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on 23 December 2013
Note: Part of LibraryThings Early Reviewers

This collection of shorts selected from Apex magazine completely blew me away. Usually I find anthologies a mixed bunch erring on average but these stories shine with innovation and emotion. So many ideas, so much talent that collide and bounce and excite the reader, well this reader who gulped it down in one go. It's not overwhelming, it's delightful and refreshing and it kept me company throughout a long hard journey. I am gushing because these stories were the passengers that journeyed with me, Ok there were the odd merely OK tale, a few (out of the 33) that didn't gel or I felt didn't work.

I was enticed by names such as Catherynne M Valente, Cat Rambo, Lavie Tidhar, (oddly he wrote my least favourite story) & Genevieve Valentine but I have a list of new authors to seek out, people like Mari Nessrote, Kat Howard and Adam Troy-Castro.

It was the sheer constant enjoyment that gives this collection a high rating, not one story over the other. I cannot pick a favourite Still an anthology review is incomplete without those glimpses of subjects and so:

We open with Catherynne M Valente's beautiful tale of a banished demon "The demon arrived before the town. She fell out of a red oak in the primeval forest that would eventually turn into Schism Street and Memorial Square into a white howl of snow and frozen sea-spray. She was naked, her body branded with four-spoked seals, wheels of banishment, and the seven psalms of hell"

Before moving onto the things that live in the dark in a Welsh mining town and are drawn to lonely singing. A love lost and gained "From the pithead to the house, the voices rise, sing of no mines, but of valleys, of streams, of the world of light. No songs of the mines. No songs of the dark. It's not done, to sing of the dark." - In the Dark by Ian Nichols

We feel the lonely ache of an age ending as we the hunt the last dragon with the last mage in a forgotten and obsolete war before our hope is rekindled in a wedding between heaven and hell. A wedding that holds last glimpse of reconciliation after all the realities that apocalyptically failed. We see never ending wars of the undead and mothers cut down their daughters in a familiar mythic Labyrinth whilst jealous sisters fight for a house after Hurricane Katrina and girls solve murders amongst never ending Fae dances. We have philosophical thoughts of worlds ending and laughs as newly born deities get comfortable with their smiting (and their pandas).

Oh so highly recommended. Admittedly I must share very similar tastes to Thomas's to get such high a hit rate and you might not, plus I might be over enthused by the whole cumulative effect of such great stories. Still I think there is something here for anyone who loves the fantastical with enough variety to make anyone happy.
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