This collection is a mix of longer, intricate and fantastical tales and shorter tales which were no less serious (but of necessity less intricate). My favourites were "'Twixt Firelight and Water", a novella set in the same universe as the Sevenwaters books, and "Back and Beyond". I also quite liked the two Ditmar-shortlistees, "Prickle Moon" and "By Bone Light". Interestingly, although I enjoyed the latter more, I've found it's "Prickle Moon" that's lodged more firmly in my brain. I hark back to it every time hedgehogs come up (which has been more often than usual in the past month).
As always, I've included comments on each story below.
I recommend Prickle Moon to anyone with an interest in fantasy short stories. Additionally, the novellas are an excellent way to get a taste for Marillier's longer work. I'm planning not to wait quite so long before reading another of her books.
PRICKLE MOON — Took me a while to get into, not quite my type of story. But it was sad and it made me sad. Lots of hedgehogs (I think they were hedgehogs), and an older lady who cared for them.
OTHERLING — A predictable story, but not worse for it. I might not have been surprised, but I still enjoyed reading it.
LET DOWN YOUR HAIR — Not a Rapunzel story as I had expected. But definitely a Fairytale. A quick read that left much unanswered.
POPPY SEEDS — An alternate take on the three-brother-quest school of Fairytales. I mean, it's still a Fairytale, but not quite a retelling of one I've encountered before. (The youngest brother still wins at life and morals, though.)
IN COED CELYDDON — An Arthurian tale, but not the kind you might expect. Arthur at age fourteen, dreaming of the future. (Also, Welsh Arthur, which is my favourite rendition.)
JUGGLING SILVER — A very short story about a younger brother who can't talk and a long winter for a small village.
’TWIXT FIRELIGHT AND WATER (A TALE OF SEVENWATERS) — A novella. I read the first two Sevenwaters books something like 15 years ago, so my memory was pretty foggy and mainly extended to a vague recollection of setting. This did not affect my enjoyment of the story. Although it refers to events that happened in the books (I think), it was quite self-contained. A half-human gets in the wrong side of his fae mother and a half-Irish young woman journeys to visit her ancestral home. A good meaty (fairy) tale to sink your teeth into.
GIFT OF HOPE — A girl moves to a country estate, finds a secret diary and brightens someone's life.
LETTERS FROM ROBERT — Young lady near Freemantle receives letters from her sweetheart as he travels the world as part of a ship's crew.
JACK’S DAY — Distinctly not speculative, a story of a war widow remembering her husband and being grateful for her present.
FAR HORIZONS — A baby boomer romance novelist is convinced to spend some of her book money on herself.
TOUGH LOVE 3001 — An odd tale. A creative writing teacher has been headhunted to work in the future, mostly with aliens. Her class is strange but reminiscent of literary snobs everywhere.
WRAITH, LEVEL ONE — After a twelve-year-old boy dies with his family in a cat crash, he find heaven a bit boring. Luckily, there's a mission waiting for him.
BACK AND BEYOND — An old lady goes back to the children's library where she found much joy in stories growing up.
THE ANGEL OF DEATH — A volunteer for the RSPCA helps to clear out a puppy farm and encounters a dog no one else can see. Some horrific imagery in this story (of the puppy farm), but it was a good read.
BY BONE-LIGHT — Context: I read this story second because of its Ditmar shortlisting. Very different to Prickle Moon, yet with similar fairytale overtones. Lissa, living in the approximate present, has been very isolated from the world by her stepmother. She and her stepsisters are forced to work all day to make things to sell online (dolls in Lissa’s case) and it is Lissa that gets all the unpleasant tasks. She’s too scared to call the welfare people thanks to the stepmother’s gaslighting. Then a quest one dark night changes Lissa’s life. An enjoyable read.
4.5 / 5 stars
Format read: ePub on iThings
Source: Purchased from SmashWords
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge