melissajm: Cover for Between Worlds, by Melissa Mead, from Double Dragon Publishing (Default)
[personal profile] melissajm
I thought I'd post some comments on the River anthology, edited by Alma Alexander. They're purely subjective, especially since several people involved with the book are friends or online acquaintances. I’m not any kind of an experienced reviewer, just somebody who loves stories.

I enjoyed the book a lot. First of all, I've never seen a book that used a literal map of a river as a TOC. Nice touch. And I understand the editor's premise that all rivers share in the same deep magic. A book about water and water creatures always gets my attention.

Now, some brief personal thoughts about the stories:

"The Mill-Keeper and the Wolf," by Tiffany Trent- The book starts with a love story. There’s a twist, though. The lovers are an eternally-dying wolf and a wild spirit bound to guard a sacred well, the start of the River. The ending leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not their perpetually-repeating fate can change.

"Rites," by Mary Victoria- I loved the setting for this story- Cyprus. The author brought it vividly to life, and used it as the backdrop for a mythological retelling focusing on Effie, the timid, lonely protagonist.

"The Fall," by Irene Radford- The author does a fantastic job of writing from a river’s POV. At first I thought it was based on the legend of Aunt Sarah’s Falls, in NY, but apparently lots of waterfalls have stories of sacrifice attached to them. Unfortunately, this is one of two stories in this book that struck a personal nerve for me- the disabled character who exists to be either cured or sacrificed. I suspect the author was limited by the original legend in this case, and overall she did make the character a fully rounded human being, which I appreciated. Heck, she made the RIVER a fully rounded, um, being. ;)

"They Are Forgotten Until They Come Again," by Jay Lake- The other story that hit that nerve, although the characters’ actions make sense in the context of their culture. It’s a well-developed culture that hints at a larger world and more stories to come. I’d be curious to know if this story is part of something bigger.

"Scatalogical," by Deb Taber- I shouldn’t have read this story at lunchtime, becuse it lives up to its name. :) The mudfrogs are a clever creation that made me wonder just what might be going on at the local dump.

"Floodlust," by Jaycee Bedford- A story of love and sacrifice, and river angels. I wouldn’t mind reading more stories about the river angels.

"Five Bullets on the Banks of the Sadji," by Keffy R. M. Kehrli- Another story rich in worldbuilding. In this case it’s a violent, grim world of politics and poison hounds, and a scrap of hope in spite of it all.

"The River," by Joshua Palmatier- This story is set in the same world as the author's "Throne of Amenkor" series. Readers who already know the world and characters will enjoy revisiting it, and those who don't may be tempted to read more after this tragic, haunting story of desperate people and dark choices.

"My Grandfather's River," by Brenda Cooper- This is a small, sweet story about a beautiful gift. It made me miss my grandparents, and a certain lake.

"Lady of the Waters," by Seanan McGuire- This one was fun! If there’s a book set in this would, I want to find it. It’s got a centaur sea captain and a most unusual mermaid, and it may be my favorite story in the book. Possibly. In a book like this, it’s hard to choose.

"Vodnik Laughter," by Ada Milenkovic Brown- I love mythological-creature stories, folklore, and historical settings, and this story’s got it all. Czech folklore too, which I haven’t encountered all that often.

"River-Kissed," by Joyce Reynolds-Ward- Did I mention that I love mythological-creature stories? This book’s full of tales of sacrifice and change, and this story embodies both.

"Beyond the Lighthouse," by Nisi Shawl- And the book ends with a love story, one set in our world, that feels both real and magical. This was the perfect story to end the anthology. It was touching and poignant, and I kept fearing that it was going to end a totally different way, and was very happy with how it turned out.

So, overall, this is a fascinating anthology full of variety and well-written stories, and I recommend it highly.

July 2016

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