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Abhorsen

To Hold the Bridge

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Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard. For the night might come when even an untried young cadet must hold the bridge alone against the most devastating of foes...

Here is a collection of Garth Nix's best short fiction, including an Old Kingdom novella and stoies set in the worlds of Shade's Children and A Confusion of Princes, showcasing this hugely popular author.

487 pages, Paperback

First published June 9, 2015

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About the author

Garth Nix

213 books13.3k followers
Garth Nix was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia, to the sound of the Salvation Army band outside playing 'Hail the Conquering Hero Comes' or possibly 'Roll Out the Barrel'. Garth left Melbourne at an early age for Canberra (the federal capital) and stayed there till he was nineteen, when he left to drive around the UK in a beat-up Austin with a boot full of books and a Silver-Reed typewriter.

Despite a wheel literally falling off the Austin, Garth survived to return to Australia and study at the University of Canberra. After finishing his degree in 1986 he worked in a bookshop, then as a book publicist, a publisher's sales representative, and editor. Along the way he was also a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve, serving in an Assault Pioneer platoon for four years. Garth left publishing to work as a public relations and marketing consultant from 1994-1997, till he became a full-time writer in 1998. He did that for a year before joining Curtis Brown Australia as a part-time literary agent in 1999. In January 2002 Garth went back to dedicated writer again, despite his belief that full-time writing explains the strange behaviour of many authors.

He now lives in Sydney with his wife, two sons and lots of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 464 reviews
Profile Image for Natasa.
47 reviews28 followers
Want to read
October 30, 2014
When I first saw this, I thought it was a sequel to the Abhorsen trilogy, finally... and then I read the description.

Profile Image for Janday.
277 reviews95 followers
April 4, 2015
Everything about this collection is amazing. It's like Garth Nix just decided to publish all of his fan fiction about the science fiction and fantasy classics that influenced him (and about his own work). There's a Hellboy story, a John Carter story, and a Sherlock Holmes story (sort of)--I might have fallen out of my bed when I read that one--to say the least. It's obvious that Nix enjoyed writing and compiling this collection.

The title story confirms my suspicions since reading Lirael: that Nix has many, many, many more Old Kingdom stories inside his brains.

Plus another story from the universe of A Confusion of Princes!
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,406 reviews534 followers
July 23, 2015
A collection of short stories, every one of them imaginative and interesting. Nix has a true talent for innovative worldbuilding, and any one of these short stories holds the seeds and hints of a complex and fascinating context that surrounds it. A few of them relate to other book series by Nix, but generally they're tantalizing glimpses that I would love to see fleshed out further.

"To Hold the Bridge"--Morghan's ramshackle parents left him just one thing of value: a share in the Worshipful Company of the Greenwash & Field Market Bridge. He uses it for a chance to become a cadet in the company, and works hard for his demanding taskmasters. At last, The end comes a bit quickly; I would have liked more time with Morghan as he trained on the bridge as a cadet, and more time learning about the evil he faces. I loved returning to the Old Kingdom of the Abhorsen series, and I liked Morghan himself, who has led a very hard life but just wants a fair chance to succeed. I wanted to wrap him up in blankets and feed him hot chocolate.

"Vampire Weather"--At the start of this story I thought it was set in pre-industrial days, but it seems Amos is part of a religious group that doesn't believe in modern technology. As such, they're not vaccinated against vampires like the rest of society. Twisty and turny, with so much world building packed into every page that I probably missed a bunch of even cooler details.

"Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands"--Malcolm MacAndrew goes to visit his father on the shore of Loch Torridon and discovers that far from being a retired colonel, his father is actually a very active druid in the BPRD. Malcolm accompanies him on his last mission, along with (a very in-character) Hellboy.

"Old Friends"--A recently wounded man tries to summon his old companions to help him against his ancient foe.

"The Quiet Knight"--Tony damaged his voice years ago, and now stays almost silent, even when LARPing. But when the game crosses over into his high school, he has to make a choice: stay silent and protect himself, or speak up and protect a possible friend. I wanted way more of this!

"The Highest Justice"--A virgin princess begs a unicorn for one boon--not to save her dead mother, but to give her mother what she most wants in the world. I love stories where unicorns are brutal killing machines!

"A Handful of Ashes"--Mari is an indentured servant at the only college for witches. If she can just get through the next few months and pass her exams, she'll finally be a free witch. But there are dark forces trying to control the college, and as a servant Mari is made vulnerable to their attack. Very cool worldbuilding, a kind of combination of early twentieth century English university and ancient witch magic. I'd love to read more stories in this setting!

"The Big Question"--Avel lives a simple life of hunting and gathering to feed his family, but wonders what the rest of the world is like. He asks the wise woman behind the waterfall, but her answer confuses him and sends him on a series of unpleasant adventures. Fine but not my favorite story.

"Stop!"--A man walks into a nuclear testing site and refuses to stop walking. I like that this story provides just a little, tantalizing glimpse into a much larger universe.

