Cover Image: A Season of Monstrous Conceptions

A Season of Monstrous Conceptions

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Loved how much info and intrigue and story was conveyed in this novella. And I would easily continue reading more about Sarah and Margaret.
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What a phenomenal story. I was mesmerized by the descriptions of a version of late 17th century London, where midwives wield witchcraft and the world is bleeding together with an "Other Place," a parallel world of monsters and madness. Birth is such a powerful metaphor, and it has been used by countless other authors to explore the nature of creation, but I felt that A Season of Monstrous Conceptions was a compelling exploration of the powers harnessed by the process of growing and birthing new life.

My only complaint is that I wish I could have stayed in the world created by Lina Rather even longer. But this novella was a perfect length for the story it told.
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Special thanks to Tor Publishing Group and NetGalley for the ARC of this novella.

This book (novella) is eerie, dark, surreal and a bit disturbing. All of the things I adore in a book. Even though it had actual " monsters" and monstrosities in it, I felt sad for them.

This novella was just all around an awesome book. Fans of Lovecraft will definitely love this. 5 stars
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I absolutely loved reading this story! It was quick and brief but the world building and character development was expertly done for a book of this length. We get to see a group of powerful witches who work as midwives in 17th century London, and the way of a series of monstrous births threatens their sense of power and safety. 

I loved the historical setting of 17th century England, specifically the period of fear and anxiety after the Great Fire of London. The queer representation in the novel was relatable and heartwarming - having to hide who you are can be lonely and frightening, but friendships and romances can get us through the hardest times. I also really enjoyed how Sara’s backstory gave so much more depth to her character, revealing the high price of freedom in a time when few women could choose their own path in life. 

I liked the ending but would have preferred to learn more about the witch’s guild in London and the aftermath of the explosive climax. 

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories about witches with a darker twist
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Finished this mostly in one sitting. I thought the whole premise was really intriguing, and the execution did not disappoint. Yes, the ending felt a little bit rushed, or as if everything suddenly had to be fixed, every loose end closed, in just a few short chapters. Which, I guess, it did. I didn't mind it too much though, and it didn't feel too forced to me personally. There were definitely things that I would love to know more about, but these kind of short reading experiences suit my ND brain really well, so I will not complain.
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Sarah Davis is a midwife's apprentice, and right now, she is needed more than ever. Unnatural babies are being more across London, with dark eyes and webbed fingers and toes. Something supernatural is afoot. Are innocent babies being used for nefarious occult purposes?

My only complaint about this novella is I wish it had been a full fledged novel. It was absolutely amazing and I want more! The action starts immediately, with Sarah attending to the birth of one of the unnatural babies. The novel weaves together the historical times of 17th century London, feminist motives, and magic. The characters and plot are fleshed out well for a novella, although if the author had chosen to go for a longer format, the potential was certainly there. The story was rife with tension, which made for a quick read in one sitting. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for this ARC. I am leaving this review voluntarily and all views expressed are my own.
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Brilliant, original and gripping. A complex historical horror/dark fantasy that kept me on the edge and entrhalled.
I was fascinated by the style of writing and the storytelling.
The historical background is vivid, the mix of fantasy and historical wiction works very well and the characters are lively
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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I thought I would really enjoy this book- the plot definitely sounded interesting. But upon further reading, this book just felt very disjointed- I feel like a lot of things happen in a very short period of time and that it just sort of leaves things in a strange place. I understand it is a novella- but I feel like too much was left on the cutting room floor.
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Thank you to Lina Rather and Macmillan for an e-ARC in exchange for a fair review

A Season of Monstrous Conceptions: 3.5/5 stars 

I found the atmosphere and the setting for this book to be perfectly chosen! You can really tell the author put a lot of effort into researching the period, though it sometimes felt more that you were watching things unfold rather than being engrossed with what was happening. 
I liked how the book touched on many topics that would’ve been taboo at the time – pregnancy, queerness, sexuality, and the unknown. Though I enjoyed this as a novella, I would easily read a novel-length version of this book that’d go deeper and more detailed with these concepts. 
There seemed to be a bit of a lack of detail or explanation when it came to the dialogue or some of the magic system, but the prose itself was gorgeous. 
Horror isn’t a genre I am usually reading, but I’m curious to read more after finishing this book.
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A Season of Monstrous Conceptions was an intriguing and atmospheric read that generated a great deal of interesting avenues to contemplate. I loved the gloomy aura of this novella and the way that it paired perfectly with the events of the plot to create this dark, historical fantasy that comments on the strength of women.

