Eve of War by Mhairi Simpson and Darren Pulsford (eds)
“Sharp of mind and instinct; with poise and grace and power – Eve’s Daughters are a match for any opponent. Whether seeking out a worthy test or assailed by brave (but foolish) foes, she is determined and cunning, and will not fail…” An anthology of fantasy and sci-fi short stories, focusing around women in combat.
Miranda’s Tempest by Sarah Higbee is an interesting take on The Tempest from Miranda’s point of view, after the play’s over; it’s a woman realising that she doesn’t have her dream, and taking steps to get it back.
The Devil’s Spoke by K.T. Davies is a story about old age and past deeds, what runs in families and the knowledge and skills that never leave, even if you get old…and the theme of old age runs into Himura the God Killer by Andrew Reid, as a traveller on a search for a revenge meets an old woman.
The Bind that Tie by Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of my favourites; I loved the world and the background that was woven into the story, and the tale of a blind swordswoman is punctured by excellent fight scenes. Et Mortuum Esse Audivit by Alasdair Stuart was definitely a second favourite; it’s a story about ghosts and what they want, and a story about fighting your demons – both real and the ones in your head. Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick by Juliet McKenna is a wonderful sci-fi take on a plague, a manhunt, and the best way to capture someone – it’s an easy and fun read.
A Veil of Blades by R.J. Davnall is a sneaky and slanted take on