Review copy provided by Tor.
There’s more than one way to put together an anthology. This one seems to be run on the “something for everyone” principle, with big names from various genres and sub-genres all contributing their own sorts of story. (Notably absent: writers whose primary focus is short stories. This happens in a lot of short story anthologies. I raise an eyebrow every time. Only a few stories in this volume were of the format “outtakes from novel series characters we presume you like,” though, which is one of my large complaints about novelist-only short story anthologies.) This makes it hard to imagine that there is any reader who couldn’t find at least one or two stories to like; on the other hand, it’s also hard for me to imagine such an amiable reader that all the stories would please them. But with over 700 pages of original fiction, I don’t think anybody could feel cheated if they didn’t like everything in this volume.
Nor, in fact, did my own preferences follow the lines of “authors I have liked before,” or at least not strictly so. I tried reading Joe Abercrombie when my grandfather was in the hospital dying. Ahahaha not recommended. But his story in this anthology, while filled with as many happy bunnies and teddy bear picnics as one might imagine in the rest of his body of work, was engaging and charming, a portrait of an outlaw getting herself into and out of trouble.
I also enjoyed several of the stories outside the speculative genres. Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken” with its portrait of near-lethal strain on a relationship after a kidnapping kept me guessing about what it would reveal about its protagonists to the very end. Carrie Vaughn’s “Raisa Stepanova” was solid historical fiction from an era we don’t see much of in the US (WWII Russia–I can’t speak to whether there’s a huge body of work that’s not getting translated on this topic, but if so, somebody speak to the translators, there was a lot of interesting stuff then). Pat Cadigan’s “Caretakers” also addressed topics not seen enough in fiction, with middle-aged sibling relationships intersecting with eldercare and thriller plots/themes, and Sharon Kay Penman drew me in for a slice of her usual period in a somewhat different location for “A Queen in Exile.”
So…it’s looking like the stand-out stories skewed more female and less speculative than the anthology as a whole, for me. Interesting, given the topic.