Synopsis Kathleen Jennings‘ wonderful illustration depicts the central elements of this novella: Ex-soldier and courtier Sylvain dancing around a sexual relationship with Annette. He established his place around the year 1738 at King Louis XV’s court by refurbishing the Versailles water system with its fountains, pipe system, but also the many „thrones“ in the private restrooms. So far, it would be a historical fiction, and the novella brought the scenery very well along with all its perfume, wigs, coloured powders, dancing, and intrigues. But it soon became clear that not everything is natural and a magic element comes into play: At the bottom of the illustration is a nixie which Sylvain caught in the Alps and brought to Versailles. Its task is to control the water flow and pressure.
Review Sylvain is a very likable character, an ingenious „striver“ caring for details, always on the rush. The novella’s first part characterizes this very well by driving him frantically through various problems. Then the catastrophe happens and he suddenly has to take care of the nixie personally. This leads to an interesting character development: the narration follows by going slower, more emotional when Sylvain starts treating the nixie as a daughter instead of a thing. The ending doesn’t come as a surprise but was satisfying.
I hope, we’ll read more of this world by this promising new author!
Meta: isfdb. This novella was published 2015 by Tor.com. I read it in Strahan’s Best SF&F of the Year and it was nominated for the Nebula Award.