A review by saltysnaax
The Four Profound Weaves, by R.B. Lemberg

3.0

Lemberg's fantastical novella takes us to the city Iyar where we meet the nameless man and Uiziya-e-Lali, two "changers," now past midlife and both with hopes still to be fulfilled. Uiziya seeks her aunt, Benesret, a great weaver, in hopes that the latter will teach her the last of the Four Profound Weaves: death. The nameless man seeks a name to fit his masculine form, recently changed through another of the Four Profound Weaves: song.
The story is refreshingly unique: magic is comprised of names and geometry, characters are diverse and thoughtfully and complexly written, and domestic crafts contain great power. It’s easy to write a fantasy novel that’s based on well-worn, and much-loved fantasy tropes because there already is a history, a canon, into which one's story fits. Lemberg creates a new universe for the reader to explore, and one that’s diverse from its conception. Sure, we all love high fantasy, but how many more white men can we tolerate? At some point, we are reading variations of the same story. Thankfully, Lemberg brings something completely new to the fantasy genre.
While this novella did not grab me as powerfully as I’d hoped I am really looking forward to more writing from Lemberg. The universe they have created is so imaginative I wanted to know more about it in this story. I know there are other short stories Lemberg has written set in the Birdverse (more information can be found here: http://rblemberg.net/?page_id=319), however, I wish there was more world-building and character-development in this novella. That being said, readers can certainly read this novella as their first introduction to the Birdverse, and enough context is provided for a baseline understanding, but overall not enough context is provided for a rich standalone novel. In this way, The Four Profound Weaves reminds me of James S.A. Corey’s short stories, which accompany their Expanse series – readers wouldn’t read these without reading the main series because while the short stories are well-written, they would fall flat without the background knowledge of Corey’s Expanse universe. I wouldn’t say Lemberg’s story falls flat, but it would be improved with more detail.
Additionally, I wish our two main characters had more… character! I wanted them to be fully realized beyond their actions in this story. I really liked both main characters, but I wanted to know so much more about them! I think more detail and context would have enriched this novella, at least for me.

Like I said, I can’t wait to read Lemberg’s next project. Consider me a fan.