I would have loved to see this novella expanded into a longer work, perhaps to build out the systems of magic and types of knowledge that Rather conveys through her depiction of Sarah and her fellow midwives. Overall, this was an enjoyable, but brief read that I would love to see explored further!
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Sarah Davis is an apprentice midwife with a troubled past. It’s 17th-century England, and something darkly strange is happening. Children are born deformed with wings, horns, tails and several eyes. It seems as though the border between the natural world and the unnatural world is becoming blurred. Not to mention, it was a time when accusations and executions for witchcraft were commonplace. Sarah, as well as being a midwife, has powers that allow her to persuade others to do what she wants…like walking into fire.
When Sarah becomes midwife to the wife of famous architect Christopher Wren, she soon realizes that Wren plans to use his child to serve a darker purpose.
The premise of this novel really intrigued me. It is a really short read, more of a novella, really. I wish the plot was more detailed and the characters more fleshed out. Because it is such a short novel, a few plot elements seemed irrelevant to the storytelling, and other elements that I feel should have been elaborated. On the whole, it is a good quick read. 
Thank you to Thor Publishing and Netgalley for the free copy.
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A short novella about Sarah Davis, a midwife in 17th century London where many children are being born with odd defects. Sarah is also gifted with magic and the same force that is causing these defects. Too short in my opinion, where there was a lot of material that could have lengthened this book.
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I didn't necessarily dislike this book, but I do think it might have done better as a full-length novel rather than a novella. There was a lot going on in terms of how the world, very similar to 1600s England but with a vaguely malevolent other realm existing in another dimension, was being developed, and I just don't think that less than 200 pages was enough to encompass all the ideas that the author had.  The concept was really great, and the writing was excellent and enjoyable. However, I would have liked a bit more depth, which I think would have made the story scarier to me as well as made me more interested in the world. The scene at the end which served as the climax of the story, was interesting, but a bit incomprehensible. Again, I just would've liked more details.
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I made it 32% into this, I put it down at chapter five and didn’t pick it back up  my interest ended and didn’t want to pick it back up.
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It's some years after Cromwell's death and the fire that ravaged London. Sarah Davis is working in London as an apprentice to a midwife, Mrs. June. Though grateful for the work,  Sarah also resents the older woman's treatment of her and her inability to simply leave Mrs. June’s side. Sarah ran from her hometown because of increasingly nasty rumours about her strangeness (supernatural leanings) and a possible murder charge. Consequently, Sarah has nowhere else to go.

There is fear in London that the devil is running around, as there are monstrous babies being born throughout the city. Mrs. June and Sarah are no strangers to these babies, having ushered into the world several children afflicted with odd features: extra eyes, fish scales, and other oddities. Sarah can sense these aspects in a fetus, thanks to her own uncanniness.

When through a chance encounter with Lady Wren, Sarah and Mrs. June are hired as midwives for Lady and Sir Christopher Wren’s second child. It’s a great opportunity, for with references from Lady Wren, Sarah might be able to establish her own midwifery practice.

Cristopher Wren is fascinated by the many strange babies, and feels Sarah can help him with his magical researches (he winkles out the truth of her own ability through persistence). He also wants to stop the occurrences of the uncanny appearing in London.

Though flattered, Sarah is growing increasingly frustrated with people using her for their own ends, whether Wren, or Mrs. June and the woman’s desire for greater access to magic.

It soon becomes apparent that London is in great danger (Wren believes that the babies are a likely symptom of magic leaking into our world from another realm), and Sarah has to decide what she wants to do about it.

Lina Rather has created a wonderful feminist historical fantasy, with a sharp-tongued main character trying to live life on her terms. Her London is rife with poverty, fear of the different and the uncanny,. There are men making small steps toward scientific concepts, and for Sarah, the possibility of a new life and possible romance. Rather shows us a woman angry with upper class snobbishness and societal restrictions for the lower classes and women, while also wanting more out of life and having to hide essential parts of herself. Sarah shines throughout.

The prose conjures London’s crooked streets, the darkness and pain of long hours of labour, and incredible moments when a magical world collides with London.

I loved this novella-length story, and at the same time wanted so much more in this setting with Sarah. I would definitely read about her if Sarah returned.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Tor Publishing Group for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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What a pleasant surprise of a novelette! Historical fiction of the occult at its best, and not set in the usual time period of vaguely Victorian spiritualism. Season inhabits the perfectly gothic setting of Elizabethan London, addressing its religious upheavals, women's issues, and queer underground in brilliant writing. Sarah is not only other in her supernatural power, but in her bisexuality. I could only be happier with this book if it had been longer.
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A short yet interesting book about strangeness and midwifery set in 17th century London.

