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on 1 August 2014
4.5 stars - This is an absolutely fantastic collection of fantasy stories aimed at older Young Adults written by top-notch authors that all centre around the abstract theme of that thin veil that separates our world from the beyond. With most anthologies as a reader I always expect a mixed bag with perhaps a dud or two but Beyond the Pale is without exception the best collection of short stories I've read this year and this is my 10th. The stories range from great to excellent. Most of the authors I had heard of, several I'd already read and the others I would read again. A couple of my all-time favourite authors are included here also: Peter S. Beagle and Jane Yolen. Superb!

1. Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed (2009) - A fine story to open this collection with! Hard to describe its genre as just what exactly but mostly it resembles a tale of the Arabian Nights with touches of Frankenstein, mythological creatures or perhaps demons and a narrative similar to Dracula's Jonathan Harker as he tells the tale of his strange journey and the summons he receives. Well done! (4/5)

2. The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle (2010) - I love this author and have read a lot of his work. This story grabbed me from the first paragraph as I entered the folkloric story of the shark god. The plot is quite simple and basic, one done many times, of the god transforming into human form, taking a maiden as his wife and siring offspring, here it is twins. He only returns to visit the wife once a year but the children are never told who their father is. It is Beagle's magical writing that transcends this tale beyond the typical plot. It is beautiful and ends up dealing with death (as much of his work does) and the selfishness of wallowing in one's own grief over the death of a loved one. Lovely! (5/5)

3. Misery by Heather Brewer (2012) - Misery is a small town but no one knows how it got its name. Certainly no one is ever miserable. They are all quite jolly, to a degree. They do wish, perhaps that Misery had colours, like somewhere they've been before, but no, Misery is black, white and shades of grey. And every year every one has a day when they get a Gift from the one with the psychic connection able to give the Gifts. Alek is afraid his Gift will be bad this year, not because it has ever happened to anyone before, but because he has an inner sense about it. And when Alek receives his Gift it is something the gift giver has only given once before. Nothing. (not just *not* a present). Nothingness. The absence of being... Creepy. Loved it (5/5)

4. Shadow Children by Heather Brewer (2010) - This is a new author for me so I was hoping this would be as good as the previous story by her, and no disappointment here. Total creep-out! Little brother Jon is afraid of the monsters in his room at night and big brother Dax is stuck babysitting him. Dax thinks to let Jon "cry it out" leaving him in the dark a little longer but the piercing scream sends him running. Then the two of them are battling not their just their own lives but the lives of the entire human race. Creepy!! (5/5)

5. Evan Hand by Jim Butcher (2010)- I'm not a Dresden Files reader; tried the first book and it didn't work for me. This story takes place in that world and is told by Marcone. It's an ok story about the underworld involving demons, etc and has a bit of a Cal MacDonald vibe. But Cal is waaay better. Harry is not actually in this story. First story I didn't love. (3/5)

6. Red Run by Kami Garcia (2012)- Oh, a ghost story! A girl goes out along a haunted road at night to get the ghost who has killed six people over the years including her older brother. Really, really, really good. Everything a ghost story needs and very tense at the end, not knowing what is going to happen. I hadn't heard of this author before. (5/5)

7. Pale Rider by Nancy Holder (2012) - Awesome! This is longer than any others yet and could be the story the title of the anthology is based on. This story actually feels very much like the prologue of a novel; it is so in depth, and even though it ends perfectly a whole novel could follow up from the story. Eight years after the end of the world a an African-American girl is found by a German young man and taken to Germany, there she discovers her magical talent and together they search for the answers that caused the great apocalypse. Wonderful fantasy about fairies and goblins. (5/5)

8. Frost Child by Gillian Philip (2011) - This starts with an editor's note explaining the story is a prequel to the author's novel "Firebrand". It is a haunting story of how a little girl came to be found and brought back to her own people and yet she is quite different. A tale of the Sithe, witches and kelpies. The girl is a fascinating creature but there is a darkness about her that is not evil, but uncomfortable. Well-written. I haven't read this author before (4/5)

9. South by Gillian Philip (2012) - Another haunting story of the sea but selkies this time. I love selkies! A generational story of a man who falls in love with a selkie, their daughter and eventually her son, his grandchild. A beautiful story, told skillfully with just a hint of darkness in the atmosphere. Selkies are my absolute favourite mythological creature. Both of these stories were good. I will have to look into this author. (4/5)

