Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories
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Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  429 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Widely praised and widely read, Elizabeth Hand is regarded as one of America's leading literary fantasists. This new collection (an expansion of the limited-release Bibliomancy, which won the World Fantasy Award in 2005) showcases a wildly inventive author at the height of her powers. Included in this collection are "The Least Trumps," in which a lonely women reaches out t...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by M Press (first published December 12th 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,384)
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Althea Ann
***** Cleopatra Brimstone.
A budding entomologist suffers a traumatic attack, and goes all Ms. 45 on some probably-undeserving men. Loved it. The supernatural/horror elements are unstinting, but the psychological/metaphorical aspects of the story are as delicate as butterfly wings, and carry the ring of truth.

**** Pavane for a Prince of the Air
Previously read in 'Embrace the Mutation.' I was slightly less enthused on a second read, but I'll stick with 4 stars. "Unlike most of these stories, not...more
Layla Bing
Saffron and Brimstone was my first exposure to the beautifully evocative prose of Elizabeth Hand, and I cannot wait to get my hands on one of her full-length novels! Her storytelling is unparalleled in anything I have read lately; she is truly a master at her craft and it shows in this collection of short stories. The stories included run the gamut from horror to fantasy, magic realism to experimental fiction. No two are alike, but they all share certain elements of compelling story-telling that...more
M Griffin
I first read the lead-off story in this collection, "Cleopatra Brimstone," in the anthology Poe's Children (edited by Peter Straub). This story of a young entomologist who moves to London in the aftermath of rape was the best thing in Straub's anthology and turns out to be the best thing in Saffron and Brimstone too. That's not at all to say the rest of this collection is lacking.

The very best fictional narrative has the feel of true personal history, enough to inspire the reader to check the w...more
Fantasy Literature
We’ve been living through a renaissance of science fiction and fantasy short fiction in the past decade. New authors are entering the field through the monthly magazines both online and in print. Small presses are also producing excellent work: Small Beer Press, Night Shade Books, and Golden Gryphon among them.

I’d not previously heard of M Press, but if it is a new entry into the small press arena, I’m happy to welcome it, especially if it continues to publish books as strange and brilliant as E...more
Zoe Brooks
This collection was first released in 2006 and has just been published by Open Road as an ebook. In doing so Open Road has again revived a gem for us magic realism fans. In my review of Hand's collection Last Summer on Mars Hill (also published by Open Road) I suggested that although the author is known as a writer of speculative fiction and horror a strong case could be made for her as a writer of magic realism. I think that case is even stronger with this later collection. The stories seem mor...more
In keeping with my promise of honesty in reviews I will first disclose that I usually hate short stories. The lack of character development and the short and hurried plot points tend to kill it for me, so the fact that I made it through this at all, says something about my respect for this author's abilities.

Now to review. Okay, the book is subtitled "Strange stories," so I can't say that I didn't go into this prepared for what I found. The subtitle doesn't lie. This is definitely an interestin...more
Librarian Lavender
Saffron and Brimstone, Strange Stories, is a book filled with different types of short stories. I'm going to review the first four separately, because they are so versatile.

It starts with Cleopatra Brimstone which is a story about a beautiful girl named Jane. She's very smart and cares more about her brain than her looks. Insects have always drawn her which is why she wants to study them. When she is a student something goes very wrong though which changes her life forever.

