Publication Date: July 7, 2014
An anthology of 11 fantasy and paranormal short stories by popular authors: “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela” by Saladin Ahmed (author of Throne of the Crescent Moon), “The Children of the Shark God” by Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn) , “Misery” & “Shadow Children” by Heather Brewer (author of Vladimir Tod), “Even Hand” by Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files), “Red Run” by Kami Garcia (author of Beautiful Creatures), “Pale Rider” & “The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones” by Nancy Holder (author of Wicked), “Frost Child” and “South” by Gillian Philip (author of Rebel Angels) and “A Knot of Toads” by Jane Yolen (author of Owl Moon).
The editor of this anthology, Henry Herz, gave me a copy in exchange for participating in this blog tour.
I am a huge fan of “The Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher so when the editor of the piece approached me to write a review, that author was the one I was most looking forward to reading. I’d heard of some of the others, but had never read them and wasn’t really interested in learning more about that work. Everything changed upon finishing this wonderfully laid out anthology. The stories leave readers wanting more when they shift to the next, but the arrangement makes for a good flow while the sameness of dark tone peppered with humor keeps readers in the moment.
My favorite story was by Jim Butcher. As many authors do, he chose to use his anthology story to expand on a character from the Dresden world. Johnny Marcone is a mobster who makes life more interesting for Harry Dresden and Butcher gives us a closer look at his character in “Even Hand”. Butcher shows the readers Marcone’s view of himself as a professional monster and yet shows us a deeper side that has to be consciously kept at bay. In a classic economy of words, Butcher gives us a compelling story that easily stands on its own while thrilling existing fans.
Another favorite was “Misery” by Heather Brewer. Brewer has two stories in this anthology and while her second story hits low on my list, I loved “Misery”. Misery is one of those dark and foreboding towns where everyone seems to pretend nothing is wrong. Alek is to receive a gift and he’s nervous though no one has ever received a gift they didn’t like. A character named Virginia hopes that her gift is color for her roses and the way Brewer poses the scene leaves the reader with a thrill of knowledge that something really horrible is likely to come our way. The framework and feeling left is like the build up in the most terrifying horror movie. Brewer’s ending is just breathtakingly brilliant.
“The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones” by Nancy & Belle Holder was a great way to finish the anthology. It was nice and light and fun. The author’s crafted a classic story (Dracula) and set it at sea using mice so there’s a “Secret of Nimh” gone wrong feeling throughout and it was just wonderfully hilarious. Miss Lightning Merriemouse-Jones is a Penelope Pitstop for a new generation.
All of the stories in Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology are wonderfully crafted and trhoughly engaging. I will seek out further works by many of the authors featured including Heather Brewer and Nancy Holder. While “Red Run” by Kami Garcia was very interesting, it’s not a story that will lead me to rush up to my daughter’s room and grab “Beautiful Creatures” off of the bookshelf. “Red Run” was a good story for a one-off, but not something to lure this particular reader. Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology is for readers who like wonderfully dark stories.
If you’re a fan of fantasy or the paranormal, I urge you to buy Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology today. It’s a delightful look into a scarier world than our own with delicious flashes of brilliance from the authors. I’m a huge fan of short stories and fantasy in general and Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology falls directly into the wheelhouse of fans of those genres.
Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology was published by Birch Tree Publishing. Check out their website to buy the novel directly from the publishing company and for listings of other great works.