Songs of the Dying Earth – edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

This took me quite a while to get through – it’s an homage to Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series, and the writing is very true to the unique tone and world that he created. Which I very much enjoy, but can’t take in large doses. (I don’t tend to like authors with a more florid writing style. He is one of the exceptions – from me, that’s a compliment.)

I thought the quality of the stories was good. I feel like most anthologies of this type have at least one absolute stinker of a story, but these were all good. If you’re already a fan, it’s worth a read. And don’t feel like you have to hurry through it – that is the beauty of a short story collection.


Once Upon a Curse

This is a fun anthology of darker turning fairy tale interpretations. The darkness is pretty variable – in some cases, it’s just using themes that are considered dark. And like most anthologies, some of the stories are definitely better than others.

There were two different interpretations of the Morrigan that I enjoyed, and “Magic After Midnight” had an interesting taken on the evil stepmother from Cinderella. Definitely worth a read – might lead you do a few new authors.

Thorn and Brambles – Intisar Khanani

Thorn is a retelling of the “Goose Girl” fairy tale. Here, we have Princess Alyrra, who has absolutely no value to her own family, slated to marry into the family of the powerful kingdom they border. Alyrra’s not really sure why – her own kingdom is small, and she’s not sure what she can bring to Menaiya. There’s also the small matter that their royal family is dying out.

Alyrra is not in favor in court because she dared expose the girl who her brother wished to marry as a thief. Valka also tried to frame a servant. Alyrra has at least won the loyalty of the servants by her actions, but her brother and mother are disgusted by her. And it’s Valka who’s chosen to be her companion when she journeys to Menaiya.

It’s this journey where Alyrra finds out why the Menaiyan Royal family is dying out – a powerful Fae Lady is capturing them, and she has enlisted Valka to help her ensnare the Prince. Valka and Alyrra switch bodies, and Alyrra is placed under a spell so she cannot discuss it with anyone. She’s banished to be the goose girl, though she does still hold power over Valka, so it’s not a complete banishment.

I really liked what the author did with this story – there’s a lot going on in the kingdom for Alyrra to notice, and her prince is a well fleshed out character. I know this book was originally self-published – I can see why it was picked up by a regular publisher.

“Brambles” is the story of when Alyrra exposes Valka. You really wouldn’t want to read it if you hadn’t already read Thorn – I think it’s more powerful when you know the consequences of that day.

In the Forest of Forgetting – Theodora Goss

This is a book of short stories, with at least a little overlap from the other collection of the author’s that I have.

I definitely like the fairy tales the best of these – there are a couple more literary tales that aren’t bad, but are a bit too literary for my tastes.

There are a few recurring characters in several stories that I really enjoyed – it’s definitely an enjoyable collection to read.

Botanical Folk Tales oF Britain and Ireland – Lisa Schneidau

This is a lovely little compilation of stories, arranged seasonally. There are some stories you might recognize, spun a little differently.

The author mentioned how she often listened to the stories of other cultures (like the Coyote stories of North America), and wanted to make sure that the similar stories of Britain and Ireland weren’t lost. Which was interesting to me, because I feel like we English speakers not living in the British Isles think that a lot of British and Irish heritage is a part of our heritage, but there were definitely stories here that I had not heard before.

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters – Ursula K. Le Guin

This is a wide variety of stories, some connected to various books by the author, but some that are stand alone. She introduces each story, and in some cases, this was collected long after the stories were written, so it’s interesting to see her comments.

Some of these I enjoyed more than others, but like anything by Le Guin, they’re well worth the read – she was indeed a fantastic writer.

Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor

This is the second novella in this series. In the first, Binti left home, in this one, she returns. Why that’s important doesn’t make any sense unless you’ve read the first story. And I think this story is a certain amount of building to whatever will occur in the third story.

These stories have absolutely wonderful world building – it’s really neat to see scifi from a non-western perspective.

Snow White Learns Witchcraft – Theodora Goss

024bac0a3f8eebc597062507267434f414f4141_v5This book is a collection of reimagined fairy tales – some in verse, some in prose. Some of them are quite modern. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of verse, but really enjoyed these stories.

I think my favorite story was “The Seven Shoes” – there’s a witch there, but it’s really just a tale of growing up, and just really resonated with me.

There’s plenty more to love. Several of the stories deal with after the tale is over, and they’re just handled with such grace. I loved this collection.

The Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo

c0591150aa3cf3e596752456f41434f414f4141This book is nominally set in the Grishaverse, but is all the fairy tales they would tell there.  You can definitely see the parallels to tales in our normal world.

My favorite story was “Ayama and the Thorn Wood”, which is sort of a cross between “Cinderella” and “Beauty and the Beast”. The younger son of the king was born a beast, and has escaped his confinement, and is slaughtering livestock and people in the countryside. Ayama, a younger sister of the girl who everyone thinks should be a princess, ends up being the one person that can reason with the beast. I really loved how this tale ended – it’s a great twist on this story.

The last story, “When Water Sang Fire” is a take off on “The Little Mermaid”, and I wasn’t as fond of that one. What mainly interested me is that this is the second or third time I’ve now run into stories that were very clearly influenced by the Disney version of this tale – interesting how that’s clearly now a cultural touchpoint.