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A Season of Monstrous Conceptions

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definitely a book that should’ve been longer! but i loved what we did get from it. it was as slow as a short novella could be. very atmospheric and lyrical and i Loved the queer representation!!

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In 17th century London, babies are being born a tad bit monstrous. Some survive to be hidden away by their parents, but some, such as the ones with webbed feet and gills die before anyone can get them to water. Sarah Davies is a midwife’s apprentice with a few abilities of her own. When Lady Wren hires her, the woman’s husband takes an intellectual interest in Sarah. She appreciates the interest, but there are many who would use Sarah’s abilities for their own ends, and soon she’s caught up in a web of the supernatural and power where she could be the key to everything.

This was a short read, and it held my full attention from start to finish. I’m a fan of alt historical fiction, particularly when it involves bits of horror and magic. I loved Sarah and identified with her desire to be free while wanting to be appreciated for her intellect. There’s a touch of a queer storyline here, which I’m always a fan of, but it’s not the main focus, and I appreciated that it was maintpy about Sarah’s journey and making tough decisions in a world that wasn’t built for you (and likely never will be).

Two thumbs up.

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This one did not hold my attention like I hoped it would. I believe it was a matter of a good book at the wrong time.

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Love Lina Rather’s writing. The world built here was very interesting, but I wanted a little more. & for a world filled with creatures from different dimensions, would’ve loved less gender binary.

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I loved this author's space nun series and will happily read more by them, but this one just didn't do it for me.

There is a lot going on. In the time of the English Civil War, people had to take care with what they said about religion, science and politics. In this particular alternate history, babies are being born with unearthly defects which many people think is the work of the Devil. Sarah, the main character, has some unusual traits to conceal herself. These traits make her useful to the midwife with whom she is apprenticing but also make her life dangerous and Sarah always feels like an outsider.

Sarah meets a girl who seems to have some unusual traits of her own and the two are drawn to each other. Then the wife of the famous architect Christopher Wren crosses her path and the patronage of this power couple could set Sarah up well for herself. But there are a lot of underlying motives here and Sarah is in a very dangerous position.

This is a combination of English history and eldritch extradimensional horror and the two don't go together badly. But the end of this novella, as often happens, flew to a close too quickly and easily. After all the darkness of the book, the power of love solved things and I was disappointed in that.

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With its alluring title and intriguing premise, A Season of Monstrous Conceptions by Lina Rather dives into the unsettling world of 17th-century London, where midwives grapple with births that blur the lines between human and… something else. Buckle up for a review that explores the book's strengths and weaknesses, leaving you with a sense of whether this uncanny tale is worth adding to your reading list.

Stepping into the Uncanny:

The story unfolds through the eyes of Sarah, a midwife's apprentice burdened by a secret – she herself is touched by the "Other," possessing an uncanny ability to sense the hidden magic woven into the world. As an unnatural tide of monstrous births washes over London, Sarah finds herself drawn into a web of intrigue, confronting both the fear and fascination surrounding these extraordinary occurrences.

A Tapestry of Gripping Threads:

Rather masterfully weaves together historical fiction, dark fantasy, and cosmic horror, creating a richly atmospheric setting. The grimy streets of London, the hushed whispers of midwives, and the chilling presence of the "Other" all come alive in vivid detail. The plot is tightly paced, keeping you guessing with its blend of mystery, suspense, and unsettling revelations.

Characters that Captivate and Challenge:

Sarah is a compelling protagonist, her internal struggles mirroring the societal tensions surrounding women and the "monstrous." Her journey of self-discovery is fraught with danger and moral ambiguity, making her a character you can't help but root for, even as she makes questionable choices. The supporting cast is equally well-drawn, from the wise and enigmatic midwife Agnes to the enigmatic architect Sir Christopher Wren, each adding their own layer of complexity to the narrative.

A World Both Familiar and Strange:

Rather's historical setting feels authentic, with meticulous attention to detail that immerses you in the sights, sounds, and smells of 17th-century London. However, the infusion of fantastical elements never feels jarring, instead adding a layer of unsettling wonder to the familiar world.

A Flickering Flame in the Darkness:

A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is not for the faint of heart. It delves into themes of societal ostracization, the fear of the unknown, and the ethical complexities of confronting the boundaries of nature. However, it also offers a glimmer of hope, exploring themes of resilience, acceptance, and the power of human connection in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Final Verdict:

A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is a captivating and thought-provoking read, perfect for fans of historical fantasy, dark fiction, and anyone who enjoys a story that pushes the boundaries of genre. While its brevity may leave you wanting more, the lingering questions and unsettling atmosphere will stay with you long after you turn the final page.


If you're looking for a unique and unsettling read that will stay with you, A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is definitely worth checking out. Just be prepared to enter a world where the line between human and monster is far from clear.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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I enjoyed Lina Rather's writing style. It's atmospheric and tense without being heavy or bogged down by too much description or unnecessary prose. The book itself is a quick read, and good for if you're looking for a little eldritch horror fantasy without having to slog through 400 some pages.

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Thank you NetGalley for this ARC, in exchange for an honest review!

I was so pleasantly surprised by this. Lately I have not been having much luck with novellas, and simply thought that they weren’t for me. With that being said, I am so happy that I decided to give this one a chance. I felt like it was the perfect length for the plot and character development; I loved Sarah and Margaret. In such a short span I feel like I really got to know them and care for them. This book was restored my faith in novellas! I would love to read from this author again, especially since so much emotion was able to be brought on in a few short pages. I am thoroughly impressed.

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I looooooved A Season of Monstrous Conceptions by Lina Rather.

A few months ago, I read "The Once and Future Sex" by Eleanor Janega, an amazing book about women's roles in medieval society. I learned about the humors, the wandering womb, and many more ~fun~ medieval ideas about women. It was the perfect blend of women & gender studies and history. It started a resurgence of my love for literature about women and learning about obscure parts of history. So when I received A Season of Monstrous Conceptions, which is a medieval tale about a midwife and monstrous babies, I immediately fell in love.

A Season of Monstrous Conceptions is an atmospheric and dark short tale. If you like learning about the underside of medieval society but also love fantasy, this will be perfect for you. It is a novella, so if you want a full-fledged fantasy novel, this may not be for you. I could see this being a full novel because bits were a bit fast, but it was perfect for me.

I removed one star because, although it was amazing, it wasn't life-shattering. Thank you Lina Rather, Tordotcom, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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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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