ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It had me at Fantasy. And the cover because look at it! This anthology is a collection of short stories by nineteen breakout writers in the genre. I didn’t know any of these authors going in, but I now have a few I’m watching out for in the future.
I’m a big reader of epic fantasy so it did take me by surprise when I realized these stories were more on the contemporary side of things. I’m also so used to reading long books that many of the stories felt too short/underdeveloped for me.
Here’s a breakdown of my individual ratings:
Hungry Daughter of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong | ★★★★
This story is about a world where certain people have the ability to read people’s vile thoughts and feed off of them. This was one of my favourites stories. I was a fan of Wong’s word choice, vivid imagery, and chilling prose. I felt and saw what the character did and I was glued to the story from start to finish. I was quite sad when it ended because I wanted more of it. I hope Wong goes back to this with a full length novel because it’s hands down one of the best fantasy x horror stories I’ve read.
Selkie Stories are for Losers by Sofia Samatar | ★★
I don’t think I really understood what this story tried to achieve. It’s about a woman who works at a restaurant and whose mother disappeared. This then reminds the woman about selkies and their disappearances, and how this may affect a potential relationship with a coworker.
Tornado’s Siren by Brooke Bolander | ★★
A tornado falls in love with a girl and follows her at different points in her life, resulting in disaster each time. I loved the idea but found the execution lacking.
Left the Century to Sit Unmoved by Sarah Pinsker | ★★★
A story about a place where people jump in a pond with no certainty of ever coming back up. Some people disappear with only their clothes to leave behind, while others tempt fate and jump just to see if they’ll have the same fate or not. There’s no rhyme or reason to the disappearances and the story ultimately focuses on why people still jump in. Overall, mysterious and intriguing.
A Kiss with Teeth by Max Gladstone | ★★★★
I really liked this one. I haven’t read a vampire story after the Twilight and Shadowhunter series so this was quite refreshing. This story focuses on a vampire living his day to day life with his human family. He has to keep reminding himself things he should be doing to avoid raising suspicions, such as breathing or controlling his strength. It might sound boring and nothing out of the ordinary, but I enjoyed Gladstone’s style of writing and really loved the ending.
Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon | ★★★★★
I absolutely loved this one! Jackalopes are mythical animals from North American folklore that look like a jackrabbit with antler horns. In this story, jackalopes often have a night of dancing where they ‘shed’ their skins and look like beautiful women. A young man steals the skin of one of the jackalopes and partially burns it in the process. He then turns to his grandmother for help and I just love what Vernon writes about human nature.
The Cartographer Wasps and Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu | ★★
I could not get into the story. For some reason it just didn’t connect with me.
The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A. C. Wise | ★★★
This was amusing and entertaining! While there was no plot or action, I appreciated the humour in this one.
The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Davana Headley | ★★★
An adorable Valentine’s Day story about buildings falling in love and what it’s like for the people inside them to witness it all. It was predictable and a little cheesy, but I loved the idea.
The Haunting of Apollo A7LB by Hannu Rajaniemi | ★★★★
This was another favourite! An old spacesuit is haunted by its previous owner, resulting in unexpected and troublesome acts for its new owner.
Here Be Dragons by Chris Tarry | ★★
I had high hopes for this one, mainly because it was the only story that somewhat resembled epic fantasy. It focuses on two men with past reputations as ‘dragonslayers’ and what their life is like now that they’re jobless and stay-at-home dads. There was character development for one of the characters, but the ending ruined it all for me.
The One They Took Before by Kelly Sandoval | ★★★★
I loved this one too. It’s about a woman who now lives in the real world, after she lives in a world with magic. The story slowly unravels her past and what happened, and constantly touches on her struggles of wanting to go back while knowing it’s better if she doesn’t.
Tiger Baby by JY Yang | ★★
I wasn’t a fan of this one. It’s about a woman who believes her true form is that of a tiger. It sounds interesting at first, and I think it ends on a hopeful note, but something is just so sad about it all.
The Duck by Ben Loory | ★★★
A duck falls in love with a rock, and everyone makes fun of him for it. I love how this touched on themes of friendship and acceptance, and I would love to see this illustrated. Cute, touching, and impactful.
Wing by Amal El-Mohtar | ★★★★★
This was so beautiful. It’s about a girl with a necklace of a book, and people often ask her what’s written inside it. ‘It’s a secret’ she says and they often leave her after that. I love the idea of keeping parts of ourselves, our deepest dreams and desires, and waiting until the right person comes along, to see if we want to share it with them.
The Philosophers by Adam Ehrlich Sachs | ★★
Three short stories focusing on father and son relationships and the cyclical nature of passing things from one generation to another.
My Time Among the Bridge Blowers by Eugene Fischer | ★
I don’t think the story was bad, I just found it so boring that I often tuned out just for the sake of finishing it. I can’t even tell you what I got from it, because it was that unremarkable.
The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado | ★★★★
This one was quite sexually explicit and as someone who’s always preferred fade-to-black scenes when it comes to sex, I often felt uncomfortable reading this. That aside though, this story was brilliant and powerful. It’s about a woman who gives everything to the men in her life, but it never seems enough. Very thought provoking ending.
The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik | ★★
A man is fixated on a story his grandfather told him as a boy, so he goes on a quest to find out if there’s any truth in it. I think this is the longest story in the whole collection, and it bored me the longer it went. The story had potential, but I couldn’t connect to the characters and I couldn’t care less.
This was a mixed bag of goodies with stories I loved and ones I didn’t. I also think it was more a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ kind of experience, because I just prefer a different kind of fantasy. I recommend all stories I rated 4-5 stars, of course. They’re certainly worth checking out.