Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review: Songs of Love and Death edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Songs of Love & Death edited by George R.R. Martin and George Dozois is a gorgeous looking anthology (I personally love the cover) and overall the quality of the writing is excellent -- not unexpected when you take into consideration the authors whose works are included. Personally, I enjoyed some of the short stories more than others, and my grade reflects my personal taste and enjoyment of those stories which I'm sure might differ from that of other readers.

The book is quite long, 468 pages, and as you might expect by the amount of pages although there are only seventeen stories, quite a few of them are extensive and well developed. There's a mixture of genres: fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, historical romance, paranormal and yes... most (if not all) of the stories have star-crossed lovers as the protagonists.

Some of novellas have a "happily ever after" and others don't even get close. I loved the plot diversity in this anthology as there are no two stories similar to another in any way. Here are a few of my favorites among the seventeen.

You and You Alone by Jacqueline Carey is novella related to the Kushiel's Legacy series. This is the story of Anafiel Delaunay, Whoremaster of Spies, who through flashbacks remembers his love for Rolande. This is a beautifully developed tale of star-crossed love between two men, and includes a little bit of everything from emotional angst, to love, to sex and action.

Under/Above the Water by Tanith Lee was a gorgeous fantasy tale of real star-crossed lovers meant for each other, but born during different lifetimes. Is it possible for there to be a happily ever after? I loved Tannith Lee's writing and creativity in this fantasy short story about destiny.

The Thing About Cassandra by Neil Gaiman is about a young man whose lies about a girlfriend come back to haunt him when he meets her years later. An excellent short story with a surprising ending and a twist to the plot that left me gasping.

Hurt by M.L. Hanover was an excellent paranormal story that focused on abuse and/or violence against women. This story was so well written! It wasn't too long, but it bordered on edgy/horror, and I must admit that it gave me the chills. However it had a most excellent resolution. 

Of course there were other stories I enjoyed: Blue Boots by Robin Hobb is a lovely story of star-crossed love between a kitchen maid and a minstrel -- love lost and regained is that much sweeter. Love Hurts by Jim Butcher, featuring Harry and Murphy, was both intriguing and sweet. Rooftops by Carrie Vaughn, a surprising entry about superheroes and a damsel in distress. Courting Trouble by Linnea Sinclair, a fast-paced science-fiction romance story with intrigue and a bit of romantic tension was my favorite sci-fi story in this anthology.

Among the stories that didn't quite do it for me, there was Demon Lover by Cecelia Holland. This is a fairy tale gone wrong and a story that just lost me along the way! Maybe it had something to do with the disconnect between the title and the plot? Not sure. The Wayfarer's Advice by Melinda M. Snodgrass is a sci-fi story with an interesting plot, but where the worldbuilding is a bit too involved for a short story, and most details are left to the reader's imagination. His Wolf by Lisa Tuttle is a paranormal story about a teacher and a drug dealer who rescues a wolf. There's a strong message against animal abuse, however the story felt detached with no real emotion behind it or the romance. And Marjorie Liu's After the Blood is an interesting story with a confusing beginning. It took a while for it all to make sense and in the end it became clear that this novella is the beginning to a new series.

I would say there's enough quality in Songs of Love and Death for the discerning reader and also enough beautiful stories to go around. I love different genres, so for me this anthology was a treat. I will definitely be re-reading some of these stories again at leisure.

Genre: Anthology - Mixed Genre
Series: None
Released: November 16, 2010
Overall Grade: B-


  1. Thanks for the great review! I'm definitely getting this one now. :) Hadn't even known an anthology like this was released. (Like I haven't got enough books to read as it is!)

  2. Kaz, this is SUCH a great book! There's something there for everyone, but if you love romance combined with fantasy (urban or straight) , sci-fi and/or speculative fiction, you're in for a treat. There are some excellent novellas included in this anthology. The stories fit the title perfectly.

    I didn't include all the authors or stories and I only highlighted these briefly because the review would have been huge. But believe me even the stories that were not my personal favorites were worth reading. ;P Enjoy!

  3. Ah, I had this checked out from the library but had to take it back before I could read it. I'll be sure to request it and read those that you highlighted. :)

  4. Great review! Hmm. I couldn't read my Jacqueline Carey book last year - maybe I should start with the novella?

  5. I loved the cover too!

    I agree that this book was worth getting, though the quality did vary across the board.

    And I have to admit I did not get the ending to the Gaiman story at all. It was past midnight, however, and possibly too late for me to make sense of it :-)

  6. Leslie, this book is definitely worth reading -- from the library is good too, just in case you enjoy some more than others. :D

    Orannia, I really enjoyed the Carey short story! I'm sorry I began reading Carey with Naamah's Kiss and not Kushiel Legacy series... I might begin there. :D

    Li, definitely worth getting. I agree that some stories are better than others. For me it was a matter of taste for the most part. But yes, in some instances (I highlighted mine above), I had some qualms. LOL on the Gaiman! You might want to re-read... it DID have a twist at the end... my first reaction was "nooooo." LOL! But, I thought it was really good. :D


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