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Shadowed Souls

Shadowed SoulsUnknown-1

Edited by: Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

ROC New York, NY 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47499-5

 

This is an anthology that explores that grey space between “good” and “evil”.   The stories tend towards characters most people would perceive as “evil” (or at least “bad”) doing good things.  Alternatively there are stories where the characters are doing “bad” things for “good” reasons or to positive outcomes.

The anthology is marketed to the fans of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.  There is a Dresden Files story included (featuring Molly in her new role as Winter Queen).  Here fans of the Dresden series know Molly as a “good guy”.  She is after all the daughter of an Archangel.  However, being a queen in the fairy realm brings with it certain “conditions” and Molly hasn’t read all of the small print.

Jim C. Hines is another featured author in this anthology.  Many people see Hines as the “next” Jim Butcher.  Some of his work does seem like highly elevated fan fiction.  But he is clearly coming into his own and this piece is a good example.  Like Butcher’s story, Hines main character is a woman who is immediately perceived as a “good guy”.  But unlike Molly, Julia’s background isn’t happy and it’s coming back to bite her in the ass.

There does seem to be an attempt to include women authors in this anthology.  A good third of the stories are by women and like Hines and Butcher many of the male authors feature strong female characters.  The stand out female author for me was Kat Richardson.

Her short story, Peacock in Hell, did have a female protagonist, but her male counterpart was at least equally represented and in the end he was the one orchestrating the action.  What I liked about this short story was its potential.  This could easily be the lead in to a series, and one I’m sure I would enjoy.

In this short fiction the world is clearly established.  The setting is vividly drawn.  The dynamic between the characters is an entertaining push and pull.  The supernatural elements are well grounded in an internal logic, apparent even in this limited space.

I like a good anthology and this is a very good collection.  None of the stories fell flat.  All of them really did explore the question of that line between “good” and “evil”.  This fiction is thoughtful and thought provoking.  It’s well written and has a great appeal in the fantasy genre.

 

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Unnatural Creatures

Unnatural Creaturesunnatural creaturees

Stories Selected by Neil Gaiman

HarperCollins New York, NY  2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-223629-6

This is technically an anthology, a collection of short stories from all kinds of different authors.  What makes it interesting is that most of the stories were collected for the piece.  There are a few though either written for the collection or at least published here for the first time.

The contributors are as varied as E. Nesbit (story first published in 1900 and known for her children’s fiction), Larry Niven (story first published in 1969 and known for science fiction), and Gahan Wilson (story first published in 1972 and known as a cartoonist/ illustrator).  The oldest piece in the collection was originally published in 1885 by Frank Stockton, known for his fable The Lady or the Tiger.  If you know the fable that gives you a sense of the tone of the collection.

This book is classified as teen fiction.  That seems appropriate in the sense that the stories are neither gory nor particularly sexual in content.  They do, however, all have a dark edge.  Many of them would find themselves comfortable in the world of television’s Grimm.

As a reader, I found the variety in this collection delightful.  Some of these stories I recognize, having read them in other places, but many were new to me.  Even those I knew brought a smile to my face as I read them again.  These are talented writers in a very open genre.

Neil Gaiman is a frequent traveler to the strange worlds of fantasy fiction.  He brings his British sensibilities to his choices as well as his literary understanding.  It is rather amazing that this hodgepodge of stories fits together so neatly, but it works.  The ubiquitous introductions to each story are very short and tend to reflect the style of writing in the story to come.  This genius is part of what makes Neil Gaiman the perfect editor of this collection.

If you are an aficionado of the old style fairy tales; If you prefer your Grimm’s Fairy Tales in the original format rather than in the Disney version then you will very much enjoy this book.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Fiction

 

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