“Award-winning author Eliza Victoria mixes magic with the mundane in this special concoction of 16 short stories. A girl meets a young man with the legs of a chicken. A boy is employed by a goddess running a pawnshop. A group of teenagers are trapped in an enchanted forest for 900 days. A man finds himself in an MRT station beyond Taft, a station that was not supposed to exist. A student claims to have seen the last few digits of pi. Someone’s sister gets abducted by mermaids.
Take this bottle of storm clouds and explore the worlds within.”
I just realized that I’ve run out of Filipino books to read, and I still have a couple of dozen imported books to go through! That needs to be remedied, and fast! But in the meantime, let’s settle in and talk about Eliza Victoria’s collection of stories: A Bottle of Storm Clouds.
I’m not going to be objective here. I’m not a fan of the short story format when it comes to fantasy, as the payoff usually doesn’t satisfy the investment you’ve put into the world-building. Fortunately, A Bottle of Storm Clouds features only a couple of stories that don’t live up to the expectations they set you up with. Most of the time, author Victoria sets up her world quickly with a few choice words, leaving the rest of the very short stories to make you fall in love with her characters, before they break your heart.
My personal favorites of the bunch is “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” “The Just World of Helena Jimenez,” and “Once, In a Small Town.” Those are the stories that, while perfect as is, would also do well in a bigger scale–as their own novels. Although, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez” is very reminiscent of Eliza Victoria’s own Project 17 already. So maybe just the other two.
In “Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling Street,” Victoria creates a wonderful world of mythological creatures co-existing with human beings. The idea of bartering for something more valuable than money? It’s not original, but the author infuses it with so much earnestness, and so much loneliness, that you can’t help but feel for the characters. Even the unassuming protagonist whose point of view we follow.
Meanwhile, “Once, In a Small Town” creates such a rich world of stories that I think author Victoria can further mine. The idea of a town full of people with magical abilities? A gift that automatically doubles as a curse? These are great hooks and plot points for a bigger story that’s just waiting to be told.
I must say: Eliza Victoria has a great handle on creating mood with her words. And although I’m not a fan of short story collections, I must say this is a book that’s truly recommendable.