Monstrous Little Voices by Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Posted On 14 January 2016

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Monstrous Little Voices.jpg‘Mischief, Magic, Love and War.
It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.
Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.
These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.’

I don’t usually cut and paste the descriptions for the books I review but the above is perfect so I thought I’d sneak it in here.

Monstrous Little Voices is a book that I simply fell in love with.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this book – although I will give it a go.

Firstly, in case you’re thinking ‘this is Shakespeare and I haven’t read any of his works’, well, to be honest, I’ve only ever read A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I’ve always felt that as these were written as plays they’re something you have to watch – although plenty of people I am sure would disagree with me there.  I am familiar with a number of the plays but not all of them and certainly not well enough to know all the characters.  So, I probably felt a little bit wary going into this but my fears were groundless.  This was so good.  Forget Twelve Nights – I devoured this in two and couldn’t put it down until I was finished.  I just loved it – did I mention that already.  It’s one of those books that made me smile – in fact it’s one of those books that I wanted to hug.

Basically, this book contains five stories each taking characters, settings and influence from different plays created by the bard.  I’m usually the first person to say I don’t enjoy short stories but just recently I’ve discovered that I do – provided they’re in the context of a bigger picture.  So, whilst these stories are short they already feel familiar.  I felt like I already had the setting and the characters in my head and I knew the background to the plays.  On top of this the writing is uptodate and it really is all wonderful – and I do mean all five stories.  And, finally, all of the stories overlap to form what is effectively one larger tale.  Absolutely brilliant not to mention wonderful that five different authors could come together in this way, all with their own unique style and yet create this perfect little gem that flows so easily and is so very entertaining to read.

I don’t know that I should really go into the detail of the stories themselves because that would simply spoil it.  You’ll probably already have some background – or maybe you’ll have a whole heap of background – but no matter what your level of expertise in terms of Shakespeare I think this can be easily enjoyed and in fact I’m sure people will take different things away from the read.

Word to the wise – go into this with the knowledge that all the stories connect and so whilst they probably can be read individually you will want to keep each story in mind when reading the next so that you pick up all the little nuances.

What I can tell you here is that this story is full of magical characters.  The fae world comes to life on the page with Oberon and Titania playing a much stronger role in our mundane lives. Puck is one of the earlier characters that you will meet, plus sorcerers, witches and ghosts.  There’s love, there’s war, there’s deceit and trickery. You really do have to hand it to Shakespeare for such early fantasy delights and then to have those characters brought back to the page in such a lovely form with a more modern voice and one overall story arc makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I can’t recommend this book enough.

An excellent achievement.  My hearty thanks go to the authors involved and thanks to the publisher for a review copy.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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26 Responses to “Monstrous Little Voices by Jonathan Barnes, Emma Newman, Kate Heartfield, Foz Meadows, Adrian Tchaikovsky”

  1. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I saw this one and was really curious even though I am horrible about reading short fiction. Glad to hear it worked so well, I may need to check it out!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, technically there are five stories but actually the way it’s written it’s with one central theme and so whilst each new story brings new characters it’s still carrying the central theme forward. I thought it was really, incredibly well done in fact I loved it!
      Lynn 😀

  2. jessreadingnook

    I’ve never heard of this. I usually hate short stories but I love Shakespeare, so I think I’m gong to have to add this to my TBR.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you do. Seriously, this is so good. I also don’t like short stories and in a way I think maybe I’ve misrepresented the book because whilst there are five individual stories with different protagonists there is one main theme and each story picks it up and continues it (with some characters even reappearing). I absolutely loved it. Let me know what you make of it if you do pick it up.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m so gun shy about jumping into another short story anthology these days, but this one is sure tempting me to give it a try again 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I absolutely loved this and think I’ve maybe misrepresented it slightly because whilst it is five individual stories written by different authors with new protagonists, there is a central thread that runs throughout and is picked up and moved forward with each story and on top of that some of the characters from other stories pop up here and there. It’s really good. It made me smile when reading it and I really did want to hug it, or read it again.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Sharry

    Oohh it’s Shakespeare-ish! Cool 🙂 I’m by no means a Shakespeare connoisseur but I do love a clever tale, and these ones sound like they are seeing as they come together nicely into a big picture story. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is certainly one of my favs…and I do agree with you that a Shakespeare play is best experienced in action!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really loved this. I did wonder because when I picked it up I thought they were all going to be individual stories but there’s one common theme and some of the characters reappear throughout.
      I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s my absolute favourite of his stories. He was a pretty cool fantasy writer really when you think about it – fae, ghosts, witches, sorcerers!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Danya @ Fine Print

    I’m a huuuuuge Shakespeare nerd (I enjoy reading the plays, but personally I agree with you – they’re meant to be seen) and I love historical fantasy so this sounds perfect! Short story anthologies are such a good way to get a feel for new to you authors and their writing style, too. Love, war, and trickery? Yes please! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be honest as I was reading this I actually thought of you because I think you’d love it. Don’t ask me what I just do! There are five individual stories but they’re brought together by a central team and, in fact, some of the characters turn up in other stories. I just loved reading about all the characters, Puck and Oberon, Macbeth. So good. I really did love it. I really do recommend it for you – in fact I’d be really keen to hear your thoughts because you probably have a much greater knowledge of Shakespeare than I do. And, it’s up on Netgalley still so you could get on there and request a copy!
      Lynn 😀

  6. jessicabookworm

    I was sorely tempted by this when I saw it on Netgalley. I resisted requesting it though because I have a lot of galleys, however now I know you enjoyed it so much I may give into temptation next time I’m on Netgalley 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Jessica, you were also on my mind when I read this. I really do think, given your reading tastes, that you would love this. It really is lovely. The writing is so well done and all five stories are brought together by one theme. Really very enjoyable. I loved it.
      LYnn 😀

  7. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I can see how this would be a fascinating read, both for the stories themselves and also for the way in which modern writers take characters from the Bard’s imagination and – I guess – make them their own, while still respectful of the original.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is very respectfully written – the fae play something of a larger role in human affairs but it’s really good to see and obviously it’s written in a more modern voice. Really lovely to be honest – and fascinating, especially to have five authors bringing together these different stories but with one central theme running throughout. Very clever.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader)

    Oh yes, I saw this one on Netgalley and I didn’t requested it because I never read any Shakespeare plays (or watched them) since I’m french, in school we were studying Molière or Racine not Shakespeare… But if you loved it I may give it a try 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think. I think you will probably recognise some of the characters anyway – Macbeth, Oberon, Puch? to be honest but it’s not really necessary. It has a really good theme running through the stories.
      Lynn 😀

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