I have to admit to something before we start, I applied for this book for a laugh. When I got it, I faceplamed. It looks a lot, from the cover and from the title and from the blurb, like this is one of those thinly disguised pornographic anthologies that normally call themselves "best love stories" or such.
It isn't porn.
I was pretty relieved when I realised this, then again when I realised it had some good stories in and I was going to enjoy it! I have to say that the second half of the book was not as good as the first half but stil, overall, it had some interesting stories and I enjoyed it.
One of the things I have to admit about this book is the way it incorperates gay and lesbian fiction like it's not a big deal. I love that. I hate that gay and lesbian fiction gets it's own little box, like it needs to be kept away from the straight fiction lest it corrupts it. Right, let's go through each story, that seems most sensible, since I did get this book free to review it.
Not an elf yet
This is funny and pretty inteligent, a girl writing about her boyfriend who's decided he'd an elf.
Tidings of comfort and joy
This was one of my favourite stories in the book and set a lot of my early impression of it as possitive. A guy finds work in an all-year christmas shop and tries to work out why his co-worker is so into dressing and asking like an elf. It's touching and interesting and well written, I enjoyed it very much.
Reclaiming the King
Another good story, which I enjoyed. The cast of characters are interesting and believable and the entire premis amused me a lot. Funny and interesting.
Color of the sky
And we hit the first bump in the road. I think it was about online gaming but...ok, I didn't get it. I hated the language and the way it was made deliberatley difficult to read. I'm not an intellectual lightweight but if you go out of your way to confuse and disorientation me you piss me of. What's the point of telling a story if nobody can even work out the plot? Not my thing at all.
The phone booth
Then we come back with another good one. This story sets up the kind of cliche, teen supernatural romance plot then foils it by having the teen in question act like a teenager. Very well thought out and funny.
Goodnight, my lady
A kind of noir detective novel only shorter and with elves. This was, along with Tidings of comfort and joy, the high side of the collection for me. I did enjoy this short story a lot. It reads well, the story is revealed just enough to keep you interested, the protagonist is just what one would expect, it was great.
Didn't like this one. Elf learns to masturbate. Fairy dust is involved. I get the joke but I don't think it's funny and, yeah, the story just didn't work for me overall.
A long friday
I'm more on the fence about this one. I can see where it's coming from but it's not for me. An elf is beaten up by corrupt cops for a crime he didn't commit.
One of the Huldu
A more traditional fairy-tale style elf story, but...it's not incredibly well written, the point of it gets lost sometimes and I was left kind of wondering what the point even was. Not a bad story, just not good either.
And we have a good one again. Not as good as my top two, just for the cliche factor, but I loved the characters. Our protagonist is a wolf/elf hybrid trying to find someone to mate with him but the only one like him is his sister (though one wonders why we can't go one way or the other, it's obviously possible for elves and werewolves to mate because, hello). I mostly remember the mermaid and the impotent vampire, who were hillarious and adorable. The plot was a little patchy but the characters were lovely.
Of roots and rings
A comic, and the middle of the book. Well drawn and I did like the story, there are a lot of good things going for this comic. I enoyed it very much.
This story should have been cut in half. The prose is horrible sometimes, and I can see why it's included, the last line makes the piece and made me actually see why what, until that point, had been typical "Oh, the sexy whores like their fate" stuff, but it could have been at least cut in half and still kept that thing I liked at the end without pissing me off so much to get me there. But clever.
The turn of the spoon
Strange, and kind of funny but not. It takes the idea of shoemakers elves and kind of overlays some kind of odd justice system and adds a plot about revenge which I found odd, though I can see the thing in applying the worst of human emotions to things that are essentialy meant to be the best of human emotions only.
The saga of Anund the Beserk
I could not make head or tale of this. It's written in the style of a old Norse legend and involves some Vikings who wander around a while then find the land of the elves, kill and rape them, then go home and it's all good. I just, it was incredibly hard to read and I didn't get what the point of it was.
And their mothers
A kind of strange follow up to the story about the elf getting beaten up by the police. I didn't really know why it got included so much later in the book or...just why in general really The point about elves not loving was made in the first story, we didn't need this continuation.
The mischief makers
Read kind of like a emo kid's wet elf-dream. There is a elf who plays tricks, like in old elf stories, only they're tiny and live in a tree and have beurocrasy for some reason. And he needs to trick this girl who is like totaly a prep and into twilight and this girl who is so goff of whatever helps him and then the fall in wuv and trick people together. Yeah, I didn't think highly of it.
To kill the oak king
Ok, this...I admit I liked. We have the set-up of a Kingdom where elves are opressed and a nobel is saved by an elf (both male) who he then nurses back to health and they have sex and it reads kind of like a cliche fanfiction plot appart from the ending which I won't spoil and I'm kind of a sucker for these kinds of stories so, yeah, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading this one.
David and Gerty
The joke is that all online gamers are fat, socialy-inept fanboys who should never leave their computers. Hahahahahaha, that's never been done before.
The last two play to cliche a lot. Ok, the back half of the book does and I didn't mind it what it was a cliche I liked but poor little elf girl gets trampled by horse and lover is upset doesn't do much for me.
Last one is a bad case of really bad love at first sight. They're from rival clans and his side killed her brother and her ide killed his son but they see each other and inexplicably fall in love and defy their tribes and their love that is like an entire 5 minutes old so totaly destined to last will definetley eventualy unite these two lands. Definitley.
So, yeah, that's the book. It's not a bad collection, if definitley has some high notes. It does have some low ones too, and the strong first half was very much let down by the weaker back half which is why I've given it a three. I think there are good stories and it's worth looking for, and I'll be keeping an eye open for other anthologies from this press, but the good is weighed down by the bad and the mediocre.