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The Very Best of Kate Elliott Paperback – February 10, 2015
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Cover art by 2015 Hugo Award-winning artist Julie Dillon
[STARRED REVIEW] Elliott’s delightful first collection contains pieces set in the worlds of her major fantasy seriesthe Spiritwalker Trilogy, the Crossroads Trilogy, the Crown of Stars series, and the Jaran novelsas well as several standalone works and four essays about writing. No familiarity with any of the novels is required to understand the stories set in those worlds, but the existing settings lend depth, complexity, and intrigue to what might otherwise be simple tales. Riding the Shore of the River of Death,” a bildungsroman about a young female horse-nomad who wants to be a warrior, benefit greatly from the depth of setting, as does the slapstick comedy To Be a Man,” about a shape-shifting saber-toothed cat with an eye for the ladies. But the standalones especially shine, and the political intrigue and subtle humor that Elliott brings to the fascinating culture and government system of The Queen’s Garden” make it perhaps the finest work in the book. This collection serves beautifully both as an introduction to Elliott and as a treat for fans who want more of her marvels.”
[STARRED REVIEW] In this compendium, vibrant details, unusual names and quirky plot twists are evidence of Elliott's active imagination, which sets off on a kaleidoscopic journey into the multilayered realms of these fierce, brave and loyal women, offering new readers and those familiar with Elliott a delightful plunge into fantasy.”
Powerful, vivid, masterfulThe Very Best of Kate Elliott is a touchstone for the legacy of women in writing and in history.”
San Francisco Book Review
The Very Best of Kate Elliott does an excellent job of displaying Elliott's multi-faceted creativity, her huge talent for inventing a variety of worlds without ever sacrificing the sparkling little details in each one that make her writing so compelling.”
Katherine Kerr, author of the Deverry Cycle
Elliott (Cold Steel; Labyrinth of Stars) has built a career out of creating memorable worlds and populating them with strong, amazing women (and the men who love them). While the longer form gives her a bigger canvas, Elliott proves here she can make those same fantastic worlds and characters in short form. . . . Elliott excels at describing her brilliant worlds, employing a meticulous eye for the significant detail that illuminates a whole landscape.”
"Intricate and enthralling. This really is the best of Kate Elliott."
Seanan McGuire, author of Rosemary and Rue
Kate Elliot fits more rich and complex writing into her short pieces than many authors manage at novel length, tackling the social fabric of SF&F with clarity and grace.”
Tanya Huff, author of the Keeper’s Chronicles and The Enchantment Emporium
If you're a fan of Kate Elliott's fantasy novels, then you know she knows how to tell an epic. But remarkably Elliott is one of those rare writers who is also able to distill that sense of an epic fantasy novel into the short form. For fans of epic storytelling, this is a collection not to be missed.”
John Joseph Adams, series editor of Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy and editor of Lightspeed Magazine
Collecting stories set in worlds both familiar (including the settings of the Spiritwalker books and her Jaran quartet) and new, as well as non-fiction essays about writing, it makes an excellent introduction to the work of one of epic fantasy’s most reliably fantastic writers.”
Barnes & Noble
Elliott is a writer of remarkable talent and sensitivity. . . . This is, truly, a demonstration of the very best of Elliott’s abilities.”
[Elliott’s] writing is gorgeously toned and filled with evocative imagery. She’s been a well-respected, prolific fantasy author for decades, and she’s no slouch with science fiction, either. (Also, she used to fight in the SCA in full freaking armor.)”
Barnes & Noble.com, Sam Reader
...lyrical prose, wrapping the reader up into each world with every syllable.... an excellent collection of short stories.”
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews
I highly recommend this book for people who enjoy fantasy and science fiction, but also people who want to expand their social consciousness. This is an excellent, enjoyable, thought-provoking book.”
Snowflakes & Spider Silk
A fantastic collection. . . . Whether you are familiar with Elliott’s writing or not, this collection comes highly recommended, as it is a great introduction to her writing as well as a great retrospective.”
Elliott’s characters dominate the pages, and live on when the stories are over. If this were the best of collection by an author who had published five hundred short stories you wouldn’t expect it to be any better.”
This is a great collection, a fun collection, an important collection, a highly recommended collection. The Very Best of Kate Elliott is the very best that genre fiction can offer.”
Brilliant...a must-read for anyone who likes their women badass and their fantasy epic.”
There Are Inkspots On My Page
Fans of her novels should not hesitate to pick up The Very Best of Kate Elliott; readers new to her work can find the themes and style of the author in evidence in this collection....”
There is no better time than now to become acquainted with Kate Elliott’s wonderful worlds and I look forward to enjoying the perspective, voice, and talent she brings to epic fantasy for years to come.”
A Dribble of Ink
extraordinary richness...this collection swiftly outpaces detailed discussion.”
[A] delicious collection.... A feminist titan in the fantasy/science fiction industry, Elliott's writing is just like magic!”
It’s an absorbing read, for anyone who enjoys sci fi, fantasy, blending of the two, excellent characters, Elliot’s previous work, or dang good storytelling. Or all of the above.”
Nerds in Babeland
About the Author
Kate Elliott is the pen name for Alis Rassmussen, the author of the bestselling epic fantasy series Crown of Stars, the Crossroads Trilogy, and most recently, the Spiritwalker series. Forthcoming in 2015 are her novels "Court of Fives" (Little, Brown, Young Reader) and Black Wolves (Orbit).