10. A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen (2005) - Fantastic! I'm a long-time fan of Jane Yolen and this tale of witches, curses and days of yore is spellbinding. There are three knots mentioned in the tale and as each is recognised and undone in it's own way, a family loosens the ties the Old Witches have on them but not before the current patriarch is frightened to death by what he has found out. Wonderful! (5/5)

11. The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy & Belle Holder (2006) - As the editor's note proclaims the book will finish off like any great meal with a "light dessert". This is a fun, cute reimagining of the Dracula story but peopled with mice and rats. The story concentrates on the storm at sea and the count's attacks upon Lightning (Lucy). Cute. (4/5)
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on 3 September 2014

I was given an opportunity to take part in a book tour for Beyond the Pale and given the authors involved in this piece of work jumped at the chance. I love the way the book starts out with a definition of what the phrase ‘beyond the pale’ actually means – long story short it actually means to go beyond the boundaries of safety!! I like that. In fact the introduction got me off to a great start. Not to mention that cover. Just feast your eyes on it. It’s simply gorgeous.

The line up is as follows:

Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed
The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle
Misery by Heather Brewer
Shadow Children by Heather Brewer
Even Hand by Jim Butcher
Red Run by Kami Garcia
Pale Rider By Nancy Holder
Frost Child by Gillian Philip
South by Gillian Philip
A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen
The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones
by Nancy & Belle Holder

There is undoubtedly much to choose from here and frankly I enjoyed all the stories for very different reasons.

The opening story is a great start involving a hermit and his wife and the man who they seek help from in order to achieve their dream. An unusual tale – prepare yourself for demons!

Then move from demons to Gods and encounter the Shark God and the results of his love affair with a mortal woman.

Misery was completely intriguing. A compelling little number about a strange town where each year the residents are given a gift – unfortunately this doesn’t always result in happiness as Alek is about to discover – he has a bad feeling this year!

Then be prepared to cast back in time as the Shadow Children recall your childhood fears. What does lurk in the shadows? Are there monsters under the bed or hiding in the closet. Maybe! Will you check it out or are you trembling under the covers!

Even Hand is Jim Butcher’s contribution and contains a story showing a completely different side to Dresden’s nemesis Marcone. We see something of a softer underbelly in this story although it ultimately doesn’t bode well for Harry. Fans of the Dresden series will love this story. I certainly did.

We then move to a story called Red Run. This is an excellent and creepy little addition where a young girl sets out on a mission of revenge. To avenge the death of her brother who died out on Red Run – a route that most people, sensible people, never use after sunset! There’s always one!!!

Pale Rider is an unusual tale about tortured souls and a strange world infected and blighted by Goblin and Fae magic leaking between two worlds.

Frost Child and South are Gillian Philip’s additions to the book. The first a prequel to the absolutely fantastic Rebel Angel series which gives a little bit more background into Lilith and Griogair and their first deathly encounter. The second a tale of selkies. Can Philips write? Oh yes. Totally evocative. I adore her writing. It’s dark and powerful and she can make you see the beauty of the landscape in one sentence and totally give you the chills about a character in the next. Fans of Firebrand simply must read Frost Child and for that matter South – after all there aren’t enough stories about selkies!

I also really enjoyed A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen which is full of superstition, people willingly refusing to see what is in front of them and witches. I love stories of witches so this one definitely caught my fancy. Plus the toad shadows dancing on the walls – just read it and you’ll understand!

Finally we conclude with a rather cheeky little take on Stoker’s Dracula.

All in all – an excellent collection of stories with magic, demons, gods, ghosts, witches, – and, well frankly, a pretty comprehensive grouping of the supernatural.

