royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779This novella is published by Tor.com. It’s also fantasy.

In 1838 Sylvain de Guilherand is a courtier at the count of the King of France. Sylvain has caught a water sprite and put her to work managing a reservoir and plumbing system for the palace. This pleases the king, elevates Sylvain’s status and sets him up for favors from the ladies of the court. One of these is Annette d’Arlain, who is bored with her husband.

Sylvain’s servant Leblanc dies, who had been managing the sprite, and Sylvain has to take over dealing with her himself. He struggles with trying to please everyone, and Annette points out that he is a “striver” for social position. As requests for marvels mount, he is faced with the realization that he is only a trained monkey performing for the court. What should he do?

This is a long story to make just this point. The pace seems a bit frantic, especially at the beginning, when Sylvain runs from pleasing Annette to worrying about leaks in the plumbing. He’s fairly callous about using both people and sprite, but suddenly sees the error of his ways. The theme is admirable, but it might be better framed in a different story. Obligatory picking: Do they have rifles in 1738? I don’t think so. Average characterization and imagery. The conclusion is meant to be emotionally satisfying, but it doesn’t snag me. Three and a half stars.

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