I read this anthology of short stories curated by George R.R.Martin leisurely over the past three months dipping in and out of it occasionally in between longer reads.
As such I wasn’t too interested in the anthology.
The main attraction was The Princess and the Queen (teaser here) by George R.R.Martin that talks about the battle for power between two Targaryen queens (a stepmother and her step-daughter). Set well before the events in A Song of Ice and Fire, this book gives us a chilling insight into the power struggles, and what happens when dragons come into the picture.
I don’t really have too much to say about it. The story is exciting, but told in the form of a history textbook, so in places it reads a bit dry. I also didn’t like that the so-called dangerous women in the title did nothing much apart from inciting a war and letting all their male family members die in the various battles.
But it’s GRRM after all, and the man can tell a tale. So in spite of the flaws in the novella, I ended up enjoying it very much, and now I want to go read Rogues, which elaborates a bit on one of the interesting characters in this story.
Overall, the story is a thumbs up, and worth the price of the book on its own.
The other stories in Dangerous Women are a bit up and down. Also, there is no strong thread tying the stories together except for the fact that each story has some so-called dangerous woman in it. The nice thing is that each story is different, and there wasn’t a boring moment reading this anthology.
The book has 21 stories in it, and instead of going into each one, I”ll put out a list of best and worst, and explain why.
The Best Stories
- My Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott – In this story, the young daughter of a young couple gets kidnapped. While the two wait for news of her from the police, things unravel in the most sinister and spooky way. Easily, this is one of the best stories, and the story haunted me for a while afterwards.
- Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson – This is a longish story about a mother who is trying to save her inn business. One not-so-fine day, she and her daughter venture into the forests desperately in need of money. But this is no ordinary forest and the bloodshed that ensues will leave no one in the story untouched. Brilliant stuff!
- Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress – Set in a dystopian world where gangs of men prowl around destroyed cities looking after their packs of followers. Women are appreciated only for their fertility, and have no other value. In this brutal world, there is no place for art and beauty and ballet. Or is there? I thought this story was a bit of a stretch on the Dangerous Women theme, but in spite of it, I loved it. Vivid, tense, and gripping, I loved the juxtaposition of the ballet amidst all the violence.
- Virgins by Diana Gabaldon – This is a short story set in Jamie’s (of Outlander fame) past. I enjoyed this short story because well, Jamie. He’s such a fantastic character, and I think I”ll like any book featuring him.
- Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie – This is a western, and I don’t care for them. I thought this story about a female bandit escaping from and finally vanquishing the men chasing her, pretty weak. Very little character growth and a lot of action. I didn’t like this at all.
- Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn – A story about a female Russian fighter pilot in World War II. Starts off impressively, but the story-telling was flat, and it ended with a whimper.
- Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (who also writes as Robin Hobb) – I wanted to like this one a lot. It’s about elderly women and how they are marginalized by their families, and how they take their fate into their own hands. While the theme was great, this story moved at snail’s pace, and the plot also started getting really strange, and not in a good way.
- Lies my Mother Told me by Caroline Specter – The main character kills zombies by blowing bubbles at them. Enough said. Although well-written and fast-paced, the basic concept of the story is so ludicrous that it totally killed it for me.
I did see some very good reviews of this one, and I guess that I didn’t like it because I have not read the other books set in this world created by Specter.
But this story also highlights an issue with the entire anthology . If you are already bought into the author and the story, you are probably going to like it. If however, you have not read Outlander, I am not sure how much this short story will appeal.
And that’s probably why I had so many misses with this anthology. A lot of the stories are not meant for a reader who is not clued into the world-building already put in place by the author in some other book or series. Since this was my first time reading many of the authors, there were few stories that I could really appreciate as standalone ones.
However, even taking the world-building issue into account, I thought this anthology could have been better edited. 21 stories is a lot of stories, and some just didn’t cut it.
The Meh Stories
On the whole, I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the stories. Most of them were slow, and towards the end, the collection felt quite disjointed. Only a handful of stories were really brilliant. The rest was just so-so.
Have you read this anthology? What did you think?
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon