Saturday, 22 November 2014

No Need to Reply by Jodi Cleghorn

No Need to Reply by Jodi Cleghorn is a collection of flash stories. They are not speculative fiction — I felt that was important to say up front. For that reason, they are also not the kind of thing I usually read but they were a pleasant enough way to pass the time. The blurb summarises the theme of the collection better than I can:
Experimental in style, structure and form, the eight stories explore the pain and euphoria of finding your voice. From a man confronting the price of a lie and a woman wrestling with the legacy of her mortality, to a young girl lost in a war of misunderstandings, the collection delves into conversations that define the struggle to be heard.
This is actually a difficult form to review. I swore off individually reviewing flash stories (like I would a short story collection) last year which doesn't leave much to say. The stories are all flash pieces, of similar length and none are super-short short stories. They are also all some amalgamation of mood and character pieces, deftly balancing the two sides of that coin.

The stories are mostly sad, but for a variety of reasons. The opening and titular story, involving letters, was my favourite and a strong opening for the collection. In all her stories Cleghorn gradually reveals character and then deftly illuminates the situation, previously ambiguous. I did write a brief note for each story, mostly as a memory aid for myself and not as a review, which I include below in case you are interested.

I would recommend this collection to fans of contemporary fiction, particularly of the contemplative/literary variety. It's short on pages — how long could eight flash pieces really be? — but not on emotional heft. A thoughtful read.

~

No Need To Reply — Unopened letters

It Could Be — Friendship contemplation over a dirty sink

Squeeze Box — War veteran remembering his wife

Holding On — Woman visiting a lover in London

Olives — A woman’s conversation and contemplation over olives

Shuffling — A Tarot reading over Skype (or whatever)

Wishing, Happily Ever After — A day at the beach from a child's perspective

Closure — Basically what the title says (includes poem)

4 / 5 stars

First published: October 2014, eMergent Publishing
Series: No
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from author's website
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Difficult Second Album by Simon Petrie

Difficult Second Album by Simon Petrie is the author's second collection of mostly science fiction stories. I've previously reviewed his first collection Rare Unsigned Copy. I enjoyed Difficult Second Album a lot and found it overall a tighter collection than the first.

The main aspect that set Difficult Second Album above Rare Unsigned Copy is that it's a bit shorter and, more crucially, less overpopulated with flash and drabble stories. It's not that I dislike either of those, but too many can make for a more difficult read. The mix of story lengths/types in Difficult Second Album makes it rather not difficult to read.

I came to a realisation while I was reading this book: Simon Petrie is my favourite (and hence best) living science fiction short story writer. Those stories which are science fiction (not quite all of them) deftly weave accurate science into their tapestries. Of course accurate science shouldn't come as a surprise from someone whose day job is computational quantum chemistry, but I still found it enjoyable enough as to be notable. (And let's face it, how much scientific accuracy is there in the combined science fictional oeuvre? Not enough.)

Petrie switches between comedic stories and more serious pieces with ease. The opening The Fridge Whisperer had be in stitches, while some most of the flash stories had be groaning at puns. On the serious side there are a lot of excellent stories to choose from. The two tales set on Titan (same universe, I think but unrelated to each other), "CREVjack" and "Fixing a Hole" were excellent. The first was a crushing action yarn and the latter a story about a problem that needed fixing lest the characters all die. I very much enjoyed both of them. "Latency" is a story that starts off following a scientific expedition and ends up with a surprising discovery. "Elevator Pitch", the only novella in the collection, is a Gordon Mammon story revisiting space elevator hotel employee who solves crimes on the side. It's a nice blend of humour (and puns) and serious murder-solving business. I should also note that while I say it's a Gordon Mammon story, all such stories that I've read have completely stood alone, so don't worry if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Difficult Second Album is an excellent varied read. I highly recommend it to fans of Petrie's work and newcomers alike. It's a good starting point to sample his story-telling range. I would particularly recommend it to fans of hard SF (although, again, not all the stories are SF). I, for one, am looking forward to finding out what clever title Petrie comes up with for his next collection.

~

Introduction, by Über-Professor Arrrrarrrgghl Schlurpmftxpftpfl — Lol. Again, worth not skipping over.

