Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of strong heroines and historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds.
This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends. In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination. Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.
Published: February 2015 by Tachyon Publications
Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, Short Stories
Source: ARC via Netgalley
These tales showcase the willpower of heroines from different walks of life. Warriors, servants, mothers and/or daughters with their own sharp experiences, minds and abilities. They often stand by their own choices in the midst of unexpected and difficult circumstances to go forward in life.
I am drawn to heroines who develop an inner sense of strength/fortitude. I enjoyed many of the stories in this collection due to that realistic portrayal of diverse character strengths and opportunities for growth:
Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine –
Most of all, she had been given the gift of freedom, able to speak her mind, ask any question she wanted regardless of whether the old woman answered it, and to run where she willed on summer nights.
The Gates of Joriun –
‘This is my strength, is it not? That I will never give in. That I will never give up.’
On familiar and unfamiliar worlds –
It’s worth noting that I have only read the first book of Kate Elliott’s The Spirit Walker Trilogy – Cold Magic – so at first, I felt a bit lost in stories set in worlds from her other series. I was not completely lost because I followed the vividly drawn characters into fascinating historical worlds of magic; but more well-read fans will quickly pick up on familiar connections. I’ll definitely pick up Kate Elliot’s Crossroads and Crown of Stars series at some point because the characters and the unique magical vibe of each world intrigued me.
There is one familiar character that I met again in a short story – Rory – the wild fae shapeshifter from the Spiritwalker Trilogy. I loved his feline personality and his natural inclination towards sharing mutual pleasure and joy. I would definitely recommend this story to readers inclined towards fantastical romance. (Although if you love pugs, be warned of a pug’s unfortunate fate early on.)
On a different note –
Kate Elliott also tackles current topics in the SFF genre within the additional mini essays of this collection. She delves into mainstream storytelling issues such as the tendency to objectify female characters through the male gaze, critical approaches to ‘contextless’ worldbuilding; and other unquestioned defaults/tropes that can build barriers to accessing diverse storytelling.
Narrative gets engineered until we start to believe it has always run that way.
Every reader and writer of SFF needs to read the intro and the outro of this collection. Brilliant and accessible Feminist essays which also support the spirit of this fantastic short story collection.