ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I love supporting under-hyped books and authors, and these are nineteen up and coming fantasy authors that each contributed a short story for this anthology. I mean, how could I not request an ARC of this? I absolutely love the thought that went in to this, and I’m so very thankful that Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman curated this.
Yet, I do think that these curators are being very liberal with the word “new”. Some of these short stories were released in 2014 and 2015. Some of these authors are very well known and published. I didn’t let this impact my rating or reading experience, but I think it’s important to note it is a very loose term here.
I also feel like this would be a perfect October/Fall read, because even though this is pitched as a fantasy collection, which it is, but I couldn’t help but feel like it had much more of an eerie, almost horror, vibe. Most all of the stories are set in our world, in our time, so if you’re looking for dragons, dwarfs, fae, and elves, you’ve come to the wrong anthology.
Yet, a few of these short stories completely captured my heart and very quickly made me a new fan of the authors. The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Dahvana Headley, Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon, and Wing by Amal El-Mohtar were some of my favorites and I gave each story a perfect five stars. These stories just felt a tier above most and were just so impactful and beautifully written. I am a sucker for lyrical prose, and all three of these authors completely delivered.
My personal favorite in the whole collection is, hands down, The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado. I am in awe of this story and its utter perfection. One of the best feminist works I’ve ever read in my life, and one of the most powerful pieces of art, too. If you can only read one short story of these nineteen, please pick this one. It’s life changing and so very important.
I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating! Also, all but three of these short stories can be found and read online for free. I will include a link in the title of the story that will direct you to a source that will allow you to read it for free if you are interested.
➽ Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong – ★★★★
This first short story completely hooked me. A girl uses Tinder to find dates who are petty criminals and feeds off their impure thoughts. Yet, she gets more than she bargained for when she becomes addicted to feasting off an actual killer. Now her hunger knows no bounds, and to protect the girl she secretly likes she has to find another way to sate her hunger.
➽ Selkie Stories are for Losers by Sofia Samatar – ★★
This one for sure feels like it could dip into the horror category, too, but it never really got scary. It is sort of story of stories and the whole theme revolves around the mythical folklore creatures, selkies. Selkies are seals who are able to shed their skin and turn human to dwell on land among us. Sadly, this just didn’t work for me, and the buildup left a lot to be desired.
➽ Tornado’s Siren by Brooke Bolander – ★★★
This is a very unique short about a girl that has caught the attention of a tornado one stormy evening. She is only nine at the time, but it follows her periodically through her growing up to become an adult. After years of attempted normalcy, our main character realizes that she doesn’t want to be normal after all. I enjoyed this, and I loved the open ending, but it wasn’t my favorite in the collection.
➽ Left the Century to Sit Unmoved by Sarah Pinsker – ★★★
This is a very, very short little story about a local pond where only the bravest of townsfolk jump off a waterfall into it. There are rules to jumping in this pond, and this pond is said to just take people. They can dredge it up, but no bodies are every found, only the swimsuits that float to the surface. Our main character is obsessed with jumping in it, ever since her brother went missing after his jump. This story is beautifully written, and the message very strong, especially with the length of this one.
➽ A Kiss with Teeth by Max Gladstone – ★
This story was so difficult for me to read. I didn’t connect with the writing style whatsoever, and it felt ungodly longer than the rest of the stories in this collection. This story focuses on a modern day version of Vlad the Impaler, where he is trying to live a normal life, and raise a normal son, while also trying to control his urge to function as a vampire. He becomes obsessed with his son’s teacher, and begins to literally stalk her. To drink from? To kill? To fuck? Who knows, but it is supposed to be a “you can work out your problems if you love each other enough, while still being able to be who you are” story, but it didn’t work in the slightest for me. Also, I’m just personally so sick of Vlad the Impaler retellings.
➽ Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon – ★★★★★
Good Lord, this story was so close to perfect! I absolutely loved and adored it. Twist and turns throughout, with a perfect ending, all wrapped up in such a short tale. This story is about jackalope rabbits, which can turn into very beautiful women, who love to dance the night away. Many men desire to make them their wives, and by stealing the rabbit coats they shed while dancing, but by doing so you will also be trapping them into not being able to shift back into their rabbit forms. Some very cruel men burn their skins, while forcing them to be humans forever.
➽ The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu – ★★★★
This was the first story in the collection that every aspect felt like fantasy. We are thrown into this amazingly beautiful, but ruthless, community of bees and wasps and a couple other insects. We get to see the hierarchy within the wasps, and the demands they make of the bees. We get to see, as the title suggests, their uses of maps and how they take note of the events happening in their world. I really enjoyed this, and the writing was superb.
➽ The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A. C. Wise – ★
This is exactly what the title implies, a section by section guide on how to buy a residence if you are a witch. Now, I’m sure this will be super cute, charming, and funny to many readers out there, but it totally fell flat for me. It just felt very forced, while trying to be funny, but it just came across as cringey. Plus, (not that I am the expert on witches buying or creating homes) it felt very basic with its “witch knowledge”. I feel really bad saying this, but I didn’t enjoy this at all.
