Book review · Fantasy · Short fiction

Review: The New Voices of Fantasy, edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman

The New Voices of Fantasy is an anthology of 19 fantasy short stories by a selection of new authors.

I was already familiar with some of them (mainly Alyssa Wong and JY Yang) but I discovered many other writers, and now I want to check out their other works.

As many other anthologies, The New Voices of Fantasy has its ups and downs, with some stories I loved and some I didn’t like; my average rating is 3.35 out of 5. Overall, it was an interesting experience.

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong – 5 stars
This one was a reread for me. It’s one of my favorite stories of all times because of its well-rounded characters and f/f/f love triangle. It’s about Meimei, a vampire-like creature who looks perfectly human, but feeds off violent thoughts; her favorite way to hunt is to look for creeps on Tinder. Alyssa Wong’s writing is beautiful, sharp, surprisingly dark.

Selkie Stories Are For Losers by Sofia Samatar – 3.5 stars
After Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, this was slightly underwhelming – the characters weren’t developed at all, we don’t know much about them. On the other hand, I loved the writing, the atmosphere and the way many different Selkie stories were woven in. Selkie Stories Are For Losers is mostly about family and about leaving. This one also had a f/f romance.

Tornado’s Siren by Brooke Bolander – 3 stars
This one had an interesting premise, but I didn’t like the way it was developed. I guess it was about not settling down and chasing adventures, but it didn’t do anything for me. I really liked the idea, the message and what the story was trying to do with them, but the characterization was almost nonexistent. When the writing is unremarkable (it wasn’t bad by any means, it was just there) I want at least interesting characters.

Left the Century to Sit Unmoved by Sarah Pinsker – 4 stars
I wasn’t familiar with this author, and this story surprised me. It’s about a magic pond that makes people disappear, and the way it affects the people who live near it – who they lost, who they love, why they dive anyway. It’s a story about change, about growing up, or disappearing. It’s atmospheric and mysterious, but the ending is kind of disappointing.

A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone – 3.5 stars
If you think vampire baseball died with Twilight, you’re wrong.
A Kiss With Teeth is a story about a vampire, his wife and his young son, who is struggling at school. The beginning had a lot of potential, then the story took a turn I didn’t like (the main character was stalking a teacher, which I understand – vampire – but that’s probably one of my least favorite aspects of vampire stories). The ending was perfect.

Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon – 5 stars
I had never read anything by Ursula Vernon before, and now I want to read more. Jackalope Wives is one of the best stories in the collection, and I loved everything about it – the Jackalope Wives, the main character, the ending. I didn’t see the twist coming, and it couldn’t have ended any better.
It’s a story about choices, consent and magical creatures.

The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu – 2.5 stars.
Lovely writing, interesting premise, boring execution. It’s about bees, wasps and the politics of hives (and maybe not just hives…), but it didn’t work for me.

The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A.C. Wise – 4 stars
This is exactly what the title says – a guide about the relationships between witches and their homes. It was a lighter read than the previous story, but it had some creepy aspects (the part about the witch who made a home out of herself, mainly). I liked it more than I expected: it made me smile, and I loved the Baba Yaga references.

The Tallest Doll in New York City by Maria Dahvana Headley – 3.25 stars
I was already familiar with Maria Dahvana Headley: I’ve read her YA novel Magonia, and The Tallest Doll in New York City reminded me of it, but I liked this story a lot more. It’s about a building who decides to walk around New York to date the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. It was weird, which I always appreciate, and felt kind of cheesy at times, which I didn’t like as much, but it was still an interesting story.

The Haunting of Apollo A7LB by Hannu Rajaniemi – 3.25 stars.
This is a story about grief, hauntings and black astronauts: a dead astronaut’s moon suit tries to go back to the person who had sewn it, a black woman who was also the dead astronaut’s girlfriend. I really liked the hopeful ending.

Here Be Dragons by Chris Tarry – 1 star
I had to skim this one. It’s my least favorite story in the collection, and I didn’t like anything about it: not the writing, not the themes, not the characters. It’s about men who have to help their wives raise their children, and how that’s supposedly so, so difficult. I don’t know what Here Be Dragons was trying to achieve – if it wanted to subvert misogynistic fantasy tropes, it failed, as the female characters are still ignored by the story itself.

The One They Took Before by Kelly Sandoval – 4.75 stars
I had never heard of this author or this story before, but I liked it a lot. It’s about loneliness, about trying to live a normal life after being abducted by fairies. About addiction and recovery, in a way. It was eerie and sad and well-written and… powerful. Especially that ending.
Also, cats.

Tiger Baby by JY Yang – 4.5 stars.
JY Yang is one of my favorite authors; their Tensorate series is the best novella series I’ve read so far. Tiger Baby is a really unusual, interesting story. It’s difficult to describe, mostly because it was so weird – it’s about a woman who is convinced she is a tiger, and who is obsessed with The Tyger by Blake. It’s about not feeling right in your own skin, and as usual, JY Yang’s writing is beautiful.

The Duck by Ben Loory – 1.5 stars
I didn’t like this one. The writing felt awkward, the story was cliché, and I knew what the ending was going to be the moment I started it. The Duck wouldn’t have been out of place in a children’s book, but it was in this anthology.

Wing by Amal El-Mohtar – 4 stars.
Really cute, well-written, short. I knew I loved Amal El-Mohtar’s writing, and this just confirmed it. It’s about a girl and a book of secrets. I didn’t rate it higher just because I wanted it to be longer.

The Philosophers by Adam Ehrlich Sachs – 1.5 stars
Another one I didn’t like. This story was actually three stories, all about families – men and their families, since there are no women here – all of them pretentious. The “fantasy” aspects were barely there, and I was bored.

My Time Among the Bridge Blowers by Eugene Fischer – 2.5 stars
This is both a fantasy story about a magical culture and a satire of colonialist fiction (the white/white-coded man wants to bring “fame” to a culture he doesn’t know and that he sees as inferior). It had an interesting premise and worldbuilding – there are both magical creatures and people with magical powers – but I thought it was too long.

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado – 3.25 stars
I had heard of Carmen Maria Machado and this short story before, and I have read many good reviews of her collection Her Body and Other Parties. Now I can say that this kind of fiction isn’t for me. The writing was perfect, the symbolism too, but the story could have been half its length and it would have worked anyway. I understand the point, but when I was halfway through The Husband Stitch stopped feeling like a story and started feeling like a list of metaphors about how society is terrible to women, and how women are expected to give everything.

The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn by Usman T. Malik: 3,75 stars.
I really liked this one! I do think it was too long for the collection (it’s a novella, not a short story), but I love multigenerational stories. The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn is about a princess, a jinn and a magical cup, and it’s set both in the United States and in Pakistan. I loved the writing and the ending.

I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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