The Fridge Whisperer — Hilarious. Writer attempts to write (what seems to be The Hitchhiker's a Guide to the Galaxy) while his fridge gains sentience and wreaks havoc. Awesome.

Dark Rendezvous — A space explorer comes across a derelict ship drifting in a favourable direction for rendezvous. Where did it come from? Ominous. I particularly liked the attention to dust particle detail in the nebulous setting of the story.

Florence, 1504, Late Winter — Drabble

Dream(TM) — Flash

Things YOU Can Do To Defend Yourself … — Er... Heh.

The Speed of Heavy — An amusing space cargo caper involving an exchange student, some crickets and some bats. I lol'd.

London, 1666, Springtime — Drabble (So shaggy. Much dog. Wow.)

Latency — A really solid hard SF story. A research team on another planet studying it's only life form. Solid science, interesting concepts played with.

Moonlight — a haiku.

Because We’re Living In A Material World — Amusing and also bittersweet short story about a CERN experiment/accident.

Cruisy — Alien abduction story with a twist. The title makes more sense in retrospect.

CREVjack — A Titan story, full of action and danger and rather riveting for it. A difficult ending to read.

You Said ‘Two Of Each’, Right? — Biblically amusing flash

Fixing a Hole — Another Titian story, very exciting. Definite problem-solving hard science fiction.

21st Century Nursery Rhymes, #126: I Had A Little Nut Tree — poem

Buying a Ray Gun — Amusing story told in a script-like format and set in a ray gun store. Pretty sure there was a stylistically similar one in the first collection (but completely different plot).

X-Factor — An usual story set on Mars and involving genetics. I was left wanting to know more.

Elevator Pitch — A novella length story about our favourite space elevator detective, Gordon Mammon. I had thought the concept might start to get repetitive but it really doesn't. I enjoyed this story a lot, with its double mystery and firm grip of science (and sometimes cheesy humour). It was nice to have something lengthy to really sink my teeth into.

Lithophiles — Lovers turned to stone. An original idea.

Next! — Flash

The Man Who …
— Written in a more flowery style than most of the other stories, this is another solid hard SF tale. The story of comet hunters looking to send water to Mars.

Must’ve Been While You Were Kissing Me — Zombie speed-dating noir shaggy dog story.

The Assault Goes Ever On — Weird flash.

Suckers For Love — Alien mating romance. An ultimately disconcerting story. Squidlike.

5 / 5 stars

First published: September 2014, Peggy Bright Books
Series: Not really
Format read: ePub
Source: Review copy courtesy of the author
Challenges: Aussie Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier

How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier is a book I've been meaning to read for a while but have had trouble finding at the right moments (ie when I was looking to buy a book). I ended up borrowing the audiobook from the library, having finally set up that whole thing.
"Rochelle gets a clothes-shopping fairy and is always well attired; I get a parking fairy and always smell faintly of petrol. How fair is that?"
For Charlie, having a parking fairy is worse than having nothing at all - especially since she's not old enough to drive. Enter The Plan: swap fairies with her archenemy! But Charlie discovers that you ought to be careful what you wish for - and she'll have to resort to extraordinary measures to set things right.

From the author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, this is a delightful story of friendships, fairies, and figuring out how to make your own magic.
I found this to be a really fun read. It's a book for younger readers (as in, the younger end of YA or lower) with the main character only fourteen years old. She — Charlie — has a fairly frivolous voice and generally acts like a fourteen year old with a crush and a keen interest in sport. But the book itself turned out to be much less frivolous than I expected. For example, there are some issues like the "make all the boys like you fairy" and the very clear problems that poses. There's also a lot of background world-building weirdness, some of which is discussed, some of which really isn't.

Kids in this world (or at least this city) can go to high schools tailored to their interests. So Charlie and most of the characters go to what I would otherwise call a sporting academy and her sister goes to an arts school. Some of the more disturbing aspects of Charlie's life — like how she and her peers all had to log calories and protein eaten — are a specific product of her sport-oriented schooling. But other aspects — like how PR (public relations) and sporting match statistics are part of the education system — are alarmingly unexamined. I strongly felt that these less expected aspects of the world-building added extra depth to the story.

As a final side-note I was amused that while a significant portion of the slang words in the glossary were made up/repurposed a lot were just Australian. I suppose that fits with the foreword which tells us that the setting is a parallel world with a country that's a vague amalgamation of Australia and the US (I felt it was mostly more Australian, although not completely).

