A Fantasy Medley #3, edited by Yanni Kuznia
Posted December 18, 2015on:
A Fantasy Medley 3, edited by Yanni Kuznia
Available Dec 31 2015
where I got it: received review copy from Subterranean Press (Thanks!)
Out of the four stories in this slim volume of goodness, three of them are connected to the author’s other works. Jaqueline Carey’s powerful peice, “One Hundred Ablutions” is a true standalone, although it could easily be expanded into a full novel or series. Editor Yanni Kuznia (read my interview with her, here) chose her stories well – each of these features empowered characters, consequences, excellent world building and even a touch of humor at times. Short fiction is my favorite way to try out authors who are new to me – instead of a 500 page commitment, I’m making a 20 minute commitment. And anyone can do that, right?
Kevin Hearne’s “Goddess at the Crossroads” is fun, funny and irreverent. Atticus gets a shiver up his spine when his apprentice quotes a particular Shakespeare play, and so he tells her about his run in with a few witches and the goddess they summoned. Fans of the Iron Druid series will get a kick out of this story, and for folks new to that series (hello!) there is just enough background and information that you won’t feel lost. Although this story takes place later in the series, it was a great introduction to Atticus and his abilities. Am I a terrible person that my favorite part of this story is Atticus’s hilarious dog Oberon? Of all the great things I’ve heard about Hearne over the last few years (and I’ve heard a lot) the thing that made me say “holy crap! I gotta read this guy!” was the dog.
My favorite story in the collection was Jaqueline Carey’s “One Hundred Ablutions”. It was a smart move making this the final story in the volume, otherwise I would have been spoiled, and then disappointed that the other stories weren’t as powerful as this one. Dala is a Keren girl, and as such, is offered an opportunity to become an honored handmaiden for a Shaladan family of the ruling class. By “offered an opportunity” I mean she’s never given a choice, and by “honored handmaiden”, I mean slave. But it’s the ruling Shaladan who run this society, and therefore their words are used for things that have different meanings to different people. This story was absolutely gorgeously told, Carey’s prose is transportive. There was no need for me to reread this story to write this review, because Dala’s story was seared into my mind. In a city on the brink of revolution, is “an eye for an eye” the answer? When violence is answered with violence, who will be left to mourn the innocent dead? Dala was a slave, locked into a ritual she didn’t understand, and the violence she witnesses brings the ritual full circle. There are no words for the final scene of this story.
Aliette de Bodard’s “The Death of Aguillon” is a prequel of sorts to her acclainovel med The House of Shattered Wings, which makes this a win-win no matter what – if you enjoyed The House of Shattered Wings, this story will shed additional light on the situation, and if you haven’t yet read the novel, this short story is the most perfect teaser introduction to de Bodard’s war torn and magic covered Paris. And this isn’t just any war. In Paris, magic can kill you quicker than it can save you. The river eats people, bodies are looted, and Fallen are worth their weight in gold. Her whole life, Huyen has known nothing but but her House, known nothing but a life of servitude. Her House means safety, and now that she is houseless, what will become of her? An interaction with one of the Fallen offers the promise of safety, if she is willing to go back to her old life. Now that she’s had a taste of what’s outside the life of a House, what choice will she make? Safe doesn’t always mean better, and protected rarely means free. Everything de Bodard pens is beautiful and eloquent and pulls you in word by word, and this short story is no different.
“Ashes” by Laura Bickle is an action packed present day urban fantasy. It’s got a bit of a Harry Dresden feel to it, so those of you who like dark urban fantasy, elementals, and mythical creatures who occasionally help out mortals will get a kick out of this one. Arson Investigator and psychic medium Anya Kalinczyk is on the trail of the Nain Rouge, The Red Dwarf of Detroit, a harbinger of destruction. Where else for the Nain Rouge to hide in plain sight, than a parade and festival held in his honor? Plot and character wise, this story was a little all over the place. Anya’s sometimes-friend Charon makes an appearance, and there are references to work she does on the side, and other groups she’s worked with. The story is jam packed with hints about a larger world, which unfortunately makes it feel like a chapter of a novel, rather than a stand alone short story.
Not only is it filled with great fiction, A Fantasy Medley 3 is a perfect collector’s item for fans who collect everything their favorite authors have written. Looking to complete your collection of Iron Druid novels and short stories? Planning to own everything Jacqueline Carey has ever written? This collection will get you there.