It is the time of Shakespeare. Storms rage, armies clash, magics are done – and stories are made. Five new great and terrible tales reshape the Bard’s vision, a new set of stories that will be told and retold down through the centuries.
In the Year of Our Lord 1585, all the major powers of the Mediterranean are at war. The throne of the Grand Duke of Tuscany is the prize, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Prospero, the feared Sorcerer-Duke of Milan, is under pressure to choose a side, and witches stalk the night, steering events from the shadows. Even the fairy courts stand on the verge of breaking down.
Published by Abbadon Books.
A copy of this book was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Monstrous Little Voices is a novella anthology, with all of the stories taking place in a fantastical world based on several of Shakespeare’s plays. The particular focus is on the world of the fairies, and how it and the fairies themselves interact with the human world.
I will admit up front that my memory of much of Shakespeare is more than rusty, and I chose not to go back and refresh any of that before reading this series of novellas. It’s entirely possible that someone more familiar with the plays will get more out of this collection that I did.
Not to say that I didn’t get anything out of it. For me, the absolute standout story is the first one, Foz Meadows’ Coral Bones, which extrapolated from the story of The Tempest, in particular focusing on Miranda, and in making her genderfluid. I would recommend this to anyone, even if they hate Shakespeare, just for the excellent view on gender and fluidity. I’d think that even if you have little knowledge of The Tempest, you’d be able to get a lot out of this novella. I’d expect to see it possibly popping up on awards shortlists, as well.
The rest of the novellas didn’t quite have the impact that Coral Bones did. All of the novellas were well written, and it’s to be noted that they particularly focused on strong characterisation of female characters, but none of them grabbed me quite the same way as Coral Bones. I did like the way the novellas all interweaved with each other at times, giving the whole collection what felt like a cohesive narrative.
I did also particularly like the last novella in the collection, Jonathan Barnes’ On the Twelfth Night, which uses William Shakespeare and his wife Anne, as well as their children, as characters, interweaving them with the fantastic narrative of the previous novellas. This isn’t an easy story to read, with the bulk of it being in second person, but it’s definitely worth it.
If you have a passing knowledge of Shakespeare, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this collection. If you have a deeper knowledge, I suspect you’ll find even more.