[Book Review] Short stories and Shadowed Souls

Book Review: Shadowed Souls, edited by Kerrie L. Hughes & Jim Butcher

Shadowed Souls.jpgThis has been a great month for short story collections and Urban Fantasy. I just finished Patricia Briggs’ Shifting Shadows, a collection of stories from her Mercy Thompson werewolf world, when this book popped up on my radar. Shadowed Souls. Am I on a short-story-collections-that-have-‘Shadow”-in-their-title kick? Seems so!

So Shadowed Souls. Where do I start? How about with the list of authors:

Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, Anton Strout, Kat Richardson, Kevin J Anderson, Lucy A. Snyder, Jim C. Hines, Erik Scott de Bie, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rob Thurman.  Just writing out all these author names is setting my heart aflutter all over again. The stories span the entire spectrum of mood and tone, from playful banter and zany world-building, to chilling darkness and regret. Continue reading

[Book Review] Recreating the world, one story at a time

Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear

My quest to read something by Elizabeth Bear started a little over a year ago, and it’s been riddled with false starts. First, I ended up grabbing Trading in Danger (by Elizabeth Moon). Then Dust was nowhere to be found. Then I got All the Windwracked Stars (isn’t that a stunning cover?) but couldn’t find the time to read it. Seeing Shoggoth’s in Bloom up for grab was serendipity, and I went into this collection to get a sense of what Elizabeth Bear can do – in small, bite-size pieces.

I got that, and more. This collection brings together 19 short stories by Elizabeth Bear, including two Hugo winners, “Tideline” and “Shoggoths in Bloom,” plus one never-before-published piece original to the collection, “The Death of Terrestrial Radio.” With one exception, the stories average around a few-to-twenty pages and cover a truly mind-boggling range of genres and styles. We get an urban fantasy with a ritual gone wrong, historic fiction written through letters between John Adams’ wife and Thomas Jefferson about running for office during a time of suffrage, a lovely elegy in prose about a dragons and a museum curator, a folktale about a blacksmith’s commission, and a story about the slow death of the fishing industry. Each story is powerful, heart-rending, and memorable in its own way. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] The Firebird That Wasn’t

Firebirds: an Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction

edited by Sharyn November

In Russian fairytales, the firebird is a kind of glowy Gandalf who helps the main character overcome man-eating wolves, immortal evil overlords, and overprotective fathers. She is not to be confused with a phoenix (depicted to the right), a Middle-Eastern (and/or Greco-Asian) mythological creature that rises from the ashes every time it croaks and appears in the Harry Potter books to grant the main characters a variety of minor cheats.

I haven’t seen many western takes on the firebird folktales, (Mercedes Lackey’s Firebird comes to mind; comment if you know of any others!), so I was so very excited to pick up Firebirds, an anthology of short stories by superfamous YA and Fantasy authors, celebrating Penguin Group’s new “Firebird” imprint. Continue reading

[ Book Review ] Indie Series: 10 Bits of My Brain

10 Bits of My Brain by Stuart Jaffe

(3.5 canaries, but I couldn’t bring myself to pop a poor canary in half)

Jaffe is a versatile writer whose stories span genres and settings, without ever making the editor and reader in me cringe or groan. The offhand manner of narration edge stories like Henry’s Son with their very own menace, while With The Three Fingers Case, Jaffe takes the reader on a romp into a quick homicide mystery–the catch? The dragon detective thinks a human did it, and his human partner is sure a dragon’s to blame. Over the course of the stories I saw witchery, voodoo, curses, and pirates (see book cover over to the right for a more complete list!).

The collection begins at the height of the holocaust in Nazi Germany, then moves to a tattoo parlor at the edge of the universe, then to a small park bench where a homeless man idles his days away. Though the pieces differ wildly in plot and genre, I sensed a few common threads I thought could have been emphasized to unify the tales.

For example, life is something to be endured by the characters, and death is often a release. I don’t want to call these stories nihilistic, but there is a certain acceptance and even longing for the inevitable closure to the arc of life. Immortality, as it comes to at least two of the characters, is no gift, and betrayal usually comes in the form or a relative or friend.

All in all, I saw good writing, solid story structure, and a lively wit. So why only a three?  Continue reading