Fantasy Fans

SFINCS Review: The Collector’s Lost Things

Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.

This review is for The Collector’s Lost Things: A Gardens of War & Wasteland Story by Jessica A. McMinn and is a finalist allocated to Team Jamreads for review.

Blind Those Who See…

Rei-Hai Shaw is a Collector, and he is very good.

At just thirteen years old, Rei became the youngest recruit ever to join the ranks of the Tower, the shadowy organisation that oversees the fulfilment of Whyt’hallen’s darkest requests.

Favoured by the masters but distrusted by his peers, Rei comes to learn the price of his accolades when the Tower demands more than the simple procurement of trinkets.

They want him to steal lives, too.

When his latest missions thrusts him back into the world of his childhood, Rei is painfully reminded of all he left behind—and what he can’t bear to lose again.

Includes additional short story, The King & His Shadow.

Find The Collector’s Lost Things on Goodreads

The Review

The Collector’s Lost Things is a prequel story to the author’s Gardens of War & Wasteland series, which I’ve not had a chance to read yet, but this is a dark fantasy which is my kind of read. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this book and went in completely blind. So let’s see what I thought!


This is the story of Rei-Hai Shaw, the youngest recruit of the Tower, which appears to be a shadowy organization that takes in orphans or children who are no longer wanted by their parents and trains them in the arts of stealth, intel gathering, theft, assassinations, and other jobs dealt in the background. It doesn’t appear to be the happiest of places to etch out an existence, but members of the Tower are providing a service that requires dedicated training and skill.

Already trained to be a Collector, which is the Tower’s version of a highly trained thief, Rei-Hai is put forth to pass a trial and become an assassin. He’s not too keen on taking the lives of others – especially when he discovers his target is a childhood friend and will bring him back to his childhood home and the memories associated with that.

I found Rei-Hai to be a compelling character, and I loved getting to know more about him and his past, as well as his experiences at the Tower. I believe Rei-Hai is one of the POV characters in the main series, so I’m interested in reading those to learn more about him!


The story takes place in the dark fantasy world of Whyt’hallen, starting in the dark and mysterious Tower until Rai-Hai is sent out to complete his trial. I will admit I struggled to get a picture of this world, which is maybe the limitations of trying to pack in a big fantasy world into a novella, but there were enough details for me to follow what was going on.


We begin with Rei-Hai undertaking a trial with another fellow applicant to become an assassin. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that this story is about assassins and Rei-Hai’s journey to become one. However, the assassination and trial is dealt with rather quickly and then moves onto exploring Rei-Hai’s past relationships with a prince. The story then stops becoming about assassins and becomes more of a romantic fantasy. Now, if you were expecting an action-packed novella about assassins, this may be where the novella loses you and you may feel disappointed. I, however, had the opposite reaction. I find assassins and stories about assassins to be rather boring, partly because I’ve been there, done that, read enough generic assassin fantasy to last me a lifetime. So when the story become more personal on Rei-Hai’s past, I became much more invested, especially when the world then opened up to me and dropped hints not only of how dark it can be but also of how wonderfully queer-normative it is.

Sadly, that’s mostly what this novella does – teases with hints of the larger story, which again, is the limitation of writing a prequel novella.


The Collector’s Lost things is incredibly well written with fantastic character voices. The prose was silky smooth to read, and I tore through the pages quickly.


Despite being a prequel novella to a larger series, I really enjoyed this book. I think with prequel novellas, there is a balance between a story standing on its own apart from the main series and being interesting enough to entice you into reading more. Many prequel novellas are far too confusing for me to become invested. However, the character of Rei-Hai completely got his hooks into me enough that I want to read more, despite knowing hardly anything about the world. The looming presence of the Tower also intrigues me. So while I don’t think this novella really works as a standalone, and is probably best enjoyed by readers and fans of the series, it did work at grabbing my attention!

Cover Art and Formatting

The cover doesn’t tell me much about the story or genre, to be honest, which is why I really didn’t have an idea of what this book was going to be about going in. I do appreciate the map that is included in the novella, as I always love a good map!

Final Score: 4/5

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