I had the pleasure of chatting with Marjorie M Liu awhile back after her interview and really enjoyed an insight into her writing habits. During her i...more I had the pleasure of chatting with Marjorie M Liu awhile back after her interview and really enjoyed an insight into her writing habits. During her interview she mentioned this book among her new releases and I thought it would be a good time to check her work and some of the other authors I haven't read yet (Shinn and Galenorn).
Although the spine labels this as urban fantasy to appeal to the UF/PR crowd, I'd say this was more fantasy/fantasy romance which is one of my top fave genres. Only one story is really urban fantasy (Galenorn's) and it was one of the standout stories. Each tale deals with a princess who attempts to make her own Happily Ever After. I have to say Liu's & Galenorn's stories Were my favorites. Both were delightful reads with great world building, a wonderful array of characters and a nice twist on and old theme.
Hamilton's story, Can He Bake A Cherry Pie? was my least favorite, the shortest and least coherent one which is strange because it's the main draw. Despite the continuous proclamations of the heroine being strong and so awesome, there was never anything she particularly did to face and conquer each trial. The story felt like someone was telling it to you third party and left out much of the juicy details. More subtlety would have worked here along with a stronger heroine to "show" rather "tell" her intelligence and skills. I do like the fact that a bake-off was sort of the final battle. That was different.
This story exemplifies one of the main problems I have with Hamilton's writing. The "heroine" doesn't really do anything but she and everyone around her shouts how wonderful she is because she is female. I'm all for female empowerment but even more so I want a lead character to root for. The princess in this story never does anything to prove that she is a hero. She doesn't fight her way through or face any adversity all the while being showered with praise.
Next is Yasmine Galenorn's The Shadow of the Mist (I love that title) which I read third. I really liked this story of a young pregnant woman escaping her violent former fiance. After moving on with a new life and a wonderful new fiance who cares for her, he finds her and threatens to force her into marriage. I haven't read any of Galenorn's Otherworld series but if it's anywhere near as suspenseful and well paced as this one, I'm definitely going to dive right on into them. I liked the fact that each sister that helped the main character Siobhan (herself a Selkie) had different powers and paranormal backgrounds. Each character was interesting and even though they only popped in for a few moments, they had their own mark on the story through their personalities. The villain, Siobhan's ex, was a vile one and I was glad when he was defeated. Great urban fantasy story.
Then comes Marjorie M. Liu's The Tangleroot Palace. What a gorgeous story! I loved the world building here which was haunting and very beautiful. This was definitely a fantasy romance I wanted to get lost in and the story turned out at a suspenseful pace that kept me flipping pages. Although the twist at the end may come as no surprise to most folks, I have to admit I was nicely taken off guard. This story deals with a princess on the run from an upcoming engagement who she deems to a barbarian. While she is escaping, she meets a traveling entertainment act (their scenes and dialogue are one of my faves in the story) and a magical forest. There's a nice scene at the climax where the heroine comes out a true heroine and it didn't seem heavy handed or forced at all. Really enjoyed this fantasy romance.
Lastly, there's Sharon Shinn's The Wrong Bridegroom. Usually I don't generally like the first person narrative unless the narrator is a well written character. If not, they can be a bit of a pain to follow the story along with. Unfortunately that happened to me here, unlike with the Galenorn story where I can identify and sympathize with the main character's plight. Here, Princess Olivia was a rather unlikeable protagonist so it was hard to identify with her throughout the story. She had many moments musing about why certain people didn't stay in their place or fall over their feet whenever they were in her presence. She definitely embodied the spoiled princess personality. I had hoped she would be redeemed, maybe learn a bit of humility and grow up a little in the end, but instead we get some flashes of maturity and selflessness that may give us hope for her future. Thankfully the surrounding characters more than made up for it. This story is probably third on my list for this anthology. Although it was a fantasy romance, there were some themes that occurred in here that were just too modern for believability. I got the idea that this was in a world not unlike medieval times and the thinking would be entirely different when presented to some things occurring here. All in all, I liked the secondary characters and the descriptions of the towns, magic and world here which made the story enjoyable.
1 out of 5 Can He Bake A Cherry Pie 4.5 out of 5 The Shadow of Mist 5 out of 5 The Tangleroot Palace 3 out of 5 The Wrong Bridegroom? (less)