Jane has a gift and t...more
Lolly LKH
A very strange collection, my favorite being The Least Trumps. Oddly enough, as I am reading it- I have foxes behind my house, one in particular that, as in the story, screams at me when it barks... In the story there is a little mystery in a deck of cards, artistry, love and immense change. When Ivy's lesbian mother is angered over her books The Wise Ants being discussed later as mid-century lesbian literature, she is angered because she wrote them 'for the children' which of course, had nothin...more
The subtitle says it all, these are strange stories. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, something that leaves you wondering after you have reached the end, then this may be the book for you. The stories have a variety of "what-if" scenarios to them. What if nymphs still existed and had adapted to the modern world? What if a blank tarot deck was found? What if humans could transform after sex? What if college dropouts searched for meaning and found a way to see through reality?...more
this is a series of subtly connected short stories that move between the contemporary world and fantasy, between myth and the everyday. cumulatively, they add up to something much larger than the evanescent feel they all have individually. all of them are about loss and the difficulty vs the longing for connection. the style of each story, and the PoV, differs, yet they are unitary. i've always been interested in Elizabeth Hand's work, but her novels generally tend to make me feel like maybe the...more
Jun 30, 2014 Deborah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deborah by: NetGalley
Shelves: netgalley, own
Elizabeth Hand has been described as "one of the most poetic writers working in speculative fiction and horror today," and, based on her work in Saffron and Brimstone, that is a well-deserved compliment. "Poetic" is exactly the word I would use for Hand's writing. With the exception of "Wonderwall," which simply did not resonate with me at all, the stories in this collection are a delicious combination of the sublime (the butterfly imagery of "Cleopatra Brimstone") and the surreal (the changing...more
Julian Froment
I very much enjoyed this book. I liked the format a lot. It consisted of eight separate short stories, of varying lengths. It provided great variety, with each story being different from the others and covering an assortment of genres from supernatural to dystopian themes.

I thought that each of the stories were very well written, and the breadth of topics dealt with was impressive.

My favourite story was Cleopatra Brimstone, which was one of the longer stories. I found this to be remarkably cleve...more
Picked this one up at random in the library. "Pavane for a Prince of the Air" was a slow-moving, heart-breaking story of a well-loved man dying, and it made me cry. The other stories were strange and interesting, but sometimes frustratingly disjointed when I just wanted a solid narrative. Some of the female characters in this collection of short stories are frighteningly driven to accomplish their private desires.
A fine collection from Liz Hand. Sharp, precise, evocative writing. Surprises abound, both subtle and grotesque. Her prose craftsmanship is a wonder to behold. That said, a few of the stories fell flat for me, but overall a worthy collection to read and admire.
Lolly LKH
A very strange collection, my favorite being The Least Trumps. Oddly enough, as I am reading it- I have foxes behind my house, one in particular that, as in the story, screams at me when it barks... In the story there is a little mystery in a deck of cards, artistry, love and immense change. When Ivy's lesbian mother is angered over her books The Wise Ants being discussed later as mid-century lesbian literature, she is angered because she wrote them 'for the children' which of course, had nothin...more
There is a wonderful duality on display in this fabulous collection from Elizabeth Hand and a complexity of readings that make it a powerful piece of literary fantasy. First there is the title alone. Saffron and Brimstone evokes the biological and chemical. Or two forms of the biological (botanical and animal as in the brimstone moth). Or two forms of similar animals (brimstone moth vs. butterfly). Or two conflicting aromas, pleasantly fragrant and sulfurous foul. Or two conflicting styles held...more
This is a series of stories that epitomizes the writing style of Elizabeth Hand. She varies in genre from fantastical, science fiction, and horror to more literary fiction, but is always beautiful to read.
Dec 02, 2007 Stefanie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of the decidedly weird
another book i picked up to read on a plane. one of these stories struck me the wrong way and another exactly the right way. i'd be interested to read more of her work.
Beautiful prose, lovely strange stories, evocative of myth. I was sad to finish it. Elizabeth Hand is an amazing writer.
Hand is a masterful writer, but the women in this collection annoyed the frack out of me. It's like they're all bourgeois Penelopes on a longtime pathetic, passively pining after the men who use them as playthings. I've only read the first half the collection, but hopefully there will be more variety.

"Wonderwall" = 4/10. I wondered how autobiographical this was....

"Kronia" = 9/10. Breathtaking. And impossible to describe.

"Calypso in Berlin" = 2/10. A modern day Calypso imprisons her playboy lo...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
This was an impulse read; I was browsing in the library and it looked interesting.

