David Thomas Moore is one of the most interesting editors in genre publishing at the moment. His unflinching approach to giving a platform to emerging and fresh talent has yielded some great results so far, and this new project, Monstrous Little Voices, showcases some of the most exciting up and coming writers around right now. Thus, the name is a pun, the monstrous little voices being a good description of the writers in this collection of novellas, as well as a reference to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The premise of the collection is quite clever. Imagine if several of Shakespeare’s works were part of shared universe. The book takes place after the events of various plays, with the major powers of the Mediterranean at war. The throne of the Grand Duke of Tuscany is contested and every power from Navarre to Illyria has gotten stuck in. Add the sorcerous Prospero and an unpredictable fairy court to the mix and we have a fine fantasy setting, almost ready made to set stories in.
There are five novella length stories in the book. It opens very strongly with Coral Bones, a tale by Foz Meadows. If you’re familiar with Foz’s work, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that this is a powerful page-turner with a strong slice of fairness and feminism. Foz tackles The Tempest's Miranda and the events after her marriage to Ferdinand, and what someone might do when they realise that their fate thus for, has been decided for them by everyone but themselves.
Kate Heartfield’s story, The Course Of True Love continues the themes of identity and self, and also gives us an idea as to what happened to the ‘Indian Boy’ that the Titania and Oberon bickered over in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, as well as a look at the politics of Illyria (from Twelfth Night). Delightful and clever.
Planetfall author Emma Newman’s contribution, An Unkindest Cut is equally delightful, like a lovely slice of the darkest chocolate cake. Newman grabs strands from previous stories and also draws upon Shakespeare’s tragedy to create a highly readable but enjoyably horrible tale. Next up is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Even in the Cannon's Mouth. The author is best known for his fantasy sagas and long flowing prose. He doesn’t disappoint here, compressing his epic style to really bring the collection together into a sharp point. Gripping stuff.
Finally, we get On the Twelfth Night by Jonathan Barnes, which uses each night as a chapter title and countdown, as this lovingly curated collection hits it’s rather fine conclusion. If you’re curious to see what the state of genre writing is at the moment, this book should give you a very good idea of the talent out there.
MONSTROUS LITTLE VOICES: NEW TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE'S FANTASY WORLD / AUTHORS: JONATHAN BARNES, ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY, EMMA NEWMAN, KATE HEARTFIELD, FOZ MEADOWS / PUBLISHER: ABADDON BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW