Friday, 2 August 2013

Review - The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories
Series: Standalone
Published by Big Mouth House on April 1 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Short Stories
Pages: 212
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Pick your poison: Vampires, devils, werewolves, faeries, or . . . ? Find them all here in Holly Black’s amazing first collection.
In her debut collection, New York Times best-selling author Holly Black returns to the world of Tithe in two darkly exquisite new tales. Then Black takes readers on a tour of a faerie market and introduces a girl poisonous to the touch and another who challenges the devil to a competitive eating match. Some of these stories have been published in anthologies such as 21 Proms, The Faery Reel, and The Restless Dead, and many have been reprinted in many “Best of ” anthologies. 
The Poison Eaters is Holly Black’s much-anticipated first collection, and her ability to stare into the void—and to find humanity and humor there—will speak to young adult and adult readers alike.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – ****
I didn’t actually read this one, because I read it online a few months ago (I found a link to it on Holly’s tumblr). I remember really liking it when I read it, though it was quite unbelievable. I found that to be part of its charm. I’m really looking forward to reading the full-length novel Holly wrote, expanding on this lovely short story.

A Reversal of Fortune - ***
My biggest complaint regarding A Reversal of Fortune was that it was too short. It didn’t feel resolved, and I wasn’t happy with the wide open ending that was given. It felt more like a tiny glimpse into Nikki’s life than a complete story, and I just wanted more. The descriptions of Nikki’s trailer park and the bus and the candy store where she worked were captivating and spot-on. I really felt like she was someone I could know.

The Boy who Cried Wolf - ***
Again, it was just too short! It felt incomplete, though I did like the Little Red Riding Hood tie-in at the end. Clever Holly. I really liked Alex too, as a narrator. He reminded me of Max Braverman from Parenthood, with his fixation on facts. It was a bit predictable, unfortunately.

The Night Market - ****
One of my favourites. I adore the fact that the main character is a WOC and that it takes place in the Philippines. I love the exploration of cultures other than my own, and thought that it was well done here. I thought the ekanto (elf) was quite fascinating and very cunning, and I was drawn in within a few sentences. The end of the story was satisfying, which was a nice turn of events from the last few stories.

The Dog King - ***
I loved that this used a different style of storytelling. It was less personal than most of Holly’s work, playing on the style of classic high fantasy narratives. It was an interesting and original story, and got the creepy factor down pat.

The Virgin - **
I don’t really know what the story was here. It fell flat for me. Maybe I wasn’t reading closely enough, but I didn’t know what was going on half the time. I really liked the beginning, but it got boring quickly. The MC was kind of an asshole, too.

In Vodka Veritas - **
I liked it, but it felt a little bit derivative. It didn’t really feel like it had much in terms of originality, though the narrator was engaging and the attention to detail was (as always) superb. It was on the wrong side of silly and whimsical for me, though I loved the use of Roman/Greek mythology. I was a little stumped by the fact that the Latin teacher told the MC that Dionysus was the Latin name and Bacchus the Greek, because it’s actually the other way around. That may have been intentional, though.

The Coat of Stars – ***
Cute, but otherwise kind of forgettable. The fact that Rafe wasn’t a teenager was refreshing, though it seemed a little bit out of place in this selection of stories. It had a very somber tone, which following In Vodka Veritas didn’t really work for me. It was too much of a sudden change of pace. I did like the length of this one; it felt like a complete story and not just a snippet of one.

Paper Cuts Scissors – *****
My favourite of the bunch. There was literally nothing I disliked here. It was a great length (though it could have been longer), it featured awesome characters, and best of all – it was about book characters coming to life and interacting with one another. I’d be crazy not to like that. I also really loved the ending. The fact that Justin doesn’t force anything on Linda makes me very happy. He tells her how he feels and provides her with the means to do what she sees fit. He gives her the space to make her own choice, even though he feels like it’s a mistake.

Going Ironside – **
I liked the feeling of madness and the fact that it was from a non-human POV, but it was ridiculously boring. Absolutely nothing happened.

The Land of Heart’s Desires – **
It’s been like 4 years since I’ve read any of the Tithe books, and it showed. I recognised most of the characters, but it was totally unfamiliar to me. It took pretty much the entire story just for me to remember anything about the books and the characters. It just didn’t particularly capture my interest, though I imagine that lovers of Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside will appreciate it more than I.

The Poison Eaters – ***
I can’t quite put my finger on what it was about the final story that I found off-putting. For the most part, I liked it, but I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right. The idea itself is fantastic – creating human weapons, girls who kill anything that comes in contact with their bare skin. But something just didn’t feel quite right.

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