REVIEW SUMMARY: A brilliant short story collection, which deserves a spot right next to your volume of fairy tales and I’m not talking about the child-friendly variety here.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Interconnected stories of dangerous books, witches and wise women, fey folk from a different realm and girls trained to be assassins, professional poisoners and healers. This collection introduces the sisterhood of Little Sisters of St Florian and is set in the world of Slatter’s Sourdough and Other Stories, acting as an origin story for the events in the previous collection.
PROS: Exquisite prose; a shared world where the stories bleed into each other to establish a vibrant and sprawling mythology; complex portrayal of women as protagonists and antagonists; the breathtaking pen-and-ink illustrations by artist Kathleen Jennings.
CONS: The collection ended. Honestly, I could read at least three more volumes with tales in this world.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s among the strongest short story collections on the market and it will fill your heart with darkest wonders.
With The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings Angela Slatter proves why she’s one of the most important voices in fantasy. Fairy tales have seen a strong resurgence in recent years, but only Slatter understands them well enough to distill the essence that made them influential and prevalent and create her own mythos. She succeeds in her task and her short stories rival Grimm’s fairy tales in their darkness, danger and viciousness.
REVIEW SUMMARY: A debut collection that effortlessly plays with the finer nuances of sorrow and whimsy, though not without some wandering.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Beautiful Sorrows has no theme other than to showcase the range and skill of Mercedes M. Yardley. Her debut collection presents a rich assortment of short stories, flash fiction and micro fiction set in worlds that both resemble our own and remind of forgotten fairy tales left to their own devices.
PROS: Beautiful language that pairs with imaginative storylines; surreal, dream-like events; a general sense of unconventionality that works in favor of the narratives; emotionally charged scenes and strong characterization.
CONS: The flash and micro fiction pieces pale in comparison to the longer offerings, which make for an uneven reading experience
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a great debut. Beautiful Sorrows is subtle in some places, heartbreaking in others. Both surreal and painfully relatable in its familiarity. Mercedes M. Yardley sounds like no writer I’ve read until now and there’s a high chance she sounds like no one other than herself. That’s something to look forward to experiencing.
Beautiful Sorrows is a peculiar collection by a peculiar author with a peculiar voice and even more peculiar stories. That’s the best introduction I can manage and be concise as to what you can expect reading. This debut collection falls on the slimmer side, peppered with micro and flash fiction pieces serving as punctuation to the greater emotional narrative within Beautiful Sorrows. In his introduction, P. Gardner Goldsmith compares Yardley to a siren and rightfully so, but instead songs that fuel lust, Yardley sings songs to make hearts break.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Tad Williams’s third collection includes 17 stories from across his career, ranging in publication dates [1988 through 2014] and across the genre landscape [fantasy, horror, mystery/detective, science fiction] highlighting one of the genre’s most potent storytellers.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The Very Best of Tad Williams is just that, a retrospective of a superb writer/storyteller.
PROS: A master of the Epic displays his storytelling abilities in the short form with great success.
CONS: A couple of the shortest stories of the bunch connected with me the least.
BOTTOM LINE: An essential addition to the bookshelf for fans of Tad Williams and also a great opportunity for new readers to sample the breadth of his storytelling prowess.
The Very Best of Tad Williams is the third collection of the author’s short fiction and includes stories published as far back as 1988 to a story new to this volume, 2014. To most genre readers, Tad Williams is best known for door-stopper epic sagas like Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Otherland, and Shadowmarch, in addition to the recent Angel Detective series Bobby Dollar. This latest collection illustrates that it is not the size of the epic, but the teller of the tale.
I’ve read a handful of his shorts in various themed collections and am a very big fan of those aforementioned large-scale Epic sagas, and I consider Memory, Sorrow and Thorn one of my favorite series. So how did the collection work as a whole?
Michael Marano is a former punk rock DJ, bouncer, and the author of the modern dark fantasy classic Dawn Song, which won both the International Horror Guild and Bram Stoker Awards. For almost 20 years, his film reviews and pop culture commentary have been a highlight of the nationally syndicated Public Radio Satellite System show Movie Magazine International. His non-fiction has appeared in alternative newspapers such as The Independent Weekly, The Boston Phoenix and The Weekly Dig, as well as in magazines such as Paste and Fantastique. His column “MediaDrome” has been a wildly popular feature in Cemetery Dance since 2001. He currently divides his time between a neighborhood in Boston that had been the site of a gang war that was the partial basis of The Departed and a sub-division in Charleston, SC a few steps away from a former Confederate Army encampment.
The first printing of Michael’s collection, Stories From the Plague Years sold out very quickly. He sat down with SF Signal to talk about the reprinting, and some of his inspirations.
Jaym Gates: What inspired the choice of stories in Stories From the Plague Years? What themes tie them together?
Michael Marano: Well, truth to tell, there wasn’t much “choice” to the selection of the stories. The stories are all my non-novel-length works that I’d written up to the point that Stories from the Plague Years had been published. I write slowly, so I’m not that prolific. The “Plague Years” refers to the really awful days of the 1980s and early 1990s. There was a particular kind of despair that killed and maimed a lot of friends of mine, and it nearly killed me. I’m talking about despair that manifested itself through drugs, AIDS, suicide, urban violence, lack of medical care. A lot of that maiming wasn’t physical. A lot of it was mental. I think that despair was rooted in the anxiety and hopelessness caused by the Cold War climax that took place in the 1980s. When Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberg was telling Harvard students with a straight face that the A-Bomb might bring back Jesus, and the nuclear war policy shifted from preventing nuclear war to winning nuclear war. I mean, why not shoot up, give up, have unprotected sex if the guy with his finger on the button is joking about bombing Russia in five minutes? What I do with the stories is kind of treat in horror and dark fantasy terms this very dystopian inner reality that existed back then. The stories are arranged in such a way that you can see an overall thematic arc if you squint right, from inward-focused, destructive rage to fighting to live for the sake of others you love.