➽ The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Dahvana Headley – ★★★★★
Be still, my heart! This was so amazingly unique! I loved it! This story is set in New York, where the tall buildings and structures move on their own. This tale is told on Valentine’s Day, and the storyteller is a waiter in a club that works high up inside one of these moving buildings. I loved seeing all these iconic structures choose one another and pair up for Valentine’s Day. And the story is told so beautifully, whimsically, and romantically, that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
➽ The Haunting of Apollo A7LB by Hannu Rajaniemi – ★★★
A woman is dealing with the death of her lover from her past, when she gets a knock on her door from that person’s moon suit, that she helped sew, which is a little scary because that person has died. At first sight, she believes it to be his ghost, but soon realizes that there is someone else inside of it. The suit is compelling him to do things that he normally would never do, and now it has showed up on her doorstep. This short story definitely talks about differences in races and classes and how far we still need to go, but also about love and how far we are willing to go for the ones we love.
➽ Here Be Dragons by Chris Tarry – ★
This is easily my least favorite in the whole collection. Trigger warnings for child abuse, even though it’s written about in a disgustingly light way. This story is about two men who are pretty much medieval con-artists, who “slay dragons” for wealth and fame. Well, now they have come home to actually be fathers to their children, while their wives work, but they can’t deal with that apparently, because, you know, sexism, and then they both have separate epiphanies that they aren’t cut out for this father thing, when they could have fame, glory, and prostitutes. I understand not every story has to have likable main characters, but I literally hated both of these men from start to finish.
➽ The One They Took Before by Kelly Sandoval – ★★★★
This story was just the perfect about of ominous and eerie. It all starts with a rift in the universe and an ad on Craigslist in Seattle. Our main character is constantly battling her inner feelings whether or not she wants to return to her abductors that are not from our world. It was such a good balance of realistic and whimsical, and my only real complaint is that I wish there was more that I could read.
➽ Tiger Baby by JY Yang – ★★
I feel somewhat torn about rating this story. This short is about a girl who is being constantly haunted by her dreams of being a tiger, which she also believes is her “true form” and aspires to become it. She doesn’t have the best life and constantly feels so much different than her peers. All of this, and the many metaphors, could have packed a big punch, but instead it fell short because our main protagonist isn’t a teenager feeling like an outcast that can’t connect with anyone, instead she is over thirty years old and refuses to seek out help.
➽ The Duck by Ben Loory – ★★★★
This was short and cute and extremely unexpectedly powerful. On paper, this is a story about a duck that fell in love with a rock, but it’s truly a story about helping people you love and understanding and accepting them for who they are. With true friends, we can accomplish so much and we can help heal others and make so many people happy. This was really good, and I highly recommend.
➽ Wing by Amal El-Mohtar – ★★★★★
This might be the most beautiful story in the whole collection. This short story is so romantic and so expertly written. My interruption is that soul mates are rare, but always worth the wait, and sharing yourself body and soul with someone else is something indescribable. We will have many loves in our lives, but when you find that person who you can share all your secrets with you will realize why it never worked out with anyone else. I loved this so very much, and I loved the imagery in this, and I loved picturing a girl with a book of secrets around her neck. Seriously, this was perfection.
➽ The Philosophers by Adam Ehrlich Sachs – ★★
This is three mini stories; all surrounding a discussion about boys and their fathers. It’s about becoming what they expect you to be, becoming what you have no powering to not become, and how one day the boy will become the father. If I’m being honest, this wasn’t bad, but it just tried too damn hard to sound prolific. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t relate, but I just didn’t care to read three stories of different father and son relationships.
➽ My Time Among the Bridge Blowers by Eugene Fischer – ★★
This was just ungodly boring. It’s about a man, traveling with another man, to a village tribe that’s unlike anything he’s ever known, and then closes very mysteriously and very open-ended. Maybe there is some very introspective meaning here that just went over my head, but I just didn’t enjoy this.
➽ The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado – ★★★★★
Oh my God. This was the best short story I have ever read in my entire life. I’m writing this review in tears, because it was so immensely powerful. My hands are shaking, because this story is so real and so relevant. My stomach is in knots, because I’m not sure any combination of words I will create will do this story justice. This story is very feminist and very sexually explicit, but so damn important. It’s about the life of a woman, who gives everything to men and never is allowed to keep anything for herself. It’s about life’s expectations on women, and how society shapes the choices we do and do not have. It’s about how, no matter what, giving everything will never be good enough as a woman. It’s about enjoying and exploring your sexuality, yet trying to cope with the shame. It’s about never fully being able to become the person you are, but becoming the person your husband and/or family require you to be. It’s about having children, who will just repeat the same vicious and unfair cycle. I wish I could put this story in everyone’s hands.
➽ The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik – ★★★★
This story was so very long, but was rather enjoyable. It’s about a boy, who has been obsessed with a story his grandfather has told him since he was young, about a princess, her two sisters, and a jinn that protected them all. This family lives in the states now, but the story is from Pakistan. After a few turn of events, the boy, now a man, picks up his life and goes to Pakistan to see if his grandfather’s story was just a story. Also, this story has such a beautiful ending.
I gave The New Voices of Fantasy 3 stars overall, because out of a possible 95 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 19 stories) this collection accumulated 60 stars (63%).