'Where the Veil Is Thin' anthology edited by Alana Joli Abbott and Cerece Rennie Murphy, includes Seanan McGuire, C.S.E. Cooney, & More
'Where the Veil Is Thin' is a rather dark faerie anthology edited by Alana Joli Abbot and Cerece Rennie Murphy and featuring other names like Seanan McGuire, C.S.E. Cooney, David Bowles, Minsoo King, and many more.
The stories contained with in are far from the whimsical tales of children, but they're born of tales from around the world. Some benevolent, others.. well, some things just barely out of sight.. existing on the periphery of our world.. are best left there.
I eagerly began this collection, in part.. because I'd never read anything from Seanan McGuire, but I'd heard great things about her. The introduction at the forefront of the book.. however, from Jim C. Hines, absolutely set the atmosphere as he spoke of harmless stories we learn as children.. things like the trading of a tooth for money under our pillows in the night, then drew those ideas together with what many of us have become accustomed to reading as adults.. the risks included when we engage in a fairy bargain. And.. let's face it, that's exactly what the tooth fairy trade-off is.. a bargain.
It's funny that as I've read dark fae stories over the years and learned some of the rules, incur no debts with thanks and apologies, don't enter into bargains if you cannot fully see all the possibilities left out of the structure of wording, and never eat things provided by them.. especially across the veil in their world.. I never really sat back and connected them with those childhood experiences.
The first couple of stories were admittedly, mildly interesting perspectives on the old tales, but the anthology did indeed begin to pick up when I reached McGuire's offering.
'See A Fine Lady' was such an unorthodox story right from the start. Set in our very modern world, not just the urban space.. but literally a Target store, an employee sees a most extraordinary thing. Attempting to get closer, to convince herself she isn't crazy, things only become more bizarre. A seemingly simple decision made leads to a much more complex situation.
My favorite story in the collection is 'Or Perhaps Up' by C.S.E. Cooney. I had never heard of her before, but Wikipedia states she's best known for her fantasy poetry and short stories and has won the Rhysling Award for her poem 'The Sea King's Second Bride' and the World Fantasy Award--Collection for 'Bone Swans.
It feels almost tragic that I've never read anything penned by her before, as she writes with an ethereal mixture of hope and despair that tugs right at my heart. I seldom become so invested in a short story as I did with this one. She managed within just a few pages to make me care deeply for each of her characters and I love the world she created. This story and this author were an unexpected gem buried within the pages for me.
"We re-labeled all traditionally "family" holidays as "Feasts of the Forsaken," in which any friend estranged from blood-ties or too far distant to claim them could come celebrate with us."
Another highlight was 'Don't Let Go' by Alana Joli Abbott which delves into a side of Nordic lore I don't see often and mixing it seamlessly with Celtic legends I knew well. The story which seems to start off so lightly, progresses into a darkness with a glimpse of shadow and then small, subtle movements until you are desperately hopeful and fearful at once.
There are plenty of wonderful stories in this anthology and if you enjoy short stories, you should definitely pick it up. I have a couple of others that really stood out for me.. like 'The Loophole' by L. Penelope and 'The Seal-Woman's Tale' by Alethea Kontis. One is surprisingly sweet and the other borders on the horrible in spots, but both will leave an indelible impression on the reader.. and I loved them.
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