able to perform magical feats of healing and foresight – extremely useful talents for a midwife, but dangerous for a woman in Restoration London. Sarah is one of these, and while attending the pregnant wife of the genius architect Sir Christopher Wren, she perceives the approach of dark forces that threaten the very fabric of reality. She must overcome her own grim past and desire for power in order to save her city and the woman she loves.

Rather makes a fascinating contribution to the growing genres of historical fantasy and LGBTQ+ speculative fiction with this atmospheric novella. She packs a lot of action and character development into a short narrative, and readers will hope for more of her eerie London setting.