This is a worthwhile read if only because of Sharon Shinn and Marjorie M. Liu's contributions. 2 out of 4 good reads isn't bad when usually I only like one story out of many in these kinds of anthologies.
Despite the fact that Laurell K. Hamilton's name is 4 times larger than the other authors her contribution is nominal. At a mere 35 pages in length her story is pathetic in comparison to the others and suggests her name is attached to the venture merely to sell more copies. For all that, her story isn't bad per se, just unmemorable. It's an easy, breezy read and somewhat like an Aesop's Fable with the moral being that it is more important to be happy than right.
Yasmine Galnorn's "The Shadow of Mist" is the only contemporary tale and the only one to take place in an already preexisting storyline. Since she draws from her Sisters of the Moon series to people her rather creepy story, she is the only author to not have a fairytale-like quality to her story. This was my least favorite contribution in the book for several reasons. The characters were unlikeable, the story was told in first person which I very rarely like, and it seemed like she didn't put much thought into the development of the plot especially since both the villain and the heroine made some truly sloppy mistakes. In the end I kind of wanted everyone to just die for being so spectacularly stupid.
"The Tangleroot Palace" was my first introduction to Marjorie M. Liu's writing skills. I had labeled her under the genre of mediocre paranormal romances, but I was amazed by how funny she was. The plot was easy to decipher but the wry and lyrical way it was told had me eager to read it and eager to pick up some of her full length novels. It is also very hard to get someone like me to believe in two people falling in love in the space of a mere 90 pages when I often fault novels of far greater length for the lack of chemistry between the two "soulmates" (who fall into bed with each other after a few heated gazes and call it love), but Liu created a true romance.
Sharon Shinn, however, wrote the true gem of this anthology. But she is better known for her scifi/fantasy novels and I dare say she is better at world building and creating a more believable depiction of two people falling in love than many romance writers who rely on the concept that since people who are reading romance novels expect the two main characters to fall in love, then all sense of reality should be suspended and therefore it is okay to have unrealistic immediate attraction leading to equally unrealistic fantastic sex and happily ever after while, of course, people are fleeing for their lives. Call me a cynic but I do so appreciate when an author actually uses her literary skills to make me believe in the characterizations and motivations of the people in her story, instead of relying on the reader to automatically believe. Anyway, Shinn has done a great job, once again, of creating likable characters, a believable world that is gritty and doesn't shy away from hard truths, but still has magic and hope in which to believe. She also knows how to write well in first person! I'm so glad her story was the last taste left in my mouth after finishing this anthology.
Can He Bake a Cherry Pie?
This was a great story. Hamilton has been one of my favorite authors for awhile now and this is something quite different from her usual work. It was an adult fairytale, although still suitable for teens (as are all the stories in the book).
The Shadow of Mist
This is the first I've read by this author, but it was well-done and I look forward to reading more by her. She did a very good job of describing an parallel universe and several important components of that world in just one short story. Even though I haven't read books from the "Otherworld" series, this one gives a very good look at it that makes me want to read more!
The Tangleroot Palace
I found this to be another charming, fairytale-like, story. I've several books by this author that I haven't gotten around to reading yet and this was the first that I have read by her. I'm definitely glad of my impulse buys now as I'm looking forward to reading more from her as her characters were very believable and interesting.
The Wrong Bridegroom
I was a little worried about reading this one, after seeing it's cheesy title, but was glad to be "disappointed" in that regards. It turned out to be a completely delightful read with several twists that I just wasn't expecting. It's definitely another author I will be looking out for!
All the stories in this novel seemed to dwell on gender inequity/discrimination of some kind, usually related to forced marriages and property/inheritance rights for women. Some of the stories were very predictable (the LKH story was predictable but still enjoyable), while the Sharon Shinn story was much more original and enjoyable. The whole anthology was redemned by the Sharon Shinn story at the end of the book, and which justifies the purchase of this item. The Laurell K Hamilton story was short and okay, a bit like her "Strange Candy" short fiction, something different - do not expect Anita or Meredith-like heroines! The two middle stories were below expectations - just not good short stories, more like attempts to play off a larger novel or wandered around too much to draw in the reader. The last short story should have placed at the first or second position in the anthology - I hope other folks didn't give up on this book before getting to "The Wrong Bridegroom" by Sharon Shinn.
I admit that I did not buy this book, but rather borrowed it from the library based on some reviews that I read. With that being said, I was rather pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the stories in this anthology. All of the stories had heroines who were trying to empower themselves and trying to figure out their lives and choices.
Can He Bake a Cherry Pie? - by Laurell K Hamilton, was okay, not the best that I have read from her, but it was entertaining. As other reviewers have stated, it was the shortest of the bunch, but that did not detract from the story.
The Shadow of Mist by Yasmine Galenorn, was another that I thought was a good story. I feel like this may be a part of an established series? I felt like I could have used more of something with this one though - not sure what. This was my first story from this author - I would be willing to try another.
The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu, was good as well. The story had the right amount of sweetness and adventure. Liu has become a favorite of mine - and I have enjoyed her books.
The Wrong Bridegroom by Sharon Shinn was the last in this anthology and my favorite one. I enjoyed this one immensely. I felt like it was the right length - it was engaging, and I loved all the characters. I will definitely be looking for more of this author.
Some of the best short story offerings from favorite authors:
Laurell K Hamilton - one of the best I've read of hers
Yasmine Galenorn - a good read, good plot, well written
Marjorie Liu - new author to me, but after reading this, I started looking for other books of hers
Sharon Shinn - I love everything she's written, and own a lot of them. This story was no exception