I loved Liu’s Monstress series and wanted to try other books she has written. A very good decision! Here’s a breakdown of the stories in her new anthology, The Tangleroot Place.
Sympathy for the Bones ★★★★
This one was a reread since I didn’t realize I’d already read as part of the anthology, An Apple for the Creature. However, I figured it out but continued to read to see if I’d still like it as much as I had before. The answer? I did; I do! In the story, a witch takes in a little girl and teaches her almost everything she knows—the operative word here being, almost. I love the creepiness even though the ending was expected.
The Briar and the Rose ★★★★
Begins in a way most fairytales don’t and then turns into one that has shades of Sleeping Beauty, The Happy Prince, and Shrek! A woman falls in love with the high-end courtesan she has been hired to guard. Her client, though, is not exactly what she seems. I liked how the sweetness of the romance in this story contrasted with the brutal world it was set in.
Call Her Savage ★★★
This story reiterates being a superhero doesn’t necessarily give you a super happy life! With another female protagonist, this one who has seen too much grief, we enter an alternate timeline and stumble on a war waging between China and Britain. Our heroine is sent on a return-unlikely mission to stop China from being invaded and comes face to face with an old flame. I liked the unashamedness of the blood, gore, and violence that was part of this tale. After all, wars are bloody!
The Last Dignity of Man ★★
Here we get a male protagonist, who has been named after the iconic Superman villain. He has some weird ideas that fell flat for me. What I did like was the palpable feeling of loneliness that jumped right off the pages when I read his story.
After the Blood ★
A world-ending plague turns some people into vampires while others embrace an Amish-esque faith. There was a lot going on, but things didn’t come together well. Neither could I find out why the protagonist had the powers that she did. My least favorite of the bunch.
Where the Heart Lives ★★
More strong female characters existing on both ends of the spectrum, i.e., immortal and mortal, good and bad, magical and non-magic, and so on. When an immortal decides on a way to bring her loneliness to an end, she doesn’t think of how many mere mortal lives she’d be wrecking. Fortunately, a girl who has never had a true family of her own decides to change matters!
The Tangleroot Palace ★★★
A sort of mixture of Princess Bride and the Perfectly Arranged Married trope. I liked it, but I also wasn’t surprised by the way the story unfolded and ended.
Now that I’m looking at my ratings, I can see they are almost evenly divided. Two twos, threes, and fours, and only a single one star. But in case it’s still unclear, I really liked this collection of tales and not only because it had women front and center!
I requested this book from Tachyon Publications via Netgalley and am so glad I did!