A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies – Alix E. Harrow

Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Short Story category.

He reached towards the book and the book reached back towards him, because books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them

I first read this short story three months ago and loved it. When I was about to begin my reread I realised that it was written by Alix E. Harrow. I have been fortunate enough to secure an advanced copy of their debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January. While it hasn’t reached the top of my to be read pile yet I’ve had a sneak peek and it definitely looks like my kind of book. After rereading this short story I now can’t wait to read it.

Anyone could see that kid needed to run and keep running until he shed his own skin, until he clawed out of the choking darkness and unfurled his wings, precious and prisming in the light of some other world.

I love magic portals, libraries and witches, so this story hit one of my literary trifectas. Books can be life changing and the right one can even save your life.

This is a story about a librarian who connects readers with books by “divining the unfilled spaces in their souls and filling them with stories and starshine”, a foster child and one of those books.

You can read this short story online here.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and depression.

Rating: 5 out of 5.