"Infestation"--Opens on this line: "They were the usual motley collection of freelance vampire hunters." Excellent! J joins a bunch of amateur vampire hunters to clean out a new nest. At first I thought this was your standard urban fantasy, but there's a delightfully creepy sf twist to this.

"The Heart of the City"--MacNeacail is a lieutenant in King Henri IV of France's guard. Between the army and the angels commanded by priests, the French manage to beat back a number of attempts to destroy the heart of Paris. Cool combination of Three Muskateers-type action and fantasy. The angels are alien and powerful in a way that really works. I do wish MacNeacail had more characterization--there's one great bit where he thinks about his father's advice about always posing in hopes of glory, but that's all. Really, it felt like a whole novel crammed into a short story, which makes every page full of excitement and new information, but also means there isn't a lot of depth to the characters or reason to root for one faction over another.

"Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of the East and West"--Ambrose's particular arcane talents and knowledge made him very useful during the Great War, but also gave him a bad case of PTSD. But the arcane spy service he is part of will not let him rest; they have one more task for him. I would love a novel set in this world of bloody and dangerous magics, where no practitioner can trust another.

"Holly and Iron"--Robin is born of a Inglish father and Norman mother. Like her band of outlaws, she views the Normans as invaders, but the time comes when she is forced to choose between vengeance for her father and peace for the land. A great jumble of tales of Robin Hood, William the Conqueror, and King Arthur.

"The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike"--Sherlock sends his second cousin to investigate an odd murder. Sir Magnus Holmes is as unlike Sherlock as a man might be, given as he is to upper class palaver and bad puns, but his burbling hides a keen magical talent. He and his minder, a doctor in training, foil an assassination attempt using just a single blue pill from Shrike's medical bag. A slightly Lovecraftian mirror to the classic Victorian mystery novels, and one I'd love to read more of.

"An Unwelcome Guest"--A cute tale of what happens when a stroppy Rapunzel makes herself at home in a witch's castle. Although this is short and pretty lightweight, there are hints of world building here that really intrigue me!

"A Sidekick of Mars"--the rambling tale of Lam Jones, sometime companion of John Carter. Not really my style

"You Won't Feel a Thing"--Set in the same world as Shade's Children, in which all the adult humans vanished and left the children of Earth undefended against an alien invasion. The aliens biochemically alter the children into beasts of burden and war, but some escape and create little havens for themselves. This is the tale of the Arkle, who is in some ways just a kid with a toothache.

"Peace In Our Time"--Ahfred, once the Grand Technomancer, receives a visitor, his first in decades. She questions him as to what happened to his once-great civilization. Chilling.

"Master Haddad's Holiday"--Haddad is an apprentice assassin sent to eliminate a rival. Fast paced spy adventure, with lots of cool gadgets.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
610 reviews302 followers
July 17, 2015
I’ve been trying to figure out how to review this book for a while now. Do I talk about each short story separately, can I rate them individually? While it pleases my analytical mind to do so, I decided against doing that because this collection is offered in a bound book and therefore should be treated as such. But in doing so, because of the diversity in terms of narrative, stories and characters, I can’t do my normal in-depth review.

So instead I’ll talk about the collection as a whole.

Garth Nix has always had a special place in my heart. Not only is he an Australian author, but he’s also one of the few men who can write convincing teen girls. Although I haven’t read his other offerings, I have read the Abhorsen/Old Kingdom trilogy a few times, and have utterly adored it since my childhood.

Nix has a way of writing that is simple but at the same time magical. He draws you in and leaves you breathless with descriptions, voice, and characters. This collection proves that his expansive imagination is as vivid as it is broad. He mixes traditional story elements with original elements and brings a new back story that makes his world building utterly believable. He also has submitted several fanfic stories which at first I thought was a bit weird but he must have permission to do so, so who am I to complain? They only serve to highlight what this master storyteller is capable of doing.

The glimpses into some of his other works were also intriguing, although I’m still not sure if I want to read those books – purely because I’m a YA reader who prefers female leads and I know the others are middle grade and/or male leads. It’s just a personal taste thing.

Overall if you can get over the surprise of just how big this book is and realise it’s chock-full of familiar and unfamiliar elements, and if you can bring yourself to trust Nix to hold your hand throughout this collection (as I strongly recommend you do), you’re in for a treat.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
709 reviews1,397 followers
August 3, 2019
I can be very hit or miss with Garth Nix's work. I adore the original Old Kingdom trilogy, enjoyed the heck out of the first few Keys to the Kingdom books, and like a few other things here and there....and *really* don't get along with others. This collection encapsulates all of that.

I liked the Old Kingdom novella "To Hold the Bridge" a lot. "A Handful of Ashes" was great (why yes, I do have a thing for women's magical universities...), and "Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of the East and West". A couple of other stories were fun, but not amazing, like "The Quiet Knight", "The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils", and "An Unwelcome Guest".

And then there were some I just did not yet along with - even if they were interesting ideas. Like the entire Science Fiction section.

