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A Fantasy Medley Hardcover – 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Four fantasy heavyweights contribute original tales featuring intriguing female protagonists to this enthralling anthology. Kelley Armstrong expands her Women of the Otherworld series to include spunky Toronto vampire Zoe Takano, who proves herself a master of Zen and the Art of Vampirism as she fends off dimwitted trespassers. Centuries after the events of The Crown of Stars, Quman hunter Kereka struggles against her tribe's misogyny in Kate Elliott's strong but staccato Riding the Shore of the River of Death. Baba Yaga's daughter, the beautiful and quixotic narrator of C.E. Murphy's tightly crafted From Russia, with Love, turns the tables on Janx and Eliseo Daisani (familiar from Hands of Flame). Only the setting ties Robin Hobb's Words Like Coins to her Farseer trilogy, but its multilayered discussion of the power of words easily stands alone. Fans and new readers alike will find plenty to love. (Mar.)
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Top customer reviews
Kelley Armstrong provides "Zen and the Art of Vampirism" which was quite a darkly humorous tale of a pacifist vampire and her non-violent battle to defend her city against two interlopers. 23 pages.
"Riding the Shore of the River of Death" by Kate Elliott is apparently set in her 'Crown of Stars' world. I confess that I haven't read Elliott's series and that may be why I found this story the darkest, and most disappointing. A tale of a woman who risks everything to escape an unwanted life. 39 pages.
A cold and witchy tale about friendship and betrayal, "From Russia, with Love" by C.E. Murphy gives a different look at the Baba Yaga myths. 25 pages.
Robin Hobb completes the foursome with "Words Like Coins". For me, the best of the bunch and a wickedly tight tale that almost reads like a current Aesop offering. Right and wrong, and influence vs reality. 34 pages.
I'm not sorry I read "A Fantasy Medley". It's certainly quite different from the 'normal' offerings by the authors I'm familiar with. It is, however, darker fantasy than I'm used to reading. It's also, as I said before, irritatingly short for the cost.
I have to agree with the previous reviewer that Robin Hobb's "Words Like Coins" was the strongest story of the 4 - probably why it was last in the book. C.E. Murphy's "From Russia with Love" re-introduces Daisani and Janx from her Negotiator series and pits them against the great Baba Yaga and her daughter. Kelley Armstrong's "Zen and the Art of Vampirism" is true KA style with a strong female lead, and a dash of humor to temper the macabre. Last but not least is Kate Elliot's "Riding the Shore of the River of Death" - the longest story in the book. I think I would have ranked this story higher if I had read more of her other works and was more familiar with her world. Still, an engrossing read.
All in all, the only thing keeping me from rating this 5 stars is the fact that it is so short!
You certainly don't need to know anything about Hobb's earlier books. Also, unlike her novella (in another story collection) about the founding of the Rain Wilds, it doesn't add any "Oh THAT explains it" information for those of us who are in love with that particular world. Quite simply: a fun story, well told, great diversion. That's enough.
To my joy, I found that the three other stories in the book are equally charming. That's rare in any short story collection; usually I expect at least one to be a disappointment.
As with Hobb, the authors revisit worlds that they created in longer works. (All also have female protagonists, which may or may not be intentional.) Kelley Armstrong writes about a vampire in modern-day Toronto, based on Otherworld; Kate Elliot returns to Crown of Stars for a story about a woman struggling with gender roles; C.E. Murphy -- well, maybe her tale about Baba Yaga's daughter is standalone. In any case, I hadn't read anything by these other authors before (or at least it's been a long time; Kate Elliot seems familiar, though that particular universe is not) and I can comfortably assert that none of them require previous knowledge.
It's an enjoyable collection of short stories. Recommended.