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Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Tikanu, land of laws and patterns, magic and wild mint, is not found behind hidden doors. It passes across borders and takes root wherever its people settle. This collection of seven commentaries reveals a world waiting patiently at the edges of vision, that welcomes all who are willing to do the work of building it.
ebook, 24 pages
Published August 20th 2014 by Tor.Com
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  126 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I don’t think you’re from around here, said the snake. But you might like it anyway.

this is a very special story, of the creeper-upper sort, and i'm glad i didn't read it when it was posted on the site in 2014, because i think it means more to me now than it would have at the time.

this story proves that i don't need a story to be sad and dark and bleak to appreciate it but also that you can write a story with a feel-gooderie message without being schmaltzy about it.

this one is beautiful -
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nice. Judging by the comments, I think some of the cultural allusions eluded me. Love the plant/garden connection, and balconies as "private scraps of outside air."
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I've always wanted to open a wardrobe and find a portal to a hidden magical land. This Tor short story is the next best thing.

The magical land of Tikanu is best accessed through wild mint. You may find "books of lore in odd corners of the library, bright purple toadstools in the woods, symbols scribed delicately in spiderwebs." Rebel spirits called lillim may sicken your child by stealing life from it, but the gnarled wood golems who work in the Tikanu library are willing to offer advice and
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it

When she was thirteen, she took a summer internship in the library. On her third day, she and three other interns became lost in the stacks. They wandered among forests of shelves and pools of ink. They found there strange creatures, born as descriptions in the cryptozoology section, who had taken on tenuous life from the golems’ exhalations. Judy’s daughter was able to draw on her mother’s lessons to create patterns that would let the creatures inhabit the library freely, without leeching from
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-freebie
Very gentle and magical. Other reviewers hit it on the head. This needs to be much longer. Please? :D
Tikanu is a land that creates itself, patchwork-style, in the back yards and balconies of its inhabitants all over Earth.

This reminded me a lot of Every Heart a Doorway, though this came first - and EHAD tends more to the cautionary tale side of fairy tales. This, though, was a whimsical and enchanting delight, without the need to display such caution. The Feast of Doors for example - fantastic!

Find it here:
A short fantastical look at how a culture grows and evolves, with a fantastical twist. I loved it.
Elliot Cooper
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Beautiful and moving. And the storyteller narrative style is perfect for the pacing and gently wrought but vibrant imagery.

My heart:

"The snake stayed by her always, but told her many times that neither of them could ever be truly at home in Tikanu. She believed it, and yet she had never felt more at home elsewhere."
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
Masterful, heartbreaking, and lovely.
Shira Glassman
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to feel warm and fuzzy about their Jewishness
These are tiny, linked vignettes envisioning diaspora Judaism (never identified outright, but obvious through allusions to Friday nights being sacred, and horseradish and unleavened bread being part of the same festival, etc.) as a magical place almost like a portable Narnia that diaspora Jews carry around with us in flowerpots full of mint and by looking at the moon. So of course I am all about that.

"the blue and silver wings that embraced the house on Friday nights." Shabbat has a lot of
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another lovely story by Ruthanna Emrys, this one jumping off of secret portal stories. On her personal blog, RE says that she was inspired by attempting to figure out what a Jewish Narnia would look like; there's also a pretty obvious Zelazny reference in there too. RE's interest in traditions and what they mean to us (even the tradition of worshiping Cthulhu, as in "Litany of Earth") is something that really resonates with me.
Meira (readingbooksinisrael)
My favorite thing about this story was how many different Jews were in it. Religious, sort-of-religious, not religious at all. Ashkanazi and Mizrachi (from the reviews some people saw what I see as a MENA Jewish family as a Muslim family. That's fine, it's up to interpretation). And all of them were welcomed into Tikanu. And, yes, non-Jews, like Amber, are allowed in too.

I liked how the story surrounded Pesach. It is our holiday of escaping from slavery and opression and one of the first things
Alice Lemon
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ruthanna Emrys' vision of a Jewish Narnia not as a separate place one reaches through a portal, but as one that exists in patches throughout the world, wherever people plant it in their gardens, is certainly interesting. I imagine that the story is less personally meaningful to me than it would be to someone who identifies with its Jewishness, but I still found the concept deeply appealing even as the land of Tikanu felt a bit foreign to me.

I was first attracted to Emrys' writing due to the
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was absolutely lovely!
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
beautifully simple short story (you can read it for free online, the link is in the summary) about a (unnamed in text, but obviously jewish) diaspora carrying their hidden and magical homeland with them in the mint growing in their gardens of balcony flowerpots. melancholy, sharp, gorgeous, full of hope.

Even in the city, Miriam could always see the moon from her balcony. It rose and set in its proper courses—no magic in that—but clouds broke apart as it passed between apartment buildings, the
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tor-shorts
I enjoyed this series of connected vignettes, the underlying theme of Jewish diaspora underlined the magical realism of the story without needing to be explicitly discussed. I loved the author's dreamy watercolor writing that fit the subject perfectly. This is a story that I will end up recommending to just about everyone even if it's not their usual thing because it's a big payoff for such a small time investment.

Quote: "The laws of Tikanu may be added to, but never lost. So it is that
Dec 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
I really like this author (and of The Deepest Rift in particular), but this short story really did not work for me. It reminds me a little of Lovecraft's dreamland stories (that I did not enjoy either).
Sep 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: style, stucture, tor-com
Beautiful writing and artwork. A short story as fresh as the wild mint with many interesting ideas. The land of Tikanu is made up of many discontinuous small spaces and so does the structure of the story, a clear demonstration that it is not necessary to have all the pieces to provide an atmosphere or a sense of story.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This stream of stories makes for a beautiful meditation on the fantastic that presses close, if we can just find the door into it. It also has wild mint, which makes for a glorious scent and exhilarating tea.
Fantasy Literature
We love this!
Featured in our Short Fiction column:
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is quiet, pretty, and very charming portal fantasy – brief but full of wonder, and such a comforting joy to read.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, short-story
This little series of vignettes about people's interactions with an unseen land is I want more stuff from Ms. Emrys in 2015!
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks-online, sff, thing
I can't believe I missed this when it was published. Very good.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Probably more like 3.5 stars. Very interesting concept, with a land that exists in small hidden places in and around our world. I liked the way it was told as well.
Zachariah Carlson
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
I love secret magic-land stories, and I really like how this one interweaves personal stories into the roots of its infinite mint garden.
Nerine Dorman
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely magical, loved the whimsy.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The writing in this small volume is like a watercolor painting: hues merging with each other at varying intensities to reveal a soft-focus composition that is vibrant and alive.
Amy Mills
Enjoyable little pastiche. I feel like it's about the connections that grow between people, regardless of genetics or country or whatnot.
Alex Sarll
A charming, mint-scented tangent on all those magic worlds into which we used to dream of escaping.
Doctor Science
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
For me, this story is more Jewish than The Yiddish Policeman's Union because this is the Judaism I know: the Diaspora, the portal into a land that's woven through the Fields We Know. The wild mint, that you can cut back or burn but never extirpate. The books, the learning, the struggle to learn more & better. Oranges on the Seder table.
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