ARC REVIEW: A Fantasy Medley 2

Tanya Huff, Seanan McGuire, Jasper KEnt, Amanda Downum
A Fantasy MEdley 2
Subterranean press
NOVEMBER 31, 2012

Blurb via Goodreads:

In A Fantasy Medley, editor Yanni Kuznia assembled a diverse quartet of stories from some of fantasy’s most exciting authors, and the sell-out volume earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Now Kuznia returns with A Fantasy Medley 2, offering absorbing new tales of the fantastic from four of the brightest stars in the field:

With “Quartered,” Tanya Huff returns to the world of her beloved Quarters series with the story of the young bard Evicka, whose mission to spy on an assassin brings peril, tragedy, and, ultimately, revelation.

In “Bone Garden,” Amanda Downum revisits Erisín, setting of her critically lauded novel The Bone Palace from the Necromancer Chronicles. Deadly spirits are preying on the city’s most vulnerable citizens in this story of secrets and sacrifice.

“The Sergeant and the General” finds Jasper Kent weaving a tale from the other side of the battle lines drawn in his Danilov Quintet, with a French veteran of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign haunted by more than just memories.

And in “Rat-Catcher,” Seanan McGuire travels into the past of the October Daye series to pull back the veils on both the world of 17th century London theater and the faerie Court of Cats as two worlds collide in one of the greatest conflagrations in history.

I fully admit I took on this ARC because it features a story from one of my most favorite authors to date, and I was offered the ARC by the same author. I’m not usually one for anthologies, but the promise of a story set in the same  (past) universe as the Toby Daye books by Seanan McGuire proved to be too much to resist. Before we get into that, though, I have to admit up front as well that I wasn’t as happy with the anthology overall as I’d hoped to be.

I’m never read most of the authors in this anthology (well, sort of), so I looked at it as a chance to see if some new authors might appeal to me. The good news is a couple of them did well enough for me to see about other work from them. The not so good news is I can’t say that I felt the stories worked well on their own. I got the impression from just about all of them that they are built upon other work the authors have done, and while this makes perfect sense for anthologies, the stories still need to make sense in case readers are new to the worlds within. While I liked most of the stories in part, the overwhelming feeling was that I was missing something big because I wasn’t already fully versed in whatever else might be connected to the stories.

Rat-Catcher by Seanan McGuire: As the story I was already anticipating the most, I did read it first. It’s about one of the most well-loved characters in the series, named Rand here, and his past, and how he comes to be known by a new name. It has a very nostalgic tone to it all the way through, and there’s an underlying sense of foreboding due to what Rand must eventually face, and that tone is echoed in a historical event that will ravage London. I enjoyed this purely because it’s connected to the Toby Daye books in one fashion, but I have to admit that it does lack the excitement and tension and fulfilling crescendos that the Daye books possess. I may have become too dependant on Toby Daye herself to lead the charge, I’m not sure, but that excitement didn’t seem to infuse the story until almost the very end, when the reader is confirmed in who Rand is. I feel like this is a decent addition to the Toby Daye cannon, but I also worry that new-to-that-series readers won’t fully realize what’s happening.

Bone Garden by Amanda Downum: I’ve tried to read the first in this author’s Necromancer Chronicles series and failed – I think it just wasn’t the right time for it and I – but after reading this story I’m encouraged to try again. Like almost all the stories in this book, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on and wonder if I’d be more in the know had I read the Necromancer books already. Still, there are some great characters in this story even if I don’t entirely understand their motivations nor the plot. And that’s a little surprising that not understanding the plot especially doesn’t bother me. I sort of got it, but don’t think I fully did. There’s a kind of star-crossed lover’s theme going on, and I’m a little bit of a sucker for that. The worldbuilding, little as there was, felt almost old world Russian-inspired to me, though I can’t be sure that was the intention. Whether or not it was, I enjoyed it. The ending, however, seriously depressed me, so I’m not entirely a fan of BoneGarden. Still, solid luring in, so I will definitely check out the series it derives from again soon.

The Sergeant and the General by Jasper Kent:  This is the only story I couldn’t become invested in at all. I struggled to find any interest in it and gave up after circling around the first several pages. In truth, it didn’t feel like a fantasy story, and that’s what I was in the mood to read. It read more like a straight historical. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I couldn’t finish it.

Quartered by Tanya Huff: I was second most excited to read this story because I am a complete Tanya Huff fiction newb. She’s such a prolific name in the fantasy world and I was glad to finally have the chance to read her work. Like most of the stories, I felt lured in, but really had no idea what was really going on. Again, there was a huge feeling as if there was a lot of information in some other story somewhere that I should have read first. Honestly, this really pains me about anthologies, but I know it’s tough with the smaller word count to get enough extraneous info in while also telling a good solid story. Like Downum’s story, I was lured in by the characters, but I didn’t much understand their motives or the plot. I’m really encouraged by the interesting characters, though, as longer books will obviously have more room to answer the tons of questions Huff’s story had me coming up with. However, like Downum’s story, the ending was pretty depressing and I was left with a feeling of moroseness because I did at least come to care about what happened to the main character.

So in the end I think pretty much all these stories deserved a longer word count. They raise a lot of questions without the fulfilling payoff. Maybe others won’t be as lost as I was in Huff’s and Downum’s story, but believe me, it was frustrating for me. The good thing is I do want to read more from these authors. And I can say for sure that if McGuire’s story intrigues, her October Daye series rocks the urban fantasy genre pretty darn hard. At the end of the day, it’s not one of my best reads, but it at least offered me a glimpse of the potential these authors have.

Rating: Three Scoops

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  1. I am so jealous! Subterranean’s website says the book “will be entering our shipping queue shortly” – I can’t wait to read “The Rat Catcher”! Unfortunately, looks like I will have to wait a while longer :(

    • Really? It didn’t release yet? Huh – I guess I need to check the publisher site. The ARC I received said November 30, 2012 as the publication date. I hope you can get it soon!

      By the way, I love your name. :D

  2. For some reason, I missed the part about my name until now. Obviously, I should change it to Easily Distracted Weasel of Doom, and… Oh, look, squirrel!…

    Just saw on the Subterranean Press website that they finally have “A Fantasy Medley 2” in stock and shipping (, so fingers crossed that I’ll get my Tybalt fix soon :-)

    And somewhat off-topic: if I have a question for you about a book I know you planned to read, but never posted a review for, what’s the best venue for that?

    • You can ask me about the book right here, that would be fine. :) I know I’m really behind on reviews, but if I can’t get it done soon I’d be happy to tell you about the book now…if I indeed already read it lol.

      • Sharon Shinn’s “Shape of Desire” (which I totally hated, and wanted to know if I was alone in that) :-)

        • Ah, yes, I remember the title. I never did read it. I waited to read some reviews and when I saw at least some weren’t good, and why, I decided not to invest the time or money. Sorry it didn’t work out for you! :(

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