A novella that lacked the depth for the number of pages, but did keep me intrigued to what would happen next. I liked the characters and the setting. The concept itself was so interesting and unique, it made me want a full novel with this concept.
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A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is a story of a midwife apprentice in an era full of unusual births. I was blessed to get to read this e arc alongside an audio version of the story and can say this full immersion experience truly heightened the story's impact for me. I do not know much I could possibly say more eloquently than other reviewers have already but I was truly intrigued by the main character's experience and how it parterres a bit the experience of some intersex individuals who have had cosmetic surgeries performed on them as infants.

This novella will be a great read  for fans of works such as what moves the dead by T Kingfisher
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I requested this book from NetGalley and was granted access to a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Set in a fantasy version of 17th century London, we follow Sarah Davis -- a midwife in training -- in a time when "unnatural" babies are being born more often than ever. She is hired to care for a wealthy woman, Lady Wren, through her pregnancy. While spending time with the Wrens, Lord Wren begins to draw Sarah into a world of magic and the fate of the world is at stake.

It is delicious and strange and feminist and dark and magical and also TOO SHORT. I know it's a novella, but Rather has created such an intriguing setting and I just wanted to spend more time in it! I want more of the themes and ideas fleshed out.

I am curious to see reviews come in from folks with disfigurements and disabilities. The "uncanny babies" have a touch of the Other World, so you might be able to put this in a box of humans being used as incubators of otherworldly creatures' babies. But those babies that survive birth are treated the way folks with real disfigurements and disabilities were/are often treated. I can't speak to the rep personally, but I am seeing ableist language crop up in reviews of the book when people talk about the babies. 

A quick read. Definitely something you can read in one sitting. It would make an excellent book club book, especially because it's so short and there isn't space to do a lot of unpacking or thinking through. I wouldn't blanket recommend this, but I could see hand selling this to individual readers.
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One of the things I enjoy about October is that the publishing industry focuses its full attention on bringing horror, suspense, and mystery to the reader. It always gives me a chance to discover new authors and fascinating little stories, like A Season of Monstrous Conceptions. Thanks to Tordotcom and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Set shortly after the Great Fire of London, Sarah finds herself hired by the Lady Wren to ensure the safe birth of her child as London has seen more and more unnatural births in recent weeks. Her husband, Christopher Wren, is an architect with a broad array of scientific interests and Sarah quickly catches his eye. Not for creepy reasons per se, but because there is something to midwifery in this world which is just a little... uncanny. Sarah finds herself pulled between what her fellow-midwives want of her and what Wren offers, all while being shown a world of potential freedom by a lover. Considering that A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is a novella, it packs a whole lot of things in. I really enjoyed the character of Sarah, the way her backstory is sketched, and how she finds herself at a crossroads. The characters around her aren't as fully developed, but for the length and format that really isn't an issue. Throughout the story the scales between horror and mystery on the one hand, and romance and character growth on the other hand are balanced very well, and both hands come together in the service of the plot. 

I hadn't read anything by Lina Rather before, but I immediately found myself drawn in by her writing. The flow of her writing is incredibly smooth and she very capably sets up her characters and plot pieces for the reader. The novella format, much like the short story, can be quite tricky because the writer does have less space to do what needs to be done. Just because the tale is short(er) than a novel does not mean it does not require the same grounding in a storyworld or the same attention to character. Rather does all of that very well and I felt like I immediately knew Sarah. I also loved the descriptions of seventeenth-century London and how Rather creates magic with this backdrop. In the last third, A Season of Monstrous Conceptions really expands on its world as it gets closer to the climax and while I very happily followed Rather towards her conclusion, I did have to slow down my reading a bit to catch what exactly was happening. What I appreciated most about this novella was how Rather centralised the question of who we turn into an outsider, of how we, as a society, judge difference. While this comes through very clearly with the "monstrous conceptions" themselves, the uncanny babies, it echoes very strongly in Sarah's character as well. 

I very much enjoyed reading A Season of Monstrous Conceptions and think the novella format fits the story it wants to tell perfectly. With just the right tinge of horror and romance, Lina Rather strikes a great balance. I'm also determined to find myself a copy of Lina Rather's Sisters of the Vast Black, the first book in her Our Lady of Endless Worlds duology.
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