Saturday 26 April 2014

Book Review: The Poison Eaters And Other Stories; Holly Black

It didn't take me long to get through this collection of short stories, which I'm glad about because I've been really keen to share my thoughts on these as I've read more and more. I decided I needed to read them after hearing that one would be set in the same book universe as 'Tithe' which I was eager to hear more from. Thank goodness I did! I am using this book for a couple of challenges too so that fits in with this month's plans quite nicely. This month's 'Monthly Motif' is Short & Sweet, and so a collection of Short Stories is the ideal entry! Also, the number of pages in this collection falls below 300 so that's one more entry for the 'Quick Fix challenge'.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Poison Eaters And Other Stories
AUTHOR: Holly Black
PUBLISHER: Small Beer Press
PAGES: 212
GENRE: Young Adult, Short Stories, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Poisonous girls whose kisses will kill. A fateful eating contest with the devil. Faeries who return to Ironside, searching for love. A junior prom turned Bacchanalia. In twelve short stories, eerie and brimming with suspense and unexpected humour, Holly Black twists the fantastical creatures you thought you knew in ways you'll never expect.

What I Liked:
  • So before I go into specific stories, I'll look at the book as a whole. Black has included some really creative and original ideas for a variety of different Supernatural creatures. You'll find Faeries, Vampires, Werewolves, Elves, Unicorns, the Devil and even some well known book characters brought to life! I found Black's take on these creatures to be really interesting too, very different and original from other, more traditional interpretations of the very same creatures. This was something that I really enjoyed, that Black could create such original and vivid ideas based on myths and legends that already exist surrounding what she writes about. I also found really admirable the inclusion of other issues within the stories, sexuality being a big one. Some authors shy away from such subjects but Black fully embraced them and I really liked their inclusion, it gave another focus to the stories and made them more interesting to read than just Fantasy stories.
  • The characters that Black wrote, as to be expected of her, were complex and fun to read. Firstly, the story 'The Land Of Heart's Desire' based in the Universe of 'Tithe' reminded me just how much I loved that world and the characters found within it. It also did some major exploring of relationships that I would have loved to have seen in the novel itself, mostly between Corny and Roiben. I had expected another Kaye and Roiben story so I was very pleased to see Black take the story in a different direction (though of course the romance would have been great too). As for some of the new characters that I hadn't met before, I would love to see some of these short stories turned into full-length novels! I particularly enjoyed 'Virgin' for this reason, Jen and Zachary were a great pair and I wanted to read more of them! I also found a similar feeling with 'The Night Market' the characterisation and vivid descriptions of the setting made it a particularly good read.
  • My favourite story of the lot has to be 'The Coat Of Stars'. It follows a much more traditional Fairy-tale format in some areas, but gives it an entirely new twist in others! Rafe and Lyle were so interesting as a pairing and I was so glad to see that they actually got a good, solid ending to their story. The descriptions were wonderful, particularly of Rafe's costumes, the idea behind it (despite being so obviously based on a Fairy-Tale format) felt wholly original and I was totally hooked. If I had to recommend reading only one of these twelve well-written stories, it would be this one. It strikes a feeling of both familiarity and newness into the heart.
What I Disliked:
  • I think this can be expected in most Short Story collections, but some of the stories didn't impress me as much as others. I didn't find them boring, I just felt they weren't as strong as others I had read in the collection. 'In Vodka Veritas' and 'The Dog King' had some really nice moments and interesting ideas behind them, but overall I came away not overly impressed. I also wanted to see a bit more from 'Going Ironside', which felt cut a little too short as it was such an intriguing idea! My least favourite story was probably the titular one, 'The Poison Eaters'. I didn't really like the characters involved, felt a little confused about the plot-line and found it to be the most disappointing read of them all.
  • Looking at all the stories as a whole, I think I felt a little of how I felt when I read 'Tithe'. Holly Black's writing style is very fast-paced and there are a lot of moments easily missed if not read carefully. I think this probably is the reason why I didn't enjoy a couple of the stories, they felt rushed from time to time. As well as this, the endings to a few felt abrupt and gave those stories an unfinished feel. It worked well for some as it left me wanting more. For others, it just irritated me.
Overall Conclusion:
A really nice collection and certainly on the more enjoyable end of Short Story collections I have read. Yes, there were some stories that I didn't enjoy so much, but the ones that I did more than made up for this. Black has a really unique spin on the Supernatural world (something I discovered when reading 'Tithe') and it was nice to see her cover a wide range of creatures and topics. The characters were very strong and a good number of these stories, if expanded upon, would make really nice stand-alone novels. I think that in itself is impressive and Holly Black did a really nice job here! 

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