Now, reading this was a bit of an eye opener for me. I’ve read a number of anthologies and readily admit that short stories are not always my thing. I want something to sink my teeth into as a rule. I want character development, history, world building and plot and it’s pretty difficult to attempt this in just a few pages. So, what was the difference with Beyond the Pale. I think two things – firstly, this is a really good collection of stories from some awesome authors. It almost puts me in mind of bedtime tales or tales that you sit and talk about round a camp fire! They feel like real tales that people would tell, Urban myths! I think the second thing, and a bit of a revelation for me, was to take my time with this story and read the stories individually over time instead of attempting to gobble them all down in one sitting. It made me feel nostalgic reading them in that way, not because they’re anything like Red Riding Hood or Rapunzel – but more because they put me back in time to when I used to love tales being told. Strangely, I always preferred the creepy little numbers that my gran told as opposed to the more conventional stories! Go figure.
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on 18 August 2014
Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed was weird in parts. Creepy, intriguing and clever though. The slightly far-fetched gives a magical feel to it. 3/5
The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle is a story that you need to let your imagination go wild with. I do wish the Shark God reacted differently. 3/5
Misery by Heather Brewer was a miserable story. Misery wasn't just the name of the town, it was everywhere and in everything. Wasn't my thing though. 2/5
Shadow Children by Heather Brewer was the second story by this author. It was a ton better too. It may have been short but it was creeptastic! 4/5
Even Hand by Jim Butcher started out with mobsters and I knew I was in. It ended with paranormal though and somehow still worked. 4/5
Red Run by Kami Garcia was my favorite in the book. It had a very powerful opening that pulls you in deep. Scared the crap out of me too. By now, you all know, that's what I love. 5/5
Pale Rider by Nancy Holder I wanted more from. The ending didn't work for me at all. There was cool elements, but not enough to say I liked it. 2/5
Frost Child by Gillian Philip is a fast paced fantasy that kept my attention from start to finish. 4/5
South by Gillian Philip is the second story she contributed to the book. It was really peculiar. I just didn't get it or like it at all. 1/5
A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen is a story I loved! Had a great lesson; things are not always what they seem. 4/5
The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy and Belle Holder is a second story for Nancy Holder. This one is co-written though. It reminded me of the movie American Tale or Feivel Goes West. The story is about mice and that is reminiscent of this story too. It was a very cute tale, with a twist. 3/5

All-in-all it is a decent read with many things to attract the reader. I definitely know a bunch of people that would enjoy it.
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on 1 August 2014
I was delighted to receive an advance copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. First off, I have to say that I love fantasy and it has always been a favourite genre of mine. This book is a compilation of short stories, something I very seldom read. I was a little apprehensive but I'm glad I received this book and it has changed my opinion of short stories completely. I always thought of short stories as being too short to actually capture the mind or attention. I didn't feel that they would build the characters or allow me to become engrossed. I was terribly wrong and Beyond the Pale has proven that to me.

Beyond the Pale contains eleven dark fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors:

Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed
The Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle
Misery by Heather Brewer
Shadow Children by Heather Brewer
Even Hand by Jim Butcher
Red Run by Kami Garcia
Pale Rider by Nancy Holder
The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy Holder
Frost Child by Gillian Philip
South by Gillian Philip
A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen

All of these short stories have their own merits and selling points and they all capture your attention and draw you in from the first paragraph. What really surprised me was the depth in the characters and how even with a short story you could become them, feel their emotions, go through their trials and tribulations and endure what they faced. The authors wrote each story beautifully and the words flowed with ease. I actually found myself wanting more and that is always a good thing. One of stories that really stood out for me is “The Children of the Shark God” by Peter S. Beagle. This was beautifully written and flowed really well. It was a strange tale but one that fully took over as the pages turned. The emotions that consumed me and drew me into the story were ones that I would normally only find in a full length novel. I was amazed at how much a short story could grip me and yet still provide a complete tale. This really was a true work of art and the story was something I had never read before. It wasn't a rehash of Twilight or vampire romance. It wasn't a shape-shifting or werewolf tale; it was something totally different and new and there is an excerpt below for those interested in reading some of it.

All in all, this book is definitely one for my collection and one that I know I will recommend to friends. It is one that I can pull out when I need a quick read that will completely absorb my mind and take me to a new world of fantasy, where anything is possible. I also know that I will be diving into the novels of these best-selling authors too because their work is truly amazing and they have mastered the art of creating believable characters that draw you in and allow you to become part of their lives.

I really enjoyed the stories contained in this anthology and each one is so different. They are memorable and will stick with you for quite some time after reading and there are a few that will have you questioning yourself and your beliefs too. You will find stories about Gods, ghosts, magic and so much more in this collection and there really is something for everyone.

Beyond the Pale is a great collection and one that has proven to me that short stories can bring just as much reading pleasure as a full length novel when written in the manner of those in this book.
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on 6 January 2016
I loved this whole anthology, every single story was so different and so interesting. Not one was the same and it was great. Plus ending with a version of Dracula with mice? Absolutely bloody brilliant
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