ARC provided by Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.
“We knew this day would come. We tried to warn the others. It was obvious either the sharp rate of our technological advancement would lead to the robot singularity claiming lordship over all, or that the fairies would finally grow tired of our reckless destruction of the natural world and take it back from us.”
First off, this anthology has the best introduction I’ve ever read in maybe any book ever! It is actual perfection in every single way. Overall, I really, really, really enjoyed this! But it is a bit of a mixed bag, I do suppose! Some of these were so amazing, where others are ones that I will probably not remember or carry with me. But I do also believe there is something here for everyone to love, whether you are #TeamFairies or #TeamRobots!
And even though most of you know that I am very much #TeamFairies, my personal favorite in the whole collection is a robot story! All the Time We’ve Left to Spend by Alyssa Wong is a masterpiece. This story is beautiful, haunting, and oh so heart-wrenching. I will carry it with me forever. I loved every single aspect of it. I think this story alone makes this anthology completely worth buying and worth reading this entire collection. One of my favorite short stories of all time.
I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!
“We were always on your side. Unfortunately, half of the authors in this anthology chose poorly, but the other half always knew you would emerge triumphant.”
🦋 = TEAM FAIRIES
🤖 = TEAM ROBOTS
➽ 🦋 BUILD ME A WONDERLAND by Seanan McGuire – ★★★★★
This story guys, this freakin’ story! Okay, we get to travel through an enchanted garden, a mermaid grotto, a pixie glen, and more during this amazing short story that is set in a magical theme park that makes you question everything. This was such a strong start to this collection, and proved that I’m Team Fairies forever. You guys all probably know that I love Seanan McGuire, but you probably don’t know that I also love Kobolds! From spending such a big chunk of my life leveling up humans in WoW, to being unnaturally excited for the new Hearthstone expansion, to falling even more in love with Kings of the Wyld because they were an amazing part of the story; I love Kobolds. And this story is perfection.
➽ 🤖 QUALITY TIME by Ken Liu – ★★★
This is story about a man who majored in folk lore, but is joining a very prestigious and innovative company in their robotics department. This company wants to break the mold and find solutions for what other companies deem impossible. Then comes the Vegnor; a rat-like robot that is marketed to every busy homeowner to take care of their pests and other small things. This is beautifully written, and really opens up a good discussion on how far we will eventually let technology advance and go. And more importantly: more technology isn’t always the best solution.
➽ 🦋 MURMURED UNDER THE MOON by Tim Pratt – ★★★★★
Oh my word, this was glorious queer book-loving fairy perfection! Emily has been working at a fairy library for two years, where she met her girlfriend who is part book. The fae princess that is in charge of the library is being manipulated by a mortal man, and it is up to Emily and a few fae folk to break the spell. This story also dabbles into the different fae courts, their weakness to iron, their glamour, and other things that warmed my heart and made the story shine with Tim Pratt’s obvious love for fairies.
➽ 🤖 THE BLUE FAIRY’S MANIFESTO by Annalee Newitz – ★★
This is a really smart story that weaves together robots and politics into a Pinocchio retelling! This tale centers in on a toy-shop, where many different kinds of robots are made. From anarchists, to pacifists, to socialists, we have a full range of different thinking mechanical beings, but it just didn’t work for me for some reason. Yet, it was so different that I’m happy it was a part of this collection.
➽ 🦋 BREAD AND MILK AND SALT by Sarah Gailey – ★★★
This was so very beautifully written, and very eerie, haunting, and just downright spooky. The first half of this story immersed me more than most things I’ve ever read. I couldn’t stop reading this tale. From giving the fae gifts of bread and milk and salt, to being bonded by blood, to becoming what you never expected, this story was so captivating. But for some reason the ending wasn’t satisfying enough for me. But her writing was enthralling, powerful, and evocative, I instantly went and bought River of Teeth.
➽ 🤖 IRONHEART by Jonathan Maberry – ★★★
This was a very sad story. Like, I cried while reading most of this one. But it wasn’t only sad, it was eerie, and haunting, and pretty powerful. We watch a young man who is forced to live a much different life than he was expecting. He lives on a farm with his loving grandparents, who can barely afford to make ends meet. And their farm is mostly run by robots that are out of date and dying. There is also a beautiful discussion on the military and how veterans are treated once they are home and have taken off their uniform. The author also brings up the healthcare crisis that we are all currently facing here in America. This was an expertly woven story, and I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon.
➽ 🦋 JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG by Kat Howard – ★★
A banshee girl who sings of death meets a gancanagh boy who sings of love, while all the while other fae folk are coming up missing. I didn’t really enjoy this one, just because I thought it was rather predictable! But I did enjoy that there was a side character who was an agoraphobiac.
➽ 🤖 SOUND AND FURY by Mary Robinette Kowal – ★★★
Okay, at this point I am starting to feel like all the robot stories have important and relevant issues just woven into their tales. This is a science fiction story where a crew is taking a giant robot to a planet for reasons unknown. The short story quickly turns into a story about colonization and stripping cultures from Native people. It was pretty expertly done, and I’m so impressed that these short tales are making me feel so much.
➽ 🦋 THE BOOKCASE EXPEDITION by Jeffrey Ford – ★
Yikes, okay, I know this is going to sound harsh, but I just didn’t care about this story at all. A man is able to see tiny, small, fae folk around his home. He watches them explore the bookshelves, all while name dropping tons of different books and authors, and then he watches them fight both demons and spiders and anything else! This story was just not my cup of tea at all, unfortunately.
