Review by Knicky Laurel
Author name: The Random Writers
Book Title: Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue
The Synopsis: ‘It started with the Zhar-ptitsa, the Firebird, as these things must. No, let us say it started again with the Firebird.’
A group of researchers open a door in the present day that has been closed for centuries – and should have stayed that way. In 1840s Ireland, starving children face desperate measures to avoid the crisis consuming the land. A visitor to 19th century Japan learns what it takes to fan love to life. A girl struggles to rise above the walls that surround her in Georgian England. In 7th century Britain, a scribe translates the true value of a legend. Fourteen surprising, moving and compelling tales, weaving the next steps in the telling of famous events and stories from Greek myth to English folktale, via fairy tales and real historical events. The second anthology from The Random Writers – this is Something Rich and Strange.
Length: 308 pages
Release date: 29th November, 2015
Available formats: Paperback from Amazon or Createspace Direct, eBook from Nook, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords.
“And so it ends.”
Or in the case of Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue, begins again. I recently finished my first fantasy anthology read of 2016 and it couldn’t have made a more perfect beginning to a new year of stories to discover and explore. A marvel spun by The Random Writers from the fluid and infinite nature of Story itself, these are tales of wonder, a collection of rare and exotic fruit in a mythic orchard, each one bursting with secrets and truths untold. “What have you to offer me, poised on the edge of my life?” you might ask of it, to quote a favoured line of mine from this work. The answer is magic and sacrifice, power and loneliness, flight and despair. The answer is in its name.
Because this anthology is a many-splendored thing it would go without saying that it is resonant on myriad levels. You will find something, or someone, here to love. That is not to say it’s perfect. I found some stories middling compared to others, with endings that confused and fell short of resonance with me, while others sailed clean over my head and were simply not my thing. But I won’t say which ones, for all of this is a matter of mere opinion, which you might not find to be true and which is really my point.
A new year brings with it a new focus, and so I’ll focus on what I love. I loved Walls. It stroked my love of beast and tragic fantasy, and was a strong contender for my favourite wonder tale over all. I thought The Return of Lottie White clever and immensely enjoyable, and Speaking The Girls beautifully-written and yet another contender for overall favourite. The Descent of Man handled its premise and ideas so well as to leave me wanting more, and Godfather Death Part II won points for its narrative POV and having one of the strongest endings amongst all the stories.
I found The Great Hunger to be a wonderful coalescence between the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 and Hansel and Gretel, with traces of Peter Pan stirred in to darken the scent. Gold was quite funny, despite its rather abrupt and bleak ending, and Towards a Pure Land shone with characterization so emotively engaging and brilliant that my heart turned a cold, angry bitter at the ending, and I wanted to throttle the writer for thwarted hope I knew I had no right to feel. Which leaves the latest literary love of my life – Vasilisa, my favourite story, and my god, what perfection is here.
I anticipated reading this story most of all. Vasilisa tales are more often times than not inhabited by someone I love very much – Baba Yaga, the witch of the Iron Forest. There was no Baba in this Vasilisa story, but I was not disappointed. How could I be, with words so exquisite, a chase so surreal and loss so tragic it broke my heart as if it were my own? I’ve never read anything more perfect. And so it is with this anthology. It is as much home to thrills and enchantment as it is to uncertainty and fears, all of which you will gladly suffer, for all are shaping something, not just rich and strange … but rich and strange, and beautiful.
“What have you to offer me, poised on the edge of my life?” – Speaking the Girls, Karen Ginnane
“Soon, the battlefield was a mass of men, rippling, swelling and contracting like a flock of starlings in the early evening.” – Parchment, Matthew Willis
“That very hardest time of day is the hour after sunset when the whole world is tipped towards what it has lost and the sky is not yet done with bleeding.” – Vasilisa, Lorraine Wilson
Overall Orb Rating
4 Orbs – Shipshaped (I enjoyed the journey)
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