Glad I finally pulled this off the shelf and read it though. I have got to reread Lirael and Abhorsen now!
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,553 reviews1,632 followers
February 7, 2017
For a short story collection, this was pretty great. Garth Nix's imagination can be a wonderful place, but also a scary one. Ugh, he is so creepy sometimes. The highlight was the first story, a novella set in the Old Kingdom from his Abhorsen series, which is one of my favorites. But there were also a couple of stories in here I loved, and would like to see more stories set in their respective worlds. Short reviews of each of the stories can be found in my status updates.
Profile Image for Claudia.
265 reviews80 followers
June 16, 2022
Ok so normally for short story collections I would review these individually but I just…don’t want to. So you are getting a broad outline of the overall collection and Nix’s writing.

The big story in this (to me at least) is our story in the Old Kingdom. Its a pretty simple tale of a man going to find work at a bridge being built in the Old Kingdom, hundreds of years before the action of Sabriel. I really enjoyed it. It was short but had just enough investment and action for me to get really into it. I think I would love plenty more stories from this world (hint, hint) especially in such a short format.

So despite mostly just getting this for my Old Kingdom continued fix, I did check out the other stories and found that I really enjoyed myself for the most part. Nix seems to have a very skilled ability to create a world within a few pages so that an elaborate magic system and entire world feels fleshed out even in such a small scale.

It was also interesting that I could tell fairly quickly if I was interested in a story or not. There were a lot of these that I absolutely LOVED and think could be turned into full novels that I would read. There were several that while I could see the same kind of skill just weren’t my kind of stories and I skipped through them. It really showed the diversity of his writing and I think if you are a fan of sci fi and fantasy you could find something worthwhile in this collection for you.

Overall, despite skipping stories that just weren’t for me, I really did enjoy enough of this collection to make it totally worthwhile and a good purchase. It also really showed off Nix’s writing skills.

Some favorites: the ‘evil witch’ who gets harrassed by some long haired asshole named Rapunzel, the magic academy one (as always), the hellboy fanfiction (did NOT expect that to be in a short story collection but I liked it!), and of course our Old Kingdom story.
Profile Image for K..
3,541 reviews999 followers
April 19, 2016
A collection of Nix's short stories, most of which are fantasy or paranormal based, but with a smattering of sci-fi thrown in for good measure.

Look, as is always the case with Garth Nix, the writing was compelling, and the characters were mostly intriguing. The problem here for me was that it's a very hard sell to do epic fantasy in short story form. You not only have to introduce the characters and the plot, but you have to create an entire magic system or build a whole fantasy world in about ten pages.

Probably the strongest of the stories for me was the titular Old Kingdom novella, but even then, there wasn't really much explanation about WHY these bridges were so significant and how they protected the kingdom.

On the whole, the stories were fast paced and intriguing, but I'm not sure how many of them will prove memorable. I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure that it's a collection I'll be rereading in a hurry.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,354 reviews176 followers
February 1, 2019
I enjoyed the various stories in here. I definitely wouldn't have kept them straight if it wasn't for the different narrators! They helped break up each story so I knew when one was over for sure. My favorites was the Old Kingdom novella and Holly & Iron.

I enjoyed seeing all the vampire stories in this anthology too. Nix clearly has a talent for story telling and it shows with the various topics and genres each story encompasses. I think I would've enjoyed this more had I read it since I didn't always give this my full attention. Despite that, most of the stories easily captured my attention. This also made me want to reread the Old Kingdom series.
Profile Image for Marshall T.
18 reviews
January 23, 2019
The titular story "To Hold the Bridge" was good...the others were so so. A lot of the stories finished as soon as they were actually getting interesting or good; I would have liked to have them either connect to books or have them be longer themselves.
Profile Image for Jenny Jo Weir.
1,545 reviews78 followers
January 30, 2018
19 short stories total of which I didn't care for maybe 5 of them.

I liked: The diversity and creativity of most of the stories.

I didn't like: That once I got into a story, it was over and a new one started.

I guess I'm just used to being able to follow a story through all the way and I like getting invested in the characters, but just as I began to do so with most of these, it would end and a new one would begin.

Still, if you are in the mood for diversity and want to check out multiple short stories, give this one a go.
Profile Image for Glenn.
249 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2015
What I loved about this was how Nix consistently (but not frequently) adds to the Old Kingdom world. I like that he's been taking his time because each story or book that comes out is a little precious nugget. Il the other short stories were so enjoyable for me that I wish he would turn some of them into books!
2 reviews1 follower
December 19, 2015
this was a great book i would highly recommend it ,it was fun and exciting it kept you on your toes ,and you always want to know whats going to happen next. it was thrilling and it stimulated your imagination.
Profile Image for Megan (inkand.imagination).
467 reviews9 followers
May 3, 2021
This was a really fun read! Garth Nix is a masterful writer, and the variety shown in these short stories just further illustrates that. While there were some stories that were a bit dry and more boring than others, overall I enjoyed this novella collection.

My favorites of the stories were Vampire Weather and The Silent Knight. I loved the characters in both, and they both left me wanting more. Especially Vampire Weather - it was a story that gripped me and definitely left me wanting to know more about what inspired Garth Nix to write it, and why he didn’t continue writing in this world.