➽ 🤖 WORK SHADOW/SHADOW WORK by Madeline Ashby – ★★★★
I really, really enjoyed this. And this story really centers on the believing in something is very powerful. Naming something and loving something and putting your faith in something is more powerful than words. And this is a story about a robot assistant taking care of a semi-famous human, who many consider a witch, but who believes in fairies and elves and other magical creatures. I loved how this story incorporated both fairies and robots, and was just such a whimsical and beautiful tale about the power of believing in something with your whole heart.
➽ 🦋 SECOND TO THE LEFT, AND STRAIGHT ON by Jim C. Hines – ★★★★
This is, like, an alternate retelling of Peter Pan, but it’s set after the events of Peter Pan, and Tinker Bell is very much not dead. In fact, she and her “Found Girls” are a cult like group that steal little girls that are very much loved. You know, sort of the opposite of what Peter and the Lost Boys did. And we follow someone who is on a mission to save the most recent missing girl, and also to get closure for something personal. I feel like this may be a three star story, but the twist at the end was so damn good that I feel like it really deserved an extra star. Also, this was a really clever tale and I did really enjoy it.
➽ 🤖 THE BURIED GIANT by Lavie Tidhar – ★★★
I’m very torn on a three or four star rating for this one, just because I was so engaged while reading this. I couldn’t put it down. I also love how this not only celebrated robots and fairies, but it also had the unique aspect of a human wanting to be robotic. This is also a story about stories, where our main character is learning about a famous tale that has been passed down over time from both an Elder in his community and from his Grandmother. And the story is about what seems like one of the last human boys on Earth, living in a world that is now overrun by Robots, some of which who are hunting humans. This tale also hinted at a fuller length story about a two minor side characters and I am so here for it. I really enjoyed this one and I’m so happy to be introduced to this author from this anthology!
➽ 🤖 THREE ROBOTS EXPERIENCE OBJECTS LEFT BEHIND FROM THE ERA OF HUMANS FOR THE FIRST TIME by John Scalzi – ★
It pains me to give something by Jon Scalzi one star, but this just felt and read so lazy. Basically, three robots are discovering and discussing human items (balls, sandwiches, cats, and xbox) and wondering how humans used them. That’s it. This story tries way too hard to be funny, and then ends trying to pack an emotional punch about global warming and the climate crisis we are choosing to ignore right now. But it felt so bad when you’re trying to do this in six pages, and five of those are wasted on bad jokes.
➽ 🦋 OSTENTATION OF PEACOCKS by Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila Bowen – ★★
Okay, this was a hard one for me, too. This is a western fairy story, and I just don’t think the combination really mixed well for me personally. Like, Billy the Kid makes an appearance in here! And then I felt a little hopeful, because I thought we were going to have a nonbinary character, but I don’t think that was the case, but it gave me the hope for it, then the letdown. But yeah, this is basically a story about a magical shapeshifter, who is trying to protect another shapeshifter (in possum form), who is being hunted by fairy men that disguise themselves as country humans. It was just… too far out there for me, I’m sorry. Also, please let me know if you were picking up on the gender fluid aspect, too!
➽ 🤖 ALL THE TIME WE’VE LEFT TO SPEND by Alyssa Wong – ★★★★★
Oh my word, this was utter and pure perfection. I will never forget this story, ever. This story is centered around an alternate future where we have realistic cyborg celebrity robots, who have many memories stored, working in pleasure hotels, where you can spend time with them for money. Our main protagonist, Ruriko, is obsessed with spending time with a kpop group that passed away ten years ago, while trying to learn all the information she can about their memories. This story is beautiful. This story is haunting. This story is oh so heart-wrenching. I loved this. I loved this so very much. Easily my favorite in the entire collection.
➽ 🦋 ADRIFTICA by Maria Dahvana Headley – ★★
This is a scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream, but retold in a modern contemporary setting. Titania and Oberon are dealing with their custody battle, but with a rock and roll twist to it. I know this sounds really cool, and the uniqueness is completely why I’m giving this two stars, but the writing style was very much not for me. Though, this was very clever, and I’m sure many others will enjoy it much more than I did.
➽ 🤖 TO A CLOVEN PINE by Max Gladstone – ★★
Okay, this was just a really confusing tale for me. So much of it just went completely over my head, and you guys will completely love it when you get to the ending, but I was left really underwhelmed because of the confusion I felt starting out. This short story starts out with four beings that are fleeing their ship in space, while being chased by “the Witch”. Then, one of the members starts acting very strange and goes missing. And then the ending really brings the story together with a big revelation, but maybe this story was just too epic and too condensed for me to really enjoy it.
➽ 🦋 A FALL COUNTS ANYWHERE by Catherynne M. Valente – ★★★★
You all, this is a WWF fairy vs robot match! Like, Catherynne M. Valente took the meaning of this book really literally, but she is team fairies (who isn’t) and really wrote a fantastic and unique story that I really enjoyed. This is also narrated partially by a fairy announcer and a robot announcer. Yet, this was my problem with the story, and the reason I ultimately didn’t give this five stars: I hated that the robot announcer spoke all in caps. I completely understand this was a good way to be able to differentiate between the two voices, but it just felt so bad to read. I really didn’t like. But this story was so very great, I loved the twist, and it proves how fairies truly are the most clever characters in all of literature.
I gave Robots vs. Fairies three stars overall, because out of a possible 90 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 18 stories) this collection accumulated 54 stars (60%).
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.