I really enjoyed How to Ditch Your Fairy. I would recommend it to younger readers who maybe haven't yet gotten into the slew of darker YA with older main characters which is popular at the moment. Unlike some younger readers' books I've read, I didn't feel How to Ditch Your Fairy was talking down to its audience or was unnecessarily simplified. For those reasons I would also recommend it to adults looking for a fun read (especially those that don't mind reading lots of teenage slang).

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2009, Allen & Unwin (Audio: narrated by Kate Atkinson; International: Bloomsbury)
Series: No
Format read: Audiobook
Source: Borrowed from the library (electronically! For the first time ever. Actually, also the first library book I've borrowed in several years)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tsana's November Status

Well it's been another month. I started off on a pretty good reading roll, but slacked off a bit in the past couple of weeks with a few life and falling into a TV hole distractions. But hey, I was almost catching up on review copies for a while there!

What Have I Read?


What am I currently reading?


Two books, both of which I've dragged out a bit longer than I would have liked. The novel is The Godless by Ben Peek, the first in a new epic fantasy/BFF series. Enjoying it so far, but not enjoying mainly reading it in small chunks before bed. (Large chunks before bed don't work because I tend to pass out from exhaustion whether the book is exciting or not.)

The collection of short stories I'm currently reading is Difficult Second Album by Simon Petrie, which is excellent, tighter than his first collection. I'm about half way and super impressed so far and will have lots of nice things to say in my review.

New Booksies


The month started quite light on the book acquisition front, but I seem to have made up for that in the past week. Is book acquisition inversely proportional to amount of books read? That would be an unfortunate trend. (Assume review copy unless otherwise noted.)
  • This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner — already reviewed
  • Crash by Sean Williams — Twinmaker book 2, purchased because the first book was rad
  • Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins — purchased because I was very impressed with her novella collection
  • Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day — purchased and already reviewed
  • Permutation City by Greg Egan — haven't read any Egan and always meant to
  • No Need To Reply by Jodi Gleghorn — purchased collection of flash stories. Should be a quick read when I get to it.
  • Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger — purchased and already reviewed
  • Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black — already reviewed
  • The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan — collection of short stories set in the Shadowhunter universe. Purchased.
  • The Fire Sermon by Fracensca Haig — interesting premise, YA dystopia, not out until next year, already going to be a movie, oh and an Australian (expat) author.
  • City of Masks by Ashley Capes — fantasy written by a friend that came out earlier this year.







Saturday, 15 November 2014

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is the sequel to These Broken Stars, which won an Aurealis Award this year. It is about a different set of characters on a completely different planet and the connection with the first book does not become apparent until about half way through.
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
I liked that the basic premise from the first book — soldier plus civilian — was gender-flipped in this one. Lee is a captain in the military and has been station on Avon for two years, an unusually long time since most soldiers only last a few months before they're infected by the Fury (go mad and try to kill people) and get sent home. Lee is smart and capable and I had no trouble believing in her training and resourcefulness.

On the other side of the swamp we have Flynn, a prominent rebel (I hesitate to say rebel leader because things are a little more complicated than that) who accidentally gets more involved in things at the military base than he originally planned. His encounter with Lee brings the two of them together but it takes a while before the two of them don't hate each other, which is refreshing (because why would you not hate a dangerous enemy?). Flynn is intimately linked to the rebels; not only do they look up to him but they are also his stand-in family, making some of his decisions harder and more fraught with conflict.

Although definitely linked by an over-arching plot (which isn't immediately obvious) This Shattered World is quite different to These Broken Stars. The main source of commonality is the military backgrounds of a character per book and, of course, the very engaging writing. Initially, I thought I might be disappointed that the character set have changed but this turned out not to be the case as the new characters Were just as compelling as the ones in These Broken Stars.

The only thing I was little bit disappointed with — actually disappointed isn't the right word. There anything I thought was a bit strange is that really a lot of the plot and especially character backgrounds would make more sense, I think, if the characters were a bit older than they currently are. That would put them outside of the YA bracket but I think it's pushing it to have eighteen(ish) year olds being quite so experienced. That said having the book as way a probably does opened up to a larger audience which is not a bad thing.