If you’re a fan of Garth Nix’s other stories, I definitely recommend giving this short story collection a try!
Profile Image for Jess.
393 reviews21 followers
February 6, 2017
So much fun! I initially picked To Hold the Bridge up because of the eponymous Old Kingdom novella but ended up enjoying almost all of the other stories.

Garth Nix is extremely gifted at varied world-building and he also has a knack for quickly establishing characters that draw you in and also fit into their respective worlds. He is also excellent at creating compelling female characters and is the first male author I think of when looking for examples of well-written teen girls.

This collection of short stories is mainly focused on magical struggles, vampires and other worlds - it covers a broad range of settings and can I just AGAIN mention how excellent Nix is at worldbuilding? Almost every story drew me in from the start and there are quite a few setups where I would love to read a full novel *hint hint*. Apart from the titular Bridge story, I also particularly enjoyed Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands (Hellboy plus Scotland), The Quiet Knight (LARP), A Handful of Ashes (servant-student at a magical school must stop doom, SO GOOD), The Heart of the City (angelic magic in King Henri IV's France, interesting setup in the style of Three Musketeers and worth exploring), Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of the East and West (PTSD-suffering arcane spy service operative from WW1 gets called back to action - this would make a FANTASTIC series!), The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike (Sherlock Holmes fanfic with a cousin and a twist), and An Unwelcome Guest (Rapunzel is an unwelcome guest and a witch needs to get rid of her - sounds dark but was really cute). Seriously, there were so many good things and Nix has the ability to make real places come alive on paper (I visited the place in Scotland from the Hellboy story not too long ago and it was so accurate) and made-up ones feel organic and natural.

This book is structured into different genres and the only weak section - at least in my opinion - was the last part "Under Other Skies: Science Fiction" where the John Carter story was just not to my liking and I then lost momentum. The other sections are "Creatures of Darkness and Light", "Standing Up to Be Counted: Coming-of-Age Stories", "Check Your Faint Heart at the Door: Combat and Struggle", and "A Wink and a Nod: Lighthearted Tales".

In short, this was definitely the stronger of the two Nix short story collections I've read and I also prefer this to, say, Neil Gaiman's collection Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions.
Profile Image for Spencer Borup.
327 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2017
*UPDATE* I'm raising my 4 stars to a full 5. This is one of the greatest short story collections I've ever read. So fun—and the audiobook's narrators are excellent! A few stories toward the end kind of taper off the excitement for me, but not nearly enough for me to not recommend this book to everyone! *UPDATE FINISHED*

Any review of a Garth Nix work should begin with explaining that he is a master of imaginative, full, unique, fascinating world-building. His characters always seem to be doing off-kilter things, but that is simply because real life is weird and doesn't make sense and Garth Nix understands this.

This particular review should also begin with an explanation of what it is: a book of short stories that begins with a novella set in Nix's Old Kingdom series, much like his last book of short stories, Across the Wall--except, where that one was rather haphazard, this one was put together with care, with certain stories grouped together in themes.

I loved this book. Nix has quite the collection here: Not only an Old Kingdom novella, but also a prequel of sorts to his 1997 novel Shade's Children, AND a prequel to his 2012 novel A Confusion of Princes... and that's just the beginning. He also includes stories set in the worlds of Hellboy, Rapunzel, John Carter, LARP, a sort-of-retelling of The Sword in the Stone, and an amazing story about Sherlock Holmes's cousin, Magnus Holmes. Sprinkle in a couple incredibly unique vampire tales, some aliens, a deadly unicorn, and a magical 17th century Paris, and you might get a hint of an idea of the kind of width Nix is capable of.

I wish I could write like this guy. And that's saying a lot, because sometimes I truly hate how many adverbs he uses... but his stories are genius. If you haven't read Garth Nix before, start with his novel Sabriel. His Keys to the Kingdom series is amazing for younger readers as well.
Profile Image for Regan.
801 reviews5 followers
September 20, 2017
OK, so if your question is "how many Garth Nix books is too many to read in a row" the answer is apparently "SEVEN."

I actually remember having Nix-exhaustion after reading his Keys to the Kingdom series, which is also seven books. Also, I've discovered that I like Nix as a novelist, I'm not sold on Nix as a short story writer. I'm NEVER as engaged by his short stories as I am by his novels, not even close. So, yeah, I'm ending this journey with a "meh" although the first three Abhorsen novels are still ranked among my favorite book series.

It's possible that I would have felt differently reading this NOT on the heels of the entire novel series. I don't know. Right now I don't care, I'm just SO HAPPY IT'S OVER. LOL, sad but true.