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Top Customer Reviews
- "Introduction" (original) explains her early love of science fiction and fantasy and her efforts to write in those genres. She gradually learned that the SFF of that time was about the worldview of men, with women portrayed only as helpmates and accessories.
- "Riding the Shore of the River of Death" (A Fantasy Medley, 2009) is a Crown of Stars tale. Kereha has ridden out with her brother to avoid becoming a wife of Prince Vayek.
- "Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine" (Fearsome Journeys, 2013) follows a hunted widow trying to get a message to the King's sister.
- "The Queen's Garden" (Unexpected Journeys, 2013) compels two princesses to counter the moves of their father.
- "On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New" (original) is a Crossroads tale. It concerns a spy in Bronze Hall.
- "The Gates of Jorlun" (Tarot Fantastic, 1997) involves three magicians in a civil war.
- "The Memory of Peace" (Enchanted Forests, 1995) concerns two siblings in a besieged city.
- "With God to Guard Her" (Return to Avalon, 1996) brings Merofled to the attention of the Duke.
- "My Voice Is in My Sword" (Weird Tales from Shakespeare, 1994) is a Jaran tale, It divulges the experiences of a theatrical company on the Squat home world.
- "Sunseeker" (30th Anniversary DAW Science Fiction, 2002) is a Jaran tale. It describes a group of sunbathers.
- "A Simple Act of Kindness" (Shimmering Door, 1996) is a Crown of Stars tale. It takes Daniella out into a freak storm.
- "To Be a Man" (kateelliott,com, 2011) is a Spiritwalker tale. It delivers a saber-tooth tiger to the garden.
- "Making the World Live Again" (Zodiac Fantastic, 1997) puts Eili through the rites of becoming a woman.
- "Introduction" (original) explains the purpose of these online essays.
- "The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze through Female Eyes" (SFSignal, 2012) asserts that the male gaze is the unconscious default in American -- and other -- society.
- "The Narrative of Women in Fear and Pain" (kateelliott.com, 2012) says that generally such stories are told from the omniscient point of view rather than from their own.
- "And Pharaoh's Heart Hardened" (kateelliott.livejournal.com, 2010) talks about the sociopathy of racism and other prejudices.
- "The Status Quo Does Not Need World-Building" (kateelliott.com, 2013) ponders the importance of cultural diversity in SFF.
These tales seem to be the only short stories published in print form by the author. Wikipedia only lists nine stories and does not include "The Queen's Garden". ISFDB lists all the stories, but also lists this volume, so the stories cited with 2015 dates may be from this collection.
The essays are interesting views of a female writer during the golden age of SF. Several women were contributing stories to the magazines back then, but Elliott found them grounded in the male viewpoint. Interestingly, several male authors began including female viewpoints in their stories about that time.
The next installment in this sequence has not yet been announced on Amazon.
The author had been publishing science fiction and fantasy for over two decades. Her first novel -- The Labyrinth Gate -- was SF and published in 1988 under her real name of Alis A. Rasmussen. She followed that with The Highroad Trilogy.
When these novels were not bestsellers, she adopted her current pseudonym and published the Jaran SF series. These sold very well and so did The Golden Key, a fantasy novel written in collaboration with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. Her latest fantasy series are Court of Fives and Black Wolves.
Highly recommended for Elliott fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of other cultures, frustrated women, and a bit of action. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin
I will definitely be recommending this collection of stories about strong women to my daughter, who also loves Kate Elliot's books
Elliott’s introduction establishes that she views her writing to some extent as a reaction to the fantasy she encountered as a young reader in the 1960s and 1970s, where men played the important roles in the plot and women were an afterthought. I don’t quite have the same perception of the genre, because although male authors still dominated by the time I started reading fantasy and science fiction in the 1980s, women like Mercedes Lackey, Robin McKinley and others were writing books that routinely featured strong female characters who played a leading role in the action. (McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown in particular really strikes me as an excellent response to the type of fantasy Elliott is referencing in her introduction.) And that trend continued with the growth of the number of women writing in the genre in the 1990s, including Elliott herself. So my view of fantasy has always been as a space where women can be heroes just as much as men.
The stories in Elliott’s collection generally do highlight strong female characters, although that’s not true of all of them. Most of the stories have appeared elsewhere, with only one of them original to the collection. Given that many of the stories are set in the same worlds as her novels, I think readers would have a richer understanding of them if they had read the novels first, although it’s not a requirement. As with any short story collection, though, some of the stories are more successful than others. Particularly good in my opinion are “The Queen’s Garden,” featuring a fantasy world with an Asian feel and a pair of princesses who cleverly assert their power for the good of their kingdom; “The Gates of Joriun,” which highlights how much strength it takes to be the woman who waits; “My Voice is My Sword,” a humorous story where a bad actor gets his Shakespearean comeuppance; and “To Be a Man,” which features a charming shapeshifting saber-toothed cat who first appeared as a character in Elliott’s Spiritwalker novels.
Overall, it’s a strong collection. I’d recommend it particularly for fans of Kate Elliott or for fantasy fans who are looking for some good short fiction to read.
An ARC was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.