Tim Pratt is perhaps best known for his Marla Mason novels and for good reason -- they're fun, rollicking reads with a smart, complicated protagonist that you can really root for. But for readers who aren't familiar with his shorter work (or with Pratt at all), Hart & Boot & Other Stories is a wonderful place to begin.
This collection, showcasing much of Pratt's earlier published work, includes 13 stories that blend the flavors of fantasy, mythology, science fiction, westerns, fairy tales, and lit fiction into a delightful reading experience. Some of the stories show off Pratt's "Mason" voice -- that quirky style that is imbued with wit and a tiny bit of snark -- but other stories go off in new directions, giving readers a taste of just how skillfully diverse Pratt's voice is. The stories, their themes and characters, often turn traditional tropes on their heads. "Life in Stone" is perhaps my favorite-ever story of Pratt's and is worth the cost of the book for its originality and strength of premise alone.
Characters you can root for, put into situations where they are probably going to lose something or someone, having to make the most difficult choice of their lives: that's part of what makes a great story in any genre, and Pratt is one of the masters of giving us exactly that. Whether the protagonists are criminals in the very weirdest old west, voice actors who live with harpies, or little boys who find girls in glass caskets, they're the kind of characters you want to root for, even as you watch them lose their way.
Overall, Hart & Boot and Other Stories is a great book to dip into again and again, especially when you want something that will take you to original worlds with characters who will touch you, heart and soul.