Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales From Shakespeare’s Fantasy World
By: Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows, Adrian Tchaikovsky
Format/Source: eARC courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley
It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.
Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.
These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.
I’ve been seeing this book around GoodReads quite a bit a few weeks back, which had me immensely curious as I’ve read and enjoyed Shakespeare’s plays and given that this collection was rooted in the fantasy genre, it should make for an interesting read. The only author I’ve read from this collection is Emma Newman (see book review for Between Two Thorns) but I’ve seen Adrian Tchaikovsky’s books on the fantasy shelves and am familiar with Foz Meadows when she was a contributor at A Dribble of Ink. So yeah, I was excited to check this anthology out and was happy to have been approved a copy for review. This book was published on 08 March 2016.
If you mash up all of Shakespeare’s plays together (the big ones, at least) with the magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (review) and The Tempest (review) with characters from Twelfth Night (review), Much Ado About Nothing (review), and Macbeth (review) just to name a few, this book is the result. It was interesting how all of the settings from Shakespeare’s plays were able to co-exist seamlessly in this collection on top of it being set in 17th cetury Europe 😉 All five stories featured in the anthology can work as standalones but the setting and the overarching backstory of growing tensions between King Oberon and Duke Orsino serve as a link between all five tales.
The collection is interesting, each story with its own flavour and take on mashing up different characters from different plays, adding more to their characters, continuing on with certain stories, its take on magic and its impact on growing hostilities between King Oberon and Duke Orsino and other conflicts at work. Foz Meadows’ “Coral Bones” is my favourite from the five as it was very haunting and sombre yet fantastical, Miranda such a strong woman in reclaiming her life and what she wants to do with her life. Kate Heartfield’s “The Course of Love” was also interesting, featuring a witch who not very young and who has to find a way to stop war from erupting in the land. Emma Newman’s “The Unkindest Cut” was also haunting in a way, but you could feel the danger lurking around the corner as Lucia de Medici tries to navigate her way and figure out who deceived her. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Even in the Cannon’s Mouth” really brings the impending war to the forefont as characters from Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It (review), All’s Well That Ends Well (review), and Twelfth Night, along with the darker side of magic come together. And finally Jonathan Barnes’ On the Twelfth Night brings everything to a full circle, involving the bard himself 😉 and his wife, Anne Hathaway.
Overall I really enjoyed reading Monstrous Little Voices. It was a fun romp continuing along into the magical worlds and settings that Shakespeare comprised to set his timeless stories. It’s an added delight if you recognise which characters came from which plays but even if you don’t, it’s okay, it’s still a fun and mad romp through these interconnected stories. Whether you’re a reader of fantasy or of Shakespeare’s works or simply a reader of short stories, it’s definitely an anthology to check out.
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