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The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories Hardcover – February 23, 2010
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This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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In this collection of short stories, all save two have been previously published in various similarly named high-profile fantasy anthologies: The Restless Dead (2007), The Faery Reel (2007), and The Eternal Kiss (2009). Here, they’re brought together to present a multifaceted view of one of YA-dom’s most prominent urban fantasists. Cults of immortality seekers clamor to get bitten by vampires in “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown,” and a teenager makes a chilling sacrifice to save a neighbor and the boy she thinks she loves. Ever mindful that forbidden romance is a natural waltzing partner with dark fantasy, Black slips a sly coming-out element into “In Vodka Veritas,” where a secret private-school sect turns prom night into a Dionysian frenzy. To close out the volume, Black performs a neat bit of tinkering with structure in the title story, as a king reveals to his son and would-be poisoner an ingenious and surreal plot to exact revenge through a trio of venomous-to-the-touch sisters. Fans of her novels will relish this one-stop resource for Black’s dark, edgy, and imaginative storytelling. Grades 9-12. --Ian Chipman
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Black (the Good Neighbors series) proves equally adept at urban fantasy and more traditional fairy tales, and her stories often feature the edgy sexuality and angst that have become her trademarks.”
"Black's got all the supernatural bases covered: vampires, fairies, an elf, a unicorn, wolves, the devil, and a spell-wielding high school Latin club.... Although they are often centered on bleak, dark characters, the pieces inspire hope, are touching and delightful, and even turn the most ghoulish characters into feeling beings."
School Library Journal
"Compelling, rich and engaging."
Bulletin of Ctr for Child Books
"Gritty, grim, and fabulousHolly is a master of dark magic and dark reality!"
Tamora Pierce (author of Bloodhound)
"Holly Black is the Real Thing: a gifted writer with a solid grounding in what matters. Her stories are dark and splendid blooms rising from roots sunk deep in myth and tradition."
Ellen Kushner (author of The Privilege of the Sword)
"Simply put, Holly Black is one of our best writers. Enchanting and edgy, yes, but it's the big heart in her stories that brings me back to her writing, time and again. Reading a new book by Holly is like meeting up with an old friend. They might be a little messed up from the last time you saw them, they might have some serious drama going on in their lives, but the connection is immediate, and when they're packing up to head off again, you don't want to let them go."
Charles de Lint (author of The Blue Girl)
Praise for Holly Black’s books:
Black’s series [is] considered to have kick-started the fairy trend in young adult fantasy.”
New York Times Book Review
"Black has an eye for the telling detail that brings the most minor character to life."
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Dark, edgy, beautifully written, and compulsively readable, this is sure to be a word-of-mouth hit with teens, even a few usually unmoved by magic and monsters."
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Top customer reviews
This was a great collection there were only a couple of stories in this that were previously unpublished, but I had not read any of them. It was a real treat. They will all sort of dark, almost spooky tales of all sorts of odd things. I didn't like the story "Virgin," which was too bad because it was about unicorns. I just found it to be a bit hard to follow. I was never really sure what the characters were doing. My three favorite though were "The Night Market," "The Coat of Stars" and "Paper Cuts Scissors." "The Night Market" had a sort of voodoo feel to it. I liked the idea of a fairy in a tree that makes you fall in love with it. It's perfectly mischievous. "The Coat of Stars" was about a boy who's boyfriend got taken by fairies when they were teens. He comes back and makes these beautiful garments to try to entice the fairies into letting his boyfriend go. I thought it was a sweet story and I loved the main character. "Paper Cuts Scissors" I love because I love books, and the Dewey decimal system. In this story, the book characters intermingled within each other's stories, causing all sorts of interesting twists in the classics. The main characters girlfriend has a way of being able to put things in books, and eventually folds herself into one. I loved the whole concept of this story, and would love to see more added to it, or maybe have a short story collection on altered classics. All in all this was a fantastic little collection, and I recommend it highly to fans of the genre and Holly's other work.
"Matilda was drunk, but she was always drunk anymore."
"'Mayhaps.' Roiben tried not to let anything show on his face."
A couple of stories are bold, though, in particular "In Vodka Veritas" about a boy who tries to avoid prom and ends up there anyway in a shocking way that involves, among other things, a cult and alcohol. "Paper Cuts Scissors" is another of those stories that has a little bit of a surprise result and may in fact be the best story in the book. This particular piece should sit well with the literary crowd, especially librarians, as it cleverly uses Dewey Decimal classification as section headers (300 = social science; 800 = literature; etc.).
But die hard fans of Black may be a bit disappointed with these outings. The writing is decent but the storytelling is not up to par with her full length work and a bit of Ironside knowledge is useful for a couple of the stories, without which, one may find oneself confused and certainly lost. Overall, not the worst of collections, but I was expecting better.
In the fifth story "The Dog King" is about castles and dangerous wolves who attack whole towns in packs and a King and a mysterious boy who lives in the castle. The next story "Virgin" is about kids who live on the streets and how one boy lives in the woods and says a unicorn is in this woods where he lives. The next story "In Vodka Veritas" is about a prep school where 2 not so popular boys are worried about who to take the prom, when one of them gets a date and the other doesn't. The one without a date wanders into the Latin Club having a secret meeting and gets sucked into it and it's very interesting what happens when the Latin Club goes to the prom and spikes everyone's drinks. A very entertaining story. "The Coat of Stars" is about a guy who has become successful in the big city and hates going home to his small town but is on his way home when the story opens. While he's home he runs into some fairies in the woods and finds out they have stolen his best friend from high school and he is not really dead and the story is about what he does to get him back. The next story "Paper Cuts Scissors" is one of my favorites. It's about a guy who is going to graduate school to get his library science masters degree and accepts a job with a reclusive millionaire who wants him to organize his library. What he finds out is the man can bring the characters from the books to life at night but the characters go back randomly back into various books. It's interesting when Justin, the graduate student, runs into his ex-girlfriend from one of these books. "Going Ironside" is a short 3 page story about elves who try to live temporarily in the human world. "The Land of Heart's Desire" is my other favorite story from the collection. "If you want to meet real-life members of the Sidhe - real faeries - go to the cafe, Moon in the Cup, in Manhattan" (175). You can see right off that's it about humans and fairies co-existing in Manhattan. Roiben and Kaye are a fairy couple and they are surrounded by Kaye's human friends who help her run the cafe. One of these human friends, Corny, insults Roiben and it's interesting to see what happens to him. The final story is "Poison Eaters" a story told by a father to a son about 3 sisters who all sleep together and can't get warm and are very pale. When any of the sisters touch a human they die. Eventually 2 of the sisters die and the father attempts to use the 3rd daughter to get revenge on his old enemies.
Her stories are worth reading again as they are so well written and they will stay with you long after you have finished the stories. Most of her characters are unforgettable and you will want to spend time in their world. This is a definite must for anyone who loves fantasy and/or fairy tales.
I teach at the high school level and am now considering using one of Black's stories in my classroom.