Book Review: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales

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Hardcover, 480 pages
Expected publication: September 9th, 2014 by Candlewick Press
Source: Publisher

First, I’m back! Second, thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me an ARC for this anthology which I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed. I will discuss this in more detail later on in this review, but I will just mention now that I love when different authors explore a narrow theme with great diversity. To elaborate, rather than a broad theme such as fairytales, I like collections that focus on a specific idea, as this collection does. The contributing authors are all very impressive and have both long and short fiction that have won accolades and awards. I especially like Kelly Link’s short stories and in fact, Pretty Little Liars that I believe Stephie reviewed is one of my favourite. This is how I will approach this review: First, I will  I give my opinion on the collection as a whole and then review some of the more outstanding stories. So without further, don your hats because we are going on a monstrous adventure.

Monstrous Affections asks the contributing authors to explore the meaning of “monster” and tackle the word/being/emotion from whatever direction they want to. And they do! Some stories consider literal monsters of the supernatural variety, others of the human variety. Still others consider the monsters that lurk within one’s own psyche. I was impressed by the diverse nature of the collection. No two stories sound the same and no two stories have the same kind of monsters. The writing styles varied and while I liked some stories way more than others, I believe that each one contributed something essential to the collection. The anthology, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, is sure to satisfy anyone who has a bite-sized longing for something twisted. This would be a great read for Halloween or on a rainy day when lightning flashes and thunder booms and you can feel your heart beat.

Moriabe’s Children – Paolo Bacigalupi

 The sheer emotional intensity of the “Moriabe’s Children” took my breath away. I hadn’t read anything by Paolo Bacigalupi until this story but if this short story is any indication of his writing prowess, I must needs get my hands on a book by him. “Moriabe’s Children” follows Alanie, the daughter of a dead fisherman and a woman who is unable and perhaps unwilling to protect her daughter. She hears the voices of the Moriabe, the kraken rumoured to haunt the waters of the sea by which Alinie and her family lived. After her father dies and her mother remarries, Alanie is drawn to and seeks out the voices of the Moriabe who call her sister. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoiling this story for you but Bacigalupi managed to, in a very short story, build an entire world and coax an entire symphony of emotions from me. The story is heartbreaking and not my usual fare but it is so very effective. I especially loved that even at the very end, I wasn’t entirely sure who the real monster was.

Ten Rules for Being an InterGalactic Smuggler – Holly Black

Black scores once again with sharp and witty story about a runaway protagonist who ends up stranded on a spaceship with an alien of the deadly variety. The story has humour and spirit. Tera, the protagonist, gets over her fear of the alien in a realistic and legitimate manner that adds a lot of enjoyment to the story. Plus, it’s really smart and I just liked it. In this case, the monster is external and I liked how Black delved into his supposed monstrousness self.

Quick Hill – M. T. Anderson

Anderson’s story made me feel claustrophobic, as though someone had trapped me inside a small cupboard and I had no way of escaping my situation. This one is about an arranged marriage and a sentient hill. Yeah. That’s all I am going to say. Prepare to be disturbed. In a good way.

This Whole Demoning Thing – Patrick Ness

This is the first Patrick Ness that I have ever read and I absolutely loved it. He grasps the teenage voice so well and he is able, within a few pages, to completely tell a story and that, I believe, is the mark of a true storyteller. Of course, Ness has the usual discourse on gender politics, expressions and sexual identity. It’s great stuff.

Left Foot, Right – Nalo Hopkinson

This is a strange story about loss and grief. Hopkinson, if I’m not mistaken, tells this story in dialect and I loved that. It gave the story an authenticity, a sincerity that I believe it would have lacked otherwise. It was a good story. It gave me pause but I liked it.

A Small Wild Magic by K. Jennings

A short story in graphic form, of course I loved it. This story is more lighthearted than some of the others and though I’m not sure if the art is final, I did feel that the art and the story went perfectly together. There is a playfulness in the art that is reflected in the prose accompanying it. Besides, I love prickly characters. I also love the inclusion of grandparents in YA stories.

These are the stories that I most wanted to talk about but they are by no means the only ones I liked in the collection. The anthology is a strong one; it entertains and it makes you think. I recommend it to everyone.