Overall I highly recommend this series. If you haven't read These Broken Stars then there's no reason that you can't read This Shattered World first. The reading experience would be better starting from the start since the over arching storyline plays out in that order, but I think the books will stand alone reasonably well. I really like with the authors are doing with this series and with their brand of YA SF in general. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they do next, starting with book three.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: December 2014 (US) Hyperion, November 2014 (Aus) Allen & Unwin
Series: Starbound book 2 of 3(?)
Format read: eARC
Source: NetGalley courtesy of the (US) publisher
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black

Doctor Who: Lights Out by Holly Black is a novelette released as a sort of addendum to the 50th anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who. This story will also be available in the 12 Stories, 12 Doctors anthology. It's a story about the Twelfth Doctor (in case you didn't recognise the silhouette).

This story is in first person, which I was a bit surprised by at first and it took me a while to get into it. The latter not just because of the voice but because it takes a few pages to become interesting. Basically once the Doctor appears and people start mysteriously dying.

Once it gets going this is a thoughtful story in keeping with some of the themes the Twelfth Doctor's first season has been exploring. It's a quick read — only 36 pages in the (non-standard because ARC) format I read it — but it was an entertaining enough one.

I would recommend Doctor Who: Lights Out to Doctor Who fans and anyone wanting to get a taste for licensed Doctor Who fiction. It's an interesting step in my experimentation with the subgenre.

4 / 5 stars

First published: October 2014, Puffin / BBC
Series: Doctor Who, 12 Stories, 12 Doctors and it's about the 12th Doctor.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger is the third book in the Finishing School series. My finger slipped and I accidentally started reading it on release day immediately after purchasing. I'm not sorry.
Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.
Look, if you've read the earlier books in the Finishing School series, why wouldn't you pick up Waistcoats and Weaponry? I think it's my favourite so far. If you've read some of Carriger's other books but not yet started on this series, why ever not? You should probably fix that post-haste. Especially if you like any of: steampunk; mannerpunk; trains; fans as deadly weapons (see cover).

It's always hard to review a book three in a continuity-dependent series — and I'm tempted not to — but there is one aspect I particularly want to speculate upon. There are events in this book which directly relate to events on one of the Parasol Protectorate books (not sure I should say which one) and I cannot decide which series is then a spoiler for the other. Obviously this prequel series was written second so it makes sense to read in writing order. But it also means I knew what had happened at one point before it was explained, whereas it would have seemed to come from left field for a reader not familiar with the other series. On the other hand, the events are related from very different perspectives in the two narratives, so perhaps it doesn't really matter. But it's an interesting dilemma to contemplate (or at least, I thought so).

Bumbersnoot!

Waistcoats and Weaponry is an excellent addition to an excellent series. I highly recommend both to anyone with a passing sense of humour and any speculative fiction leanings. Really, it's that good. If you've read the earlier books in the series, why are you not already reading this one?!

5 / 5 stars

First published: November 2014
Series: Finishing School book the third of four
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Google Play

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Doctor Who: Pest Control by Peter Anghelides

Doctor Who: Pest Control by Peter Anghelides is (somewhat obviously) Doctor Who licensed fiction. I listened to it in audiobook form which is the only format it exists in, based on its goodreads page. It's quite short, only running for about two and a half hours. Also, in case you can't read the small print on the cover, it's read by David Tennant.

The Doctor and Donna face monstrous insects and a ruthless robot exterminator in this thrilling, exclusive audio story.

The TARDIS is lost in battle on a distant planet. When the Doctor sets off in pursuit, Donna is left behind, and finds herself accepting a commission in the Pioneer Corps. Something is transforming soldiers into monstrous beetles, and she could be the next victim.
The main reason to read this review is David Tennant's narration. Seriously. I mean, a) it's David Tennant and b) it's a Scottish accent, what's not to like? And the parts where he does the Doctor's voice are awesome because of the contrast between his accents. His take on Donna's voice was pretty amusing and reasonably convincing (although I was a smidge disappointed Catherine Tate wasn't also in it). The minor character voices were also very nicely done. 10 / 10 for the narration.

