Tonight’s post is a review of another short story collection by Misha Burnett, Dark Fantasies. It contains stories set in fantasy worlds inspired by HP Lovecraft, Ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and 1930s/40s America. I didn’t read the first two stories, “A Hill of Stars” and “In the Gloaming O My Darling”, as I had read and reviewed them previously in Cirsova #1 and Cirsova #5. If I ever get back to my own short story writing, I plan to re-read “A Hill of Stars”, looking for the elements in it that inspired other readers and authors.
Nox Invictus has the same immersive-world feel as “A Hill of Stars”, although the setting is quite different: the border territories of the Roman Empire. I enjoyed the structure of the story, as the main characters arrive at the scene of a frightening mystery, making the reader wonder along with them as the story turns more and more supernatural. One event in the final resolution caught me off guard, although it was a completely believable action by the character in retrospect. I would love to read more stories in this setting, by Misha or by other authors.
Candlemass Night is a story that could be classified as “literature”, and although I’ve come to view that term as a curse word, this was a good story. Maybe it will be assigned to high school students in the future. Who am I kidding? High school students won’t be able to read in the future. All joking aside, this story is more emotion-provoking and sad than I’d like to read on a regular basis, so I’m glad it was just one story out of a collection.
Conessa’s Sword showed characters with medieval (or at least small-town rural, I’m not a medieval scholar) attitudes towards life. A young person from modern-day New York City or San Francisco might find them bizarre, but I enjoyed the reminder that there are other ways to live.
Through Dry Places is another story with a medieval setting, and I liked it for similar reasons. I also found the main character extremely likeable, but I don’t want to discuss too much and spoil the story.
The next three stories are set in the same world as another of Misha’s collections I’ve reviewed, Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts.
She That Was So Proud and Wild has a rural setting, and I was just thinking about backwoods USA, not even realizing it was in the Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts world until I re-read the introduction. I guess I’m a sucker for rural/small-town settings and gradually unfolding mysteries, and I thought those elements came together nicely here. I could see some readers thinking the story ends too early, but every time I try to project it forward, I decide it has the right ending point.
The Hopeful Bodies of the Young is wrapped tightly in the setting of Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts, and I feel like it would be a different reading experience for those who have read that collection and those who haven’t. I liked the expansion of that world, and felt that either of the two main characters would make good central characters for future stories.
An Interrupted Scandal also appeared in an issue of Cirsova (#10, I believe), but I haven’t read that issue yet. You know the endings of those older mystery novels and TV detective shows where the investigator gathers all the suspects in a room and reveals who the killer is? This story is like that, except through the use of magic, the investigator compresses the whole investigative phase and goes straight to the reveal on the night of the murder. The story raised a question for me: whether hyper-intelligent people are doomed to despise those around them for being less intelligent, or whether magic was responsible for one of the characters having those thoughts.
Misha also recently released another (more science fiction oriented) collection, Endless Summer, which I backed on Kickstarter, because I know that Misha just doesn’t write bad stories. Or, if he does, he keeps them to himself. He knows how to keep a story moving so the reader doesn’t get bored, and always has at least one setting, character, or plot detail that makes the story worth reading.