Short summary: brilliant with words, brilliant with imagery and atmosphere, not quite so capable with characters and story generally. I found out that most of the stories in this book didn't quite convince me to want to read them with the attention that they need to really appreciate them.

If I were to re-read this sometime when I was feeling a little less tired, I might appreciate it a little more, and give it a hi...more
Elizabeth Hand, tagged as one of the "New Fabulists" (I think that's what they're called), writes shimmering prose. I hadn't read any of her short stories or novellas before - these seem tinged with melancholy, so much so that I was reminded of the title of one of Ray Bradbury's short story collections, A Medicine for Melancholy. I don't know that there's much medication here, but the stories are certainly arresting.

One of the things Hand certainly handles well is the occupations of her protago...more
Jack Haringa
A marvelous collection of affecting and finely-wrought stories by Elizabeth Hand, the author of many fine novels, Saffron and Brimstone has a loose thematic continuity of fractured selves struggling with the meaning and viability of relationships. The protagonists of these stories are strong but flawed--and sometimes damaged--women who are frequently isolated, from society or from love or even from themselves. Many of the tales have only the hint of the fantastic, and none offer pat resolutions....more
Oct 07, 2008 Tayla rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tayla by: Alison
I have to say the first short story in this volume, while thought provoking, is really really weird. I liked Hand's style and the language she used, but it was a bit out there and I'm not usually attracted to fantasy works. That said, it's good to push beyond your usually fare now and again and try different things, so with some encouragement from my sister-in-law who had suggested the book, and hit the same initial roadblock, I soldiered on. I am so glad I did because I really enjoyed several o...more
Feb 10, 2009 Sienna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
I'd read (and re-read) the first three stories in Bibliomancy before, and felt a rush of pleasure at how affecting I still find each of them. Liz Hand remains one of my favorite writers for the sheer raw beauty she injects into the world with the creation of her own. These stories are often rich to the point of decadence and revelatory, at once familiar and distant. Quite taken with the Lost Domain quartet ("The Saffron Gatherers" — wow!), but not entirely sure what I thought of "Wonderwall." I'...more
Connor Smith
In my strawman stereotype world, the fantasy genre is all about escape from the real world into a world of, well, fantasy while literary fiction is about the real world and all its evils, splendors, and mysteries. Elizabeth Hand's stories read like the intersection of these two worlds. At first they assault you with the fantastical and seem like an escape, but just under the surface lies the human nature so characteristic of the real world. For me personally, these stories never clicked, but I c...more
I remember hearing a story about Lucius Shepard coming rabidly to the defense of Elizabeth Hand when someone claimed she didn't write fantasy, or that it was bad, or that magical realism didn't count, or something, and I have to say I would do the same had I been in his position. I wish more speculative fictions authors would write like this. I wish half of them possessed this level of imagination. I wish the big zines—F&SF, Asimov's, etc.—would publish stuff of this caliber.

Audra (Unabridged Chick)
One-sentence summary: Strange, slightly-surreal short stories in the vein of Aimee Bender.

Why did you get this book?: The title, I think.

Do you like the cover?: Yes, if I didn't look too closely at the bug.

Did you enjoy the book?: Yes. Ish. In every story, I would find myself enthralled and then irritated, enthralled again, then disappointed. And yet, in the end, I enjoyed most of the stories. "Cleopatra Brimstone" and "The Least Trumps" were my favorites.
As usual Hand's descriptive abilities leave me amazed - gritty and beautiful at the same time. I do think her descriptions work a bit better in longer, full-length books though, where she has time to build more of a story into the world-view. I really enjoyed "Cleopatra Brimstone" and "Calypso in Berlin" with "The Least Trumps" coming in a distant third. I found the rest less successful, but still with that grit/beauty aura so unique to Hand's writing.
dudes. amazon was like, read this. so i got it out of the library and tried to read the first story but had to stop. there was a beautiful girl, a sexual assault, an insect obsession ... it was kind of gagnerdy and way not radnerdy. some goth girl in your creative writing class would try to write this story except she might write it better (ouch).

i returned it to the library.

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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North Londo...more
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