Oh, and I also had to basically skip the entire "war" section. I just...couldn't. Not right now.
Profile Image for Jackie.
338 reviews59 followers
August 19, 2015
I'll admit, I was mostly excited about this collection due to the Old Kingdom novella included in it, because the Old Kingdom series is one of my favourites- every year since I first read the series, I re-read it, and it never loses its magic and wonder and adventure for me. This tale, the titular "To Hold the Bridge" was interesting and fun, and it was nice to return to the Charter. However, I found that I really loved the other short stories, particularly "Vampire Weather," "A Handful of Ashes," and "Holly and Iron." I also found it funny that a couple of the stories in the collection were basically Garth Nix writing fanfiction for Sherlock Holmes, Hellboy, and John Carter. Overall this was all really fun and interesting reading, and I'm glad I picked it up!
Profile Image for Audrey.
997 reviews152 followers
September 15, 2017
This is a collection of short stories and novelettes by Garth Nix that cover the whole spectrum of speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, etc.). I liked most of them; a couple were okay or a little confusing; a few were excellent. The writing overall is exceptional.

The audiobook has six or so different narrators. The stories include fan fiction for Hellboy, John Carter, and Sherlock Holmes.
Profile Image for Stephen Stewart.
248 reviews5 followers
June 20, 2020
I didn’t realize I was reading another short story anthology until it was too late. Still, I generally adore Nix’s works, and several of his short stories shine with their world building and creativity. Two of his stories seem more fit for a different short story anthology than here though. Here are some quick thoughts about each short story:

“To Hold the Bridge” – While I enjoyed the opening of the story, especially since I am a fan of the Old Kingdom books, I found the ending too rushed and pat. This is a novella that I definitely wished was longer and more fleshed out. (3/5)

“Vampire Weather” – The first vampire story in the anthology, I liked the premise of futuristic Quaker-esque anti-Vampire communities. Overall, this was a fun take on the vampire mythos and enjoyable. (4/5)

“Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands” – I was really confused and not expecting a Hellboy story here. The revelation about the other worldliness that the main character’s father is wrapped up in was cool, and this story would have been more fun without trying to inject Hellboy in it. This story was originally for Hellboy anthology, and it makes more sense there than here. (3/5)

“Old Friends” – This is one of the stranger and more evocative short stories. I liked how the reader is left to fill between the lines who or what the protagonist is. (4.5/5)

“The Quiet Knight” – I like the sweet, happy ending in the story. It definitely feels too short, like I would have enjoyed seeing the development of the main character over a longer period. (4/5)

“The Highest Justice” – I loved this short story. A princess confronts her unfaithful father with the zombie of her mother and can call a unicorn to submit a person to high justice, aka trial, which normally results with the unicorn murdering that person. It’s dark and very engaging. (5/5)

“A Handful of Ashes” – I think this is my favorite short story in the whole book, and one I’d love to see a novel on someday. Witchcraft here is nebulous, but cool and different, and I enjoyed reading how the protagonist had to outwit the Original By-Laws and save her school in doing so. (5/5)

“The Big Question” – While I liked the story generally, I feel like I’ve read this overall plot line before. (3.5/5)

“Stop” – I was surprised this didn’t fall under the science fiction section. I liked the mystery posed by the unknown man and his eternal quest for suicide. (4/5)

“Infestation” – The second vampire short story and also quite fantastic. The entire short story you’re waiting for the revelation of who the last vampire is, and it’s a great punctuation to the conclusion of the story. There is cool worldbuilding and mystery around vampirism too. (5/5)

“The Heart of the City” – While I liked the use of angels and demons and their invocation, I really struggled to get involved in the first half of the story. I feel this was due to the historical worldbuilding overload at the very forefront of it. (2.5/5)

“Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West” – Talk about another short story I’d love to read a book about. Fantastic urban fantasy worldbuilding, a really intriguing system of magic, and I loved the plot’s focus was the healing of the main character. (5/5)

“Holly and Iron” – This is a strange mesh of the Robin Hood and King Arthur mythos, but somehow it works together. I liked the two conflicting magic systems, but it seemed strange how proficient the main character was in them despite not seeming so early on in the story. (4/5)

“The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder” – I was skeptical at first seeing this was a Sherlock Holmes knockoff, but strangely having Holmes second cousin being a practitioner of magic and solving occult mysteries rather works. I liked that the novel concludes with his strange transformation into an eldritch abomination and what that entails. (4.5/5)

“An Unwelcome Guest” – a humorous modern interpretation of the Rapunzel story, the cats were probably the highlight here. (4/5)

“A Sidekick of Mars” – This story is a homage to the John Carter of Mars series and frankly … if you haven’t read any of those stories like me (I’ve unfortunately seen the movie), this is a hard read to be inspired by. Maybe this has its place in an anthology of John Carter short stories, but I didn’t really enjoy reading it here. (1/5)

“You Won’t Feel a Thing” – Nix does body horror really well, and it was a pleasant surprise to revisit the universe of Shade’s Children. (4/5)

“Peace in Our Time” – Interesting world building, the entire story built up to a twist. I really don’t have much to say about this one. (3/5)

“Master Haddad’s Holiday” – An assassin in training goes on vacation and creates some havoc. This was a fun conclusion to the anthology. (4/5)
Profile Image for Stephanie.
995 reviews41 followers
September 22, 2018
   I read this to get another Old Kingdom story. What I got was SO much more…

   While this anthology starts out with a solid addition to the Old World tales (with a rather average protagonist, on top of that!), the variety of fantasy and science-fiction tales that follows easily overshadows it. Their breadth and diversity, their unique reinterpretations of the usual supernatural creatures and legends (for example, vampires and Arthurian legends), of coming-of-age tales and old war stories, of twists on classic literature and fairy tales, make for rich and thoroughly enjoyable reading. At least one – “The Big Question” – even brought a tear to my eye, not always an easy thing with a short story. In a great number of these short stories – if not the majority – Nix creates a rich world of which we get only a glimpse, though we can see just how much more there is just waiting to be revealed in further stories. One of the ones I most wanted to read more of was “A Handful of Ashes”, involving witching schools of magic and Old and New By-Laws governing how they operate, and what can go wrong when the Laws get messed around with.

