The first non-themed collection of critically acclaimed author Sarah Monette''s best short fiction. To paraphrase Hugo-award winner Elizabeth Bear's introduction: '"onette's prose is lapidary, her ideas are fantastical and chilling. She has studied the craft of fantastic fiction from the pens of masters and mistresses of the genre. She is a poet of the awkward and the uncertain, exalter of the outcast, the outre, and the downright weird. There is nothing else quite like Sarah Monette's fiction." -Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads
Ok, so this isn't YA. I was getting desperate for another post, and I know there are people who may read this blog occasionally who would love this one. Before this one I had read The Bone Key, her collection of short stories about Kyle Murchison Booth, a sort of supernatural detective. She really captured the feel of Lovecraft's horror in some of those stories, without getting bogged down in the prose or offering faceless narrators. She also has the detective story thing down, and I'd love to see a Mystery! production of Booth's stories, in the same vein as Miss Marple or Poirot.
Both these points, while true, don't do any justice to Monette's own voice as an author, which is distinct, memorable, and masterful. These stories will creep up on you- the language is evocative and conjures up images that will stick with you. The other thing that sets Monette apart, and that many other reviewers have commented on, is the feeling of Otherness embodied by most of her narrators. Her protagonists are, for the most part, outsiders, people who find themselves treading boundaries. To call them quirky would be an insult- they aren't stock characters with a twist, or exploding with irritating eccentricities. They are three-dimensional people, drawn believably but with surprisingly few strokes. Some, like the cops in "A Night in Electric Squidland" and "Impostors," and the aforementioned Booth, are recurring characters. Others, like the courtesan/spy from "Amante Doree" or the heartbroken musician from "Katabasis: Seraphic Trains" (possibly my favorite story), you'll only see for a few brief pages but are unlikely to forget.
I'd recommend this, and The Bone Key, for fans of Neil Gaiman, Margo Lanagan, Charles DeLint, Catherynne M. Valente (the Seraphic Trains story really reminded me of Palimpsest), Lovecraft, Hellboy, Supernatural (not only are there paranormal cop buddies, there's a naive but tetchy angel), urban fantasy, horror, and magic realism.
*A caveat: some of these stories are extremely dark, and not just in the sense that they deal with supernatural beings and gothic situations ("The Séance at Chisholm End" is a fantastic period piece about spirit mediums). No, some of these stories deal openly with some heavy stuff, like the loss of an older brother to Vietnam ("Letters from a Teddy Bear on Veterans Day"), surviving conquest ("A Light in Troy") and trauma ("After the Dragon"), and the horrors of war ("No Man's Land"). Serious trigger warnings for these, especially the last.