Whenever I sit down to read a story from Jamieson Wolf, I get ready for the sparkle. There’s a kind of bright joie-de-vivre Wolf brings to his prose that’s infectious and bubbly, and honestly sometimes it’s the perfect balm. So when I got to his tale in Nothing Without Us, I was ready for some of that fictional glitter. And I got it, with a heaping dose of amusingly sarcastic wizard Jefferson on his way to meet with an oracle.
Wolf’s worldbuilding is just enough, a dash of mystical contract here, a mention of suddenly appearing doors or chairs there, but this is clearly some sort of parallel to our world happening at the same time—think Harry Dresden, or Charmed—and for Jefferson, part of the magic is what happened to him when he was diagnosed with M.S., and his M.S. ended up with more-or-less a personality and form of its own. Though he half-jokingly referred to this being as Max Shadow, Max is there alongside Jefferson when he starts what is going to be a long and difficult journey down to see the Oracle. Because the journey to the Oracle is different for everyone, and for Jefferson, who struggles with stairs, the journey is, well, stairs. A lot of them.
In Wolf’s hands, the balance between amusing and reality is deftly juggled throughout the story. Jefferson’s travails down the stairwell aren’t sugar-coated (he’s struggling, he’s in pain, and he’s definitely not doing well) but his snappy conversation with Max throughout the descent counterpoints with dogged determination to get to the prize and get a real answer to what Jefferson can do about this unwanted aspect of his life. The ultimate destination (also funny) and result (which warmed the heart) are so very Jamieson Wolf that I ended the tale in the way I imagined I would: with a smile.