Unfortunately, that was my favourite thing about it. It's a fun Doctor Who style adventure story, which I suppose is the third best thing about it after the fact that the Tenth Doctor is the best. My least favourite thing was the portrayal of Donna. She was less tough and resourceful than in the show and I was honestly a bit offended on her behalf. Especially when she didn't want to boss people around (way out of character) and spent far too long worrying about her wardrobe. Not at all impressed by this author on that front. Donna was a good companion, but in this book she just... wasn't. And it was not made up for by the Doctor calling her amazing for really not doing much at all.

The only reason I even had this audiobook is because there was a time when I had a surplus of Audible credits and spent them on random Doctor Who (and Torchwood) licensed fiction for my Mum, who is a big Doctor Who fan from way back. I just had a look through the others I have waiting for me and I'm probably going to give them a go, especially since it's such a low time investment (and there aren't any more by this author). They also seem suitable for listening to in the car since they aren't as serious and don't require the commitment of the other audiobooks I have waiting for me. And they make a nice change from podcasts every once in a while.

3.5 / 5 stars (the extra half-star is for David Tennant)

First published: 2008, BBC Audiobooks
Series: Doctor Who, obviously. It fits in somewhere in the season 4 of new Who
Format read: audiobook
Source: Audible, several years ago when I still had a subscription

Friday, 31 October 2014

Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day

Drowned Vanilla by Livia Day is the second Culinary Crime novel, following A Trifle Dead which I reviewed last year. I think Drowned Vanilla is a bit less geeky, but I think I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery more. This isn't spec fic, by the way, it's firmly realistic crime/mystery.
It’s the beginning of a hot, hot summer in Hobart. Tabitha Darling is in love with the wrong man, and determined to perfect the art of ice cream. Playing amateur detective again is definitely not on the cards—not even when her friends try to lure her into an arty film noir project in the historical town of Flynn.

But when a young woman goes missing from a house full of live webcams, and is found drowned in the lake outside Flynn, Tabitha is dragged into the whole mess— film crew, murder victim, love life and all.

There were two girls using the internet pseudonym French Vanilla, and only one is dead. So where is the other one? Why is everyone suddenly behaving like they’re in a (quite specific) Raymond Chandler novel? And how the hell did the best kiss of Tabitha’s life end up on YouTube?

Even ice cream isn’t going to get them out of this one.
This is another mystery story in the same vein as A Trifle Dead. If you enjoyed that book, definitely read Drowned Vanilla. I believe this is what's known as a cosy mystery. Tabitha is called up by a friend of a friend to help find a girl who's mysteriously disappeared. The disappearance turns out to be only the beginning (of course) and soon Tabitha is haring back and forth across the Tasmanian country side trying to get to the bottom of things — or trying unsuccessfully not to get more involved.

As well as the mystery elements, the story involves Tabitha's quest to make all the ice cream flavours (except vanilla) and inflict them on her friends (several recipes included). And her ongoing love-life confusion. The love triangle set up in the first book continues to be a source of angst for her and slight confusion for the reader (or, well, me anyway). I don't find it an annoying addition to the story, but I found her choices odd (I'm on Team The Other One, is what I'm saying).

But basically, Drowned Vanilla was an excellent book and I pretty much read it in two sittings. There were only two things I didn't like: the dearth of dairy-free frozen deserts (somewhat inevitable), and the fact that the Greek family celebrated Christmas in December (with no comment as to why, which made me a bit sad). I feel confident most readers won't be bothered by either of those elements.

Drowned Vanilla is a gripping and entertaining read and I recommend it to anyone who likes crime novels, banter and/or Tansy Rayner Roberts' other writing. If you enjoyed A Trifle Dead, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: October 2014, Twelfth Planet Press
Series: Culinary Crime/Cafe La Femme book 2 (of 2 so far. On going series of stand-alones)
Format read: Paper (gasp!)
Source: Pre-ordered from TPP website
Disclaimer: Friends with people involved in producing this book, nevertheless I have endeavoured to give an unbiased review, as always.
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely

Phantazein is a fantasy anthology edited by Tehani Wessely. It's heavily fairytale/fable/mythology themed and contains stories by a range of female authors. This is the second all-female anthology Tehani has put together (the first was One Small Step), which is interesting, especially as Phantazein was unplanned.
You think you know all the fables that have ever been told. You think you can no longer be surprised by stories. Think again.