   I honestly don’t think I can think of a constructive criticism of this book, either. Sure, it is a mish-mash of a variety of unrelated stories, and there is not one theme that runs through them all, but in the end, that doesn’t matter. The collection is rich, the variety of topics and styles and genres somehow melding well together to make for an enjoyable reading ride all the way through. It is simply fun and enjoyable to see Nix’s ability to stretch himself and his writing, between genres and (though to a lesser extent) writing styles, as some took on very distinctive tones adapted for the story which appear nowhere else in the collection.

   The stories included in this collection, grouped by larger theme (underlined) are:
To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Story

Creatures of Darkness and Light :
Vampire Weather
Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands
Old Friends

Standing Up: Coming-of-Age Stories
The Quiet Knight
The Highest Justice
A Handful of Ashes
The Big Question

Check Your Faint Heart at the Door: Combat and Struggle
Stop!
Infestation
The Heart of the City
Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West
Holly and Iron

A Wink and a Nod: Lighthearted Tales
The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike
An Unwelcome Guest
A Sidekick of Mars

Under Other Skies: Science Fiction
You Won’t Feel A Thing
Peace in Our Time
Master Haddad’s Holiday

Favorite quotes:
   We had never thought much about our futures, not when we were fighting in the war, or later when we had first escaped our service. The present was our all, our time the now. – page 91, “Old Friends” (emphasis added)

    “Knowing when not to attack is as important to a leader as being up front swinging a sword.” – page 266, “Holly and Iron”

    “Wickedness depends on where you’re standing, doesn’t it?” – page 326, “An Unwelcome Guest”
Profile Image for Betsy.
331 reviews1 follower
July 25, 2020
So... I mistakenly thought this was another book in the Old Kingdom trilogy.

What a fantastic mistake this ended up being!

I may actually like Nix's short stories even more than the Old Kingdom books. Nix's writing style is the perfect example of the "show, don't tell" rule of thumb; this translates so well when it comes to short stories.

Highlights include "Vampire Weather" (with a modern day vampire pandemic and volunteer vampire fighter groups), "The Quiet Knight" (when "Wonder" meets "Role Models"), "The Highest Justice" (killer unicorns), and "The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike" (a very different Holmes than I was used to).
Profile Image for Louisa.
6,699 reviews29 followers
April 6, 2022
Another great collection of stories! Some of them were pretty bittersweet, but some were very satisfying!
Profile Image for A.R.
248 reviews32 followers
November 4, 2020
I do not think I am one for short stories really. I find them fun and interesting, but unless they are set in a world I already know they get hard to follow. You are dropped into a world for just a short while, and not given the time to fully explore that world. I read this short story collection because the title story, To Hold the Bridge, is set in the Old Kingdom world I have loved since I was a child. That story was extremely good, probably 4/5 stars by itself.

The rest of the stories are hit and miss. Some extremely good, most forgettable. Overall, I give this book a 4/5 stars due to how much I enjoyed the main story, and how iconic a few of the others are. If you are a Garth Nix fan, this is worth a read.
Profile Image for Shanti.
1,058 reviews24 followers
June 14, 2015
GARTH NIX IS AMAZING. Those of you who know me or follow my blog will be aware of this opinion. I want to write short stories like he can. I've encountered a couple of these in other short story collections, but overall they were amazing. I particularly liked the ones about witches and technomancy and of course the actual story To Hold the Bridge was excellent. a thoroughly entertaining, overall amazing read, and it was fun to see some other story universes explored (some of these concepts seriously deserve a full legnth novel)
Profile Image for Pers.
1,404 reviews
February 23, 2021
I really enjoyed the title short story in this collection. And some of the others were equally gripping, but a couple left me cold.
Profile Image for Emily.
80 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2022
Loved it! Especially the short story set in the Old Kingdom (Sabriel world)
Profile Image for Daniel Shellenbarger.
386 reviews15 followers
December 14, 2015
A collection of short stories, To Hold the Bridge includes the 2nd best thing that Garth Nix ever wrote, namely the eponymous short story, "To Hold The Bridge," which is a one-off novella set in the Old Kingdom of the Abhorsen books. That story follows a young man who seeks his fortune by joining a company with the unenviable task of building a bridge that will survive the many natural and unnatural dangers of the Old Kingdom. It's a shame that it's only 50ish pages long because this is a fantastic story with interesting characters, world-building, and some truly shocking plot twists. I give that story five stars. Other than To Hold The Bridge, the collection has its ups and downs, though I will say that it's more consistently entertaining than other short story collections I've read, and while there were times I didn't really feel that interested in certain stories, the book had a nice mix of genres so that there was something for just about everyone. Now, for the summaries:

