The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories. ★★★★
This collection of short stories is one of the strongest I’ve seen in a while; definitely the strongest I’ve yet read in 2017.
This collection takes stories by twenty-two authors from all over the world, all dealing in some form with the djinn – the fantastical beings of smoke and fire. I picked up this collection due to some authors who’s work I was already familiar with – Neil Gaiman, Claire North, Amal El-Mohtar, Helene Wecker, and Nnedi Okorafor. Turns out, most of my favorite stories were by authors who were new to me. Oh, and the Neil Gaiman story was an excerpt from American Gods, so don’t pick this collection up based on him.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson. ★★★★
I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson’s interrelated worlds – the Cosmere. Obviously, I had to read this collection of shorter Cosmere stories (short stories and novellas). While it took me a while to get to it, better late than never!
This collection is probably not a great starting point to those unfamiliar with Sanderson’s Cosmere work. While some of the stories stand independently, many tie in to his novels. In particular, you really need to have read the original Mistborn trilogy before reading Mistborn: Secret History. I would instead suggest The Emperor’s Soul or Sixth of Dusk as shorter Cosmere works that can be read on their own. Or The Way of Kings, Elantris, or Mistborn: The Final Empire if you’d prefer to start with a novel.
The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus. ★★★1/2
In these stories, Maurice Broaddus speaks with the voices of martyrs – past, present, and future. The anthology is divided accordingly into these sections. All or almost all of these stories involve some fantasy or science fiction element. Personally, I found I liked the future stories the best.
The collection begins with “Warrior of the Sunrise Rite of Passage,” the tale of a woman warrior in a long ago Africa, battling strange and ferocious monsters. From there, the collection moves to areas of the past that are more easily pinpointed in history books. “Rite of Passage” tells of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In “Ah Been Buked,” a young woman survives slavery in the American South. “A Solider’s Story” is narrated by a vampire who witnesses the unspeakable destruction of a town’s black community. And in “Shadow Boxing” an up and coming boxer fights against segregation. I’m not one hundred percent sure if “Rite of Passage” and “Shadow Boxing” had speculative elements, but they’re the outliers in that regard.
Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron. ★★★★
Island of Exiles is a survival focused YA fantasy novel that may appeal to fans of The Hunger Games.
The desert island of Shiara is a harsh world where allegiance to the clan means all. Khya, a young warrior, has ambitions to the council that helps the immortal elders rule the clan. Only one thing can rival Khya’s loyalty to the clan… her loyalty to her younger brother. So when her brother is endangered, Khya faces a choice that will reshape everything she knows about her world.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg returns to the fantastical universe she created in her first graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. However, The One Hundred Nights of Hero involves all new characters and stands completely alone. The two graphic novels can be read in any order.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero opens with a bet between two men. One complains that he can never find a woman who meets his criteria, the most important of which is that she will be chaste and loyal. His friend disagrees. He knows exactly such a woman – his wife Cherry. And so the bet is formed. The husband will leave for one hundred nights, giving his friend the opportunity to try and seduce Cherry. And if seduction fails, he may very well turn to more brutal methods.
Long Hidden edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. ★★★ 1/2
Long Hidden is a speculative fiction anthology focusing on the those marginalized by history – people of color, queer people, disabled people, women, ect. The stories are set in different periods and locals throughout Earth’s history, and all of them involve some fantastical element.
Long Hidden was of fairly average quality when it came to short story collections. There’s a number of stories I liked, a lot that left me cold, and a few that I struggled with. I doubt it will take long for me to forget the vast majority of the stories in Long Hidden. The one exception is my favorite story of the collection, Ken Liu’s “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring,” a dark tale of two women struggling to survive as their city is invaded. For all its brutality, “Knotting Grass, Holding Ring” also managed to create some beauty.
Clean by Alex Hughes. ★★★
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that managed to give me so many mixed feelings!
The narrator of Clean is a drug addicted telepath. After getting kicked out of the Telepath’s Guild, he makes a living by working for police, mainly by using his telepathic powers to tease information out of suspects during interviews. But his routine begins to fall to pieces when a new killer starts stalking Atlanta and he’s called upon to help investigate. All signs point to the killer having some form of psychic powers, but otherwise clues are sparse.