Spotlight on “Jewel Box: Stories” by E. Lily Yu

by LitStack Editor

In Jewel Box: Stories, the strange, the sublime, and the monstrous confront one another with astonishing consequences.

Jewel Box: Stories and author E. Lily Yu

About Jewel Box: Stories

 A collection of 22 stories from award-winning writer E. Lily Yu.

In the village of Yiwei, a fallen wasp nest unfurls into a beautifully accurate map. In a field in Louisiana, birdwatchers forge an indelible connection over a shared glimpse of a Vermilion Flycatcher, and fall. In Nineveh, a judge who prides himself on impartiality finds himself questioned by a mysterious god. On a nameless shore, a small monster searches for refuge and finds unexpected courage.

At turns bittersweet and boundary-breaking, poignant and profound, these twenty-two stories sing, as the oldest fables do, of what it means to be alive in this strange, terrible, beautiful world. For readers who loved the intelligence and compassion in Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century and the dreamlike prose of Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners, this collection introduces the short fiction of E. Lily Yu, winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer and author of the Washington Book Award–winning novel On Fragile Waves, praised by the New York Times Book Review as “devastating and perfect.”

Praise for Jewel Box: Stories

Yu (On Fragile Waves) displays her considerable skill as a prose stylist in this collection of 22 speculative shorts. The stories range widely in style and setting, from parables of justice during the latter days of the Assyrian Empire (“The Lion God and the Two Gates”), to a techno-dystopic Orpheus and Eurydice retelling where Orpheus plays the theremin (“Music for the Underworld”). 

Yu is particularly concerned with the abuse of the marginalized and the blindness of privilege, examining these themes through two groups of aliens in “The Wretched and the Beautiful”; the one-percenter wedding story “Green Glass: A Love Story”; and “The Cat’s Tale,” a clever mash-up of “Puss in Boots,” the Pied Piper, and Chaucer’s “The Clerk’s Tale.” Less successful are her riffs on Hans Christian Andersen: both the footnote-heavy sci-fi story “The Time Invariance of Snow,” a take on “The Snow Queen,” and “Three Variations on the Theme of Imperial Attire,” a smug triple-retelling of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” have inexplicable disdain for their source texts. 

Even when Yu’s plotting confounds, however, her sentences astonish. (Of street lamps, she writes, “They were surrogate moons for an age when the moon itself was too distant and dim to guide travelers in the night.”) The result is well worth reading for any fan of speculative fiction. Agent: Marcus Hoffman, RHA Literary. (Oct.)—Publishers Weekly

“[Yu’s] sentences shine with unexpected images and turns of phrase. . . . Each story here is a gem. A trove of fantastical treasures.”—Kirkus, starred review

“Laugh, gasp, wonder, grieve, reflect: Jewel Box asks what enchantment is, even as it mesmerizes you and steals your heart.—Foreword Reviews, starred review

“[A] collection of stories that are wondrous and surreal, but also filled with a much needed sweetness. Each story shines, with Yu’s stark prose perfectly suited to these magical realist tales. Read one as a treat. Read the whole thing in one sitting. However you like to consume story collections, make sure you spend time with this one.”—

“Like Oscar Wilde or Ray Bradbury, E. Lily Yu writes the kind of delicious short stories that come with a sting in the tail. Utterly beguiling.”—Kelly Link, bestselling author of Get in Trouble

“You hold in your hand a collection of marvels – Yu’s stories float like fairy tales and sting like bees.  Sometimes funny, often sobering, magic in every word.” —Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“I’ve been waiting for an E. Lily Yu collection for more than a decade—one book to rule them all. Powerful, meaningful, unforgettable, her stories part the veils of history and myth to bring forth marvels for a fractured age. Highly recommended!”—Usman T. Malik, award-winning author of Midnight Doorways

“With the bone-ringing clarity of fairytales and the scientific precision of a star-map, Yu has an unfailing sense of how words work. With it, she delivers fresh insights into the ancient myth of Orpheus, evokes the Peter Beagle-esque magic of a unicorn roaming wild in New York’s Central Park, and distills a man-eating monster’s dysfunctional parenting patterns. Her words spark recognition and awe in us a thousand times, in a thousand different ways.”—Nisi Shawl, Nebula Award finalist and author of Everfair

“E. Lily Yu has created a cabinet of curiosities with this collection, inviting us into the faceted worlds therein. Eclectic and erudite, equally adept with ordinary and the fantastic, what ties these stories together is Yu’s brilliance and compassion; an insistence that the lives (and deaths) of anarchist bees, Babylonian judges, and amorous streetlamps are all worthy of being held up to the light.”—Nino Cipri, award-winning author of Finna

“How many of these tales left me in tears? How many in a rage? How many in an ecstasy of wonder? Each one exceptional. Every sentence immaculate. Fearless, meticulous, masterful, E. Lily Yu’s Jewel Box: Stories is clear as cut-crystal, with a drop of blood in every facet.”—C. S. E. Cooney, author of Saint Death’s Daughter

“Don’t be fooled by the strangeness of her worlds or the fable-like quality of her stories. E. Lily Yu is relentless in her pursuit of the many truths that move our world and she does so with sharpness and kindness alike. Jewel Box is a kaleidoscope of stories that invoke wonder, empathy, and contemplation.”—Eugenia Triantafyllou, author of The Giants of the Violet Sea

About E. Lily Yu, Author of Jewel Box: Stories

Jewel Box Stories author E. Lily Yu

E. Lily Yu is the author of the novel On Fragile Waves, which won the Washington State Book Award. She received the Artist Trust LaSalle Storyteller Award in 2017 and the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. Her stories have appeared in venues from McSweeney’s to, as well as thirteen best-of-the-year anthologies, and have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy Awards. 

You can find and follow E. Lily Yu on her website at, and on Facebook, and you can sign up for her newsletter here.

Titles by E. Lily Yu

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