To Hold the Bridge (10/10) - high fantasy - old kingdom novella, see above, awesome

Creatures of Darkness and Light

Vampire Weather (7/10) - paranormal fantasy - set in a religious community that doesn't believe in modern technology and is thus vulnerable to vampires (though everybody else isn't thanks to vaccines) a young man becomes fascinated with a girl from the outside; interesting premise, nice creepy mood, seems like a TV show pilot, though characters are kind of stereotypical
Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands (8/10) - paranormal fantasy/Hellboy fanfic - set in the Scottish Highlands, a young doctor returns home to find he must help his father, Hellboy and the BPRD prevent the Reds from getting their hands on an ancient power sleeping beneath his family's manor. Fun, fast read with some cool ideas.
Old Friends (7/10) - modern fantasy/science fantasy/mythology - a man on the run decides to face his pursuers at a resort town, turns out that he isn't what he seems as extreme weirdness ensues. Great atmosphere, but the world-development and events are so bizarre it could really use more context

Standing Up

The Quiet Knight (9/10) - teen drama - a quiet high school-age LARPer who doesn't like his voice is forced to choose between his habit of avoiding attention or standing up like his LARP character would. Really interesting characters and an intriguing story, manages to stand out in the book despite being the only non-fantasy/SF story.
The Highest Justice (7/10) - high fantasy - after her mother is murdered while her father cavorts with his mistress, a princess seeks out a unicorn to bring the murderer to justice, classic Grimm Brothers style evil witch story, well told, but not particularly surprising in any way
A Handful of Ashes (9/10) - modern fantasy - this feels like something written by Diana Wynne Jones (how I miss her wonderful stories), telling of a magic boarding school where a poor student is facing expulsion when a bratty privileged classmate unearths ancient and potent magics that were best left alone. I admit the DWJ similarity is half the reason I loved it, but it also has a likable can-do protagonist and an interesting (if somewhat trite) story
The Big Question (6/10) - historical fiction - ok, so The Quiet Knight isn't the ONLY non-fantasy/SF story in the collection, but this one just didn't do anything for me (and thus I forgot about it), it was ok, but blah, a kid wonders about the world outside his remote stone-age mountain village and ends up getting enslaved and having many horrible adventures before returning many years later a bit wiser.

Check Your Faint Heart At the Door

Stop (7/10) - science fantasy - sometime in the 1950's a hooded man appears at a nuclear test site in New Mexico and refuses to stop despite the soldiers' best efforts: this one lost me a bit because it got weirder than it needed to be, but the basic concept is classic horror material: an unstoppable force that leaves death in its wake.
Infestation (7/10) - science fantasy/paranormal fantasy - speaking of weird, this one is a vampire hunting story with a very different take on the vampire mythos and some weird religious conspiracy theory nuttiness thrown in , which lost me and didn't really make all that much sense, but the science fantasy take on vampires actually made them somewhat interesting and the hunting itself was cool, in the Monster Hunter International vein.
The Heart of the City (6/10) - historical fantasy - set in 17th Century France in the latter years of Henri IV, the story follows a member of the Scottish Guard as he's caught in the midst of a massive contest between numerous factions brought on by the need to renew an ancient compact with the magical heart of Paris; it has a very unusual magic system with priests in contracts with angels, but the whole thing is rather rushes and ill-developed with characters appearing and vanishing with little more than a wave, frankly it ought to have either been thrown into the bin or gone through another revision because it's easily the worst-written piece in the book.
Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West (9/10) - paranormal fantasy/historical fantasy - a British soldier/mage suffering from PTSD after WWI is called back in by his old outfit to deal with a rogue German sorcerer; this feels like a prequel to Charles Stross's Atrocity Archive (or Daniel O'Malley's Rook) with a very similar sort of shadowy paranormal MI6-ish set up and comparably flawed and broken humans, which isn't a knock on this story, quite the opposite as the story works on numerous levels and feels both authentic to the time and to its own development, just unfortunate that it wasn't a longer story.
Holly and Iron (6/10) - historical fantasy - set after the Norman conquest, two Inglish princesses, last heirs to King Harold's lineage, lead a rag tag band of outlaws against the Norman occupation. In this world, the Normans have iron-based magic (good for war) while the Anglo-Saxons have holly-based magic (good for... well, it isn't really explained very well). This is a case of too many ideas, as Nix throws together two magic systems in conflict, a gender-bending Robin Hood rip-off, a gender-bending King Arthur rip-off, Norse Mythology and some vaguely historical context which just doesn't come together very well, there's some good story in here, but it's buried under too many bashed-together myths and legends and ill-developed magical systems.