With origins in myth, fairytales, folklore and pure imagination, the stories and poems in these pages draw on history that never was and worlds that will never be to create their own unique tales and traditions…

The next generation of storytellers is here.
All the stories in this anthology have very strong fairytale-like themes (a point I unfortunately reiterated a few times when commenting on individual stories). I have to admit this isn't my favourite style of fantasy, but nonetheless there were some stories that really stood out to me.

My favourite stories, in the order they appear, were: "Kneaded" by SG Larner, which really grabbed me when I got up to it; "Scales of Time" by Foz Meadows and Moni, an illustrated poem, which was predictably sad but gorgeous; and "Love Letters of Swans" by Tansy Rayner Roberts, about Helen and Paris and Helen's slave girl, was probably my favourite story of the lot. I suspect leaning heavily towards the mythological rather than fairytalesque added to that, but however you want to classify it, it was an excellent story. Other stories I liked, again in the order they appear, were "Twelfth" by Faith Mudge, "Bahamut" by Thoraiya Dyer, and "A Cold Day" by Nicole Murphy.

As I said, the stories are mostly fairytalesque, but towards the end of the anthology there's an interesting shift away from what I usually think of fairytales towards other time periods. There's a steampunky story (still with magic) and then the Ancient Greek story of Tansy's I mentioned above. I should also note that when I say "fairytale" I don't just mean the European forest kind of tale, there is a pretty good amount of cultural diversity, including eastern and tribal stories. It's quite a mixed bag and all of them are a new take or twist on old ideas. None of them are straight retellings of anything that's ever been made into a Disney movie.

If you enjoy fairytales or fantasy more generally, this is definitely the anthology for you. I've made comments on individual stories below, and I think it's fair to say there's something here for all kinds of fairytalesque fantasy fans. I have used the word "fairytale" too much in this review. Sorry. If you don't think I should be apologising, go buy this anthology.

~

Twelfth by Faith Mudge — A fairytale about twelve brothers, complete with darkness and hope. Well maybe not a fairytale per se because the cautionary part is less the point of the story and anyway doesn’t caution the usual suspects. Mudge weaves a beautiful tale with a pleasing ending.

Bahamut by Thoraiya Dyer — A story about the sacrifices one must make to protect those one loves. Which is more important, saving a kingdom or being loved?

The Nameless Seamstress by Gitte Christensen — a tale of magic clothes, the imperial court and the near-mythological Weaver and Seamstress.

How the Jungle got its Spirit Guardian by Vida Cruz — A surprisingly epic tale for all that it retains the vibe of the earlier stories. And much more about people than the title suggests. Also gender roles

The Seventh Relic by Cat Sparks — An odd, slightly surreal story. Not quite my thing, I have to admit.

Rag and Bone Heart by Suzanne J Willis — A nice and sort of horrible (in happenings) story about a girl in a magic kingdom, a king and a helpful old witch. I liked it.

Kneaded by S.G. Larner — I found this story absolutely delightful. A brilliant take on the idea of people made not of flesh. (With, I think, a twisted allusion to Hansel and Gretel thrown in briefly). Definitely one of my favourite stories in this collection.

The Village of No Women by Rabia Gale — Into the village of no women comes a clever scholar to make the men wives from animals. A satisfying tale.

The Lady of Wild Things by Jenny Blackford — Evil fairy-type beings. Not a bad story, but it didn't leave a very strong impression on me.

The Ghost of Hephaestus by Charlotte Nash — Steampunky while still having a fairytale feel to it (but perhaps less so than a story involving forests). The style wasn’t really to my taste and I personally didn’t connect with this story.

A Cold Day by Nicole Murphy — A potter who makes magic pots to protect newborn children and the demands placed on her by the royal family. I liked this story, although I found the end a little abrupt.

Scales of Time by Foz Meadows & Moni — A sad/lovely poem of a girl and her dragon, written by Foz and illustrated by Moni. Sad thumbs up.

Love Letters of Swans by Tansy Rayner Roberts — A new take on the story of Helen (of Troy, sort of) and Paris. Engaging, awesome, an excellent note to end the anthology on. One of my favourites in this anthology.

4 / 5 stars


First published: October 2014, FableCroft 
Series: No.
Format read: ePub
Source: Review copy courtesy of publisher (but you can buy it here)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge