A Fantasy Medley 2 by Yanni Kuznia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a short anthology, limited to four stories. All are a continuation of different stories in different worlds. It seems unfair to drop readers into three worlds they're unfamiliar with, but most of the writers managed to turn out something we could follow. I think. I knew the context of the one story I picked this anthology up to read, so I don't know how well it works out of context.
The first story is "Quartered" by Tanya Huff. It's set in a medieval fantasy world where the magic is wielded by bards, and used to control . . . spirits? Ghosts? Semi-incorporeal beings? And thus you see my problem with this story. Many terms are thrown about as if the reader already knows what they mean. By the time I had any grasp on who anyone was or what they were doing, the story was wrapping up. It could've been an excellent story about how a woman lost the use of her legs and how it doesn't slow her down. Instead, it's a near-inscrutable collection of political machinations and personal drama.
"Bone Garden" by Amanda Downum is easier to follow, at least. The perspective character, Gentian, finds his cousin, half-dead and starving, on the doorstep of the theatre where he performs and lives. He's drawn into her family struggles, and stands witness to how the family he turned his back on brings about their own downfall. I felt like the narrative made an about-face when the plot showed up, but otherwise it was an interesting introduction to the world.
"The Sergeant and the General" by Jasper Kent is set in post-Napoleonic France. It's about a lodger in the house of a man literally haunted by his part in the campaign against Russia. The second half of the story gives the context explaining the first half. And it is nicely creepy. It could pass for an ordinary ghost story, if not for its inclusion in a fantasy anthology.
"Rat-Catcher" is the reason I got the book from the library. It tells the story of everyone's favorite Cait Sidhe when he was Rand, a young Prince of Cats living in London in 1666. He watches Shakespeare performances from the rafters of his favorite theatre, and avoids his father as best he can. He's sent to the Divided Courts as an envoy, where he hears a Roane seer tell of a terrible fire coming. Tybalt's life has not been a pleasant, carefree one, and this story does a lot to explain why he's so protective of his subjects, how he learned to fight so viciously, and why he's reluctant to trust. It's a heartbreaking tale, chock full of little worldbuilding details.
Anthologies are tricky things. There are always stories you have to read to get to the one you wanted all along. In this case, there are only three of them, and two of them are rather enjoyable. If there were a way to read "Rat-Catcher" without this anthology, I'd be recommending that method. But, as it's packaged, it could be worse.
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