A Wink and a Nod

The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder (8/10) - historical fantasy/paranormal fantasy/Sherlock Holmes fanfic - set in semi-Holmesian London, the story follows Sherlock and Mycroft's 2nd cousin Sir Magnus Holmes, an occult enthusiast just out of the asylum, who (along with his keeper/physician Susan Shrike) assists Inspector McIntyre with a case that has unusual characteristics such that Sherlock wants nothing to do with it. The plot is kind of threadbare and there's hardly any mystery as Sir Magnus knows what's what from the get-go, but Sir Magnus and Susan Shrike are an interesting pair with layers of character development that hints at years of secret fanfic hidden under Garth Nix's bed; sadly, while this hints at some really interesting ongoing story, we get such a small taste that the whole thing seems rather incomplete (particularly with how Nix shamelessly teases at a larger story, whose obscure references we can't possibly understand). Still, it's quite fun for what it is.
An Unwelcome Guest (8/10) - modern fantasy - another DWJ-like story, telling of a thoroughly modern and less-than-wicked witch who finds her peaceful life interrupted by the unpleasant intrusion of a long-haired girl who intends to abuse the guest privileges of the ancient pact that keeps peace among witches and non-magical folk to make her life hell. It's a fun fast-moving story with an amusing reverse take on the Rapunzel story without the Wicked/Maleficent misunderstood monsters crap.
A Sidekick of Mars (6/10) - science fantasy/John Carter fanfic - this is a difficult one. On the one hand, this is an excellent critique of Burroughs Mars books, as Nix's narrator sees Carter and his friends through less rose-colored glasses and calls them out for what they are. At the same time, it doesn't really have a story of it own and it's protagonist comes off as whiny rather than interesting, which is a shame because his character criticisms are spot-on (the Custer comparison of Kantos Kan was classic), so while I appreciated his critique, there really isn't any story here worth telling, and that makes it a failure, especially compared to the other fanfic-ish stories in this collection.

Under Other Skies

You Won't Feel A Thing (6/10) - science fiction/dystopia - this is a story in the Shade's Children universe, but I didn't really like Shade's Children (nor can I particularly remember the plot), so ultimately, this didn't really interest me, nor did it really flesh out the universe of that book.
Peace in Our Time (9/10) - science fiction/steampunk - the retired and somewhat senile Grand Technomancer, once ruler of the Earth and master of clockwork technology, finds himself with a surprise visitor seeking hard truths who won't take no for an answer, despite being a fairly short story, Nix manages to create a fascinating world and then hits the reader with a series of shocking twists.
Master Haddad's Holiday (7/10) - science fiction/space opera - a prequel to Nix's "A Confusion of Princes", it tells of Master of Assassins Haddad prior to his time serving the protagonist of that book. It's a decent story but (like the Shade's Children story) doesn't really add anything to its source material.

Phew, that's the lot of it, and well worth the read, particularly as it shows that Nix's creative juices are still going strong even if his last few full-length novels have been rather uneven (*cough* Clariel *cough*).
Profile Image for Zeke Gonzalez.
287 reviews19 followers
June 19, 2017
In To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix paints vibrant pictures of alternate worlds and the varied characters and monsters that inhabit them. There are mysterious aliens, violent unicorns, science fiction vampires (as well as classic ones), ancient spirits and Gods, nuclear dragons, guardian angels, and a host of other fantastical landscapes and beings. Most importantly, Nix doesn't simply tell us about these places and the creatures that inhabit them, he immerses us in their stories and shares with us small slices of their lives. The 18 stories collected in this volume represent writing across a vast scope of topics, inspirations (including Hellboy, John Carter, & Sherlock Holmes), and themes, yet each story is a wholly original gem, many of which could be expanded into awesome novels, tv shows, or movies.

Overall, I loved these stories and I highly recommend the collection to fans of Garth Nix's other work or anybody who wants to add a fun dash of fantasy and science fiction to their reading stack. My particular favorite stories were: the titular novella "To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Story," "Vampire Weather," "Old Friends," "A Handful of Ashes," "Infestation," "Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West," and "You Won't Feel A Thing."

Review for the final short story of the collection "Master Hadaad's Holiday:" This story is about an intergalactic assassin who is undergoing his final mission as an apprentice. It's an action-packed story with an engaging and (surprisingly) endearing protagonist set in the universe of Garth Nix's novel A Confusion of Princes, which I'm definitely going have to read sometime. 4/5 stars!
64 reviews
March 21, 2020
This concludes my (re-)read of the Old Kingdom series, including short stories. To Hold the Bridge was actually the only reason I picked up this collection of short stories. It was a good read, and a nice dip into an earlier period in the Old Kingdom, which in my eyes delivered better than Clariel (if only because there was more Charter magic and the whole bridge setting was interesting). The main character really grew on me, and the ending was really strong, tense and touching all at once.

Once I start something, I tend to want to see it through to the end, so I did read all of them although I only ended up liking a few (A Handful of Ashes, The Big Question, The Heart of the City and Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West). Most of them were just not my style though (the Vampire ones, the Sci Fi ones...), or failed to grab my interest.

I anything, these short stories highlighted Nix's comfort zone and go-to themes: strong (female) characters coming of age; the wielding of elaborate magical systems by adepts; death and/or possession. His strong point is always world building and for me, his weak point is often characterisation.
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