Monstrous Little Voices

Monstrous Little Voices

Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Jonathan Barnes, Foz Meadows, and Kate Heartfield
Publisher: Abaddon
Publication: March 8, 2016
Genre: Retelling, Fae, Supernatural
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
Locate: amazon | b&n | book depository
Rated: ★★


It is the time of Shakespeare. Storms rage, armies clash, magics are done – and stories are made. Five new great and terrible tales reshape the Bard’s vision, a new set of stories that will be told and retold down through the centuries. 

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.

Monstrous Little Voices

For fans of Shakespeare and fantasy, Monstrous Little Voices is sure to be a gem, but for the casual Shakespearean aficionado, you might find yourself wanting more. This is a complication of five different stories by five different authors that all choose different pieces of Shakespeare’s works, yet weave them together in an overarching story. That said, one book with different authors is always a gamble, one that might not always pay off.

With the different authors writing each of the five stories, it’s difficult to say whether it’s the content or the style that did and didn’t work for me. It’s likely a combination of both. I really enjoyed Coral Bones by Foz Meadows, The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield, and The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman. Perhaps it’s because they dealt in greater detail with fae and witches. Perhaps it’s the love and romance. I just really found these three stories to be fantastic.

In Coral Bones, the message is one that is great and should be repeated to all. The form you are in should not dictate the role you should play or how you should be treated. This dips into The Tempest and looks into gender roles and the rigidity that some adhere to them. Also, it features the ever delightful Puck and the loving eternal war between Oberon and Titania. It has a serious message woven through the clever witted tale.

The Course of True Love, is my favourite of Monstrous Little Voices. In it, there is a debate on what the true nature of a person is. Whether it is something immutable or something that is changeable, dependent on your actions. It was also super sweet to see the elderly in a bit of a romance story. Pomona, the wizened old witch was great and had the best quote of the book, which I had featured in this past Thursday Quotables post and Vertumnus was a fantastic bounding partner for her.

Finally, the last of my three favourites is The Unkindest Cut, which seems like the natural culmination of the earlier three stories. Here, we see a prophecy fulfilled after going awry. There is a spirit in a form that is not theirs. We see the idea of one’s true nature being based on actions rather than feelings, or words. Here’s a spoiler, do not expect a happy ending here.

The final two stories of the collection were, in contrast, lackluster. Even in the Cannon’s Mouth was strange. The mixture of stage direction with a narrative format was distracting. The war story background of the shipwrecked survivors flew right over my head. The addition of he who must not be named was interesting, but as a HUGE fan of that work, a bit out of character and strange, until the final lines at least. The story seemed to focus on characters that I didn’t really care about, and then ended with characters going on an adventure I really wanted to see. It just didn’t work for me. On the Twelfth Night was simply comically strange and so random compared to the earlier four works. It sort of makes sense as the ending of the book, but it’s just…weird.

Monstrous Little Voices is a solid three stars. It gives me a great introduction to the different authors and leaves me intrigued to find more of their works. However, all of the stories may not interest all readers. The collection on kindle is definitely worth the price ($5.99 USD at the time of this post) as each individual story is priced at $2.99 USD each.

Quotes & Excerpts

“Sometimes the gravest things must, of necessity, become the most comic. It’s how we know they haven’t destroyed us.”
– Coral Bones, Act III, Something of Her That Doth Fade

“You’re quite right, of course. Forms and hearts and names — we build ourselves with words, but a tool is not the same as the substance it shapes; and if the substance changes, then why not the tool? […] Fairy, god or mortal, I see no reason why anyone should define themselves by a single flesh alone, when such seemings are always subject to alteration. […] Crowns and shoes don’t grow on trees, and yet we alter ourselves with the wearing of them.”
– Coral Bones, Act III, Something of Her That Doth Fade

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About Lulu

Thirty-something year old educator based in New York, Lulu loves books, blogging, gaming, and her pom son Frodo Barkins with whom she shares her life. Book reviews specialize in all kinds of fantasy, some YA, some romance, and some contemporary, especially in the gothic genre.

3 replies to “Monstrous Little Voices

  1. alishadwebster

    Great review! Story collections are always a gamble, even if it’s a single author in my opinion. Love your site!

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