September 18th, 2010

short stories

Kiss Me Deadly, edited by Tricia Telep

This anthology of short paranormal romance stories for YA readers has a greater variety of topics than The Eternal Kiss, which was purely about vampire lovers.  Indeed, the three stories I liked best in this anthology don't really count to my mind as paranormal romance at all - all of them contain only subtle romance cues which require a great deal of squinting at in order to see at all.  This is by no means a problem to my mind - all three are excellent YA stories and if a paranormal romance cover & packaging gets them read more widely, then all power to the editor.

"Errant," Diana Peterfreund, Kiss Me Deadly - a smart, thoughtful story which explores the history of Peterfreund's Unicorn Hunters series (Rampant and the upcoming Ascendant). A warrior nun comes to a manor to perform a ceremonial unicorn hunt in honour of the daughter of the house's impending marriage.  I enjoyed the way that the story was all about the growing friendship of those two women, who came from such different worlds and had such different perspectives.  The climax of the story is about empowerment, and challenging the idea that women are property and need a male 'protector.'  The conclusion was far different than I had expected it to be, and I loved the fact that the traditional tropes and ideas of how aristocratic women in particular are "supposed" to behave in historical stories were challenged right to the end.

"The Spy Who Never Grew Up," Sarah Rees Brennan, Kiss Me Deadly - a devastatingly clever and cracky logical extension of the Peter Pan story, in which the boy who never grew up is recruited to serve Queen and Country as a secret agent right out of the spy novel tradition.  Meanwhile, one of Wendy's descendants comes to terms with her family's history with Peter, and insists that her own kidnap to the "land of nightmares" is on her terms.  No one writes charming sociopaths quite as well as Brennan, so it should come as no surprise that she is able to handle the iconic character of Peter Pan, deftly achieving that essential balance of flippancy, earnestness and maniacal selfishness.  She also throws in some very important metacommentary on various social issues from the original story, which made it especially crunchy and enjoyable to read.  Plus, ninja fairies.  NINJA FAIRIES, PEOPLE!

"The Hounds of Ulster," Maggie Stiefvater, Kiss Me Deadly - a story of two punk folk musician teenagers who love each other, but probably not in that way, and how one loses the other to the fairies.  What would otherwise be a slight story punches above its weight thanks to intense characterisation, vivid details, and the sheer power of authorial voice.  I was left feeling rather bereft, as ultimately I think this could be the first chapter of a novel with hope at the end, rather than a brief and rather painful anecdote of loss.