Anthology · Fantasy

The Emerald Circus – Jane Yolen

4.5 Stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

The Emerald Circus is a delightful collection of short stories and poems from Jane Yolen. She has been called the Hans Christian Anderson of America and I can see why.

In this collection, Yolen retells familiar stories in ways that still managed to surprise me. She masterfully jumps from style to style and lends cunning imagination to familiar stories. Alice in Wonderland and Arthurian legend are the stars of more than one short story each in The Emerald Circus, but each take is fresh and new. More than once I thought I knew where the story was going, only to be completely surprised in the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Emerald Circus, though I’d have liked Yolen’s notes about each story to accompany the stories, rather than be in their own section at the end.

The Emerald Circus was published November 24, 2017.

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Anthology · Fantasy

The Overneath – Peter S Beagle

2 stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

The Overneath is the latest work from Peter S Beagle, famous for writing The Last Unicorn and is a collection of short stories – most, if not all, were previously printed elsewhere.

I love anthologies and short stories – it’s a love that came upon me suddenly a few years ago. Before 2012 I had no time for short stories. I felt that they were just teases of something more and was often disappointed that they weren’t longer or accomplished more. Then, in 2012 I found myself with a long commute by bus and discovered that short stories were perfect for my commute. I could finish one or two stories in a single day’s commute and realized with great delight just how complete a short story can be. Short stories can be masterful works of craft, honed and tightened to fit into a neat little package.

Unfortunately, The Overneath isn’t full of masterful little stories. In his own introductions to the stories Beagle all but apologizes for the sorry state of some of them. These shorts felt like leftovers repackaged for those too much in a hurry to look closely at the label.

Some of the individual stories were lovely little gems in amongst some that were frankly nonsensical.

The Overneath hit shelves November 17, 2017.

Anthology · Urban Fantasy

Urban Enemies – Joseph Nasisse

4 Stars

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Urban Enemies is an anthology containing 17 short stories from a slew of big-name authors in the Urban Fantasy genre.

The authors contributing to this collection had a fine line to walk. Each of their stories is set within their own larger universes, so they’re tasked with writing a story that will 1 – not alienate readers new to their universe (and maybe even convince them to pick it up?) and 2 – satisfy readers already familiar with their characters and storylines. I felt like most of the authors pulled this off. I will note, that I was somewhat disappointed that not all the stories were actually about villains – some were just anti-heroes.

I’m not going to do a story-by-story rating, as I might if these stories were standalone because it wouldn’t be fair. I’m already biased to prefer the stories from authors’ whose series I read – Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin Hearne – over the authors who write series I haven’t even heard of.

Of the authors I’m already familiar with, I really enjoyed Kevin Hearne and Seanan McGuire’s contributions. Both were satisfying and added dimension to their universes. I was disappointed with Jim Butcher’s contribution – not because it was a bad story but because it’s a reprint. Not a new story, it’s been printed in earlier anthologies.

About half of the authors I wasn’t familiar with I was intrigued enough by their villain or worldbuilding that I plan to check out at least the first novel in the series. In particular the stories by Craig Shaeffer, Caitlin Kitteridge and the editor Joseph Nassise. Other stories were either major turnoffs or just not my thing.

Overall though, I enjoyed the collection. I didn’t read anything particularly standout in either direction as good or bad (it’s hard to like stories about unlikable characters.) If you’re a fan of any of these series, check this collection out. If not, these stories may not be the easiest entry point into these universes, but you might find one you like (or like to hate.)

Anthology · Horror

Dark Cities – Christopher Golden

Zero Stars

TW: bestiality, rape

Dark Cities is a horror anthology edited by Christopher Golden around the theme of “cities.” 

I have to seriously question the thought process of Christopher Golden in choosing to put The Dogs as the first story in this anthology. I question why it was even included in the anthology, but if it were to be included, it should not have been the first story. Yes, this is a horror anthology, but that story alone made me put the book down and walk away. It took me over a week to talk myself into picking it up again to skip to the short stories from authors I already know I like/trust. Why? Because The Dogs features a very graphic bestiality/rape scene. I was suspicious of the story as soon as the Main Character was revealed to be a sort-of sex worker. I should have stopped reading then. The first story in an anthology sets the tone, and the tone The Dogs set was unpalatable.

I skipped forward. The short story Dear Diary was good. Amber Benson’s entry was interesting but very short. Seanan McGuire’s story was creepy and sad. I did not read the other stories in this anthology, especially Golden’s own, because I couldn’t trust that the other authors wouldn’t cross lines I am uncomfortable with, and in putting The Dogs first, Golden showed me that I can’t trust him. This may be a shame. I may be missing out on some excellent short stories by other authors in this collection. I’ll never know.

This review was originally published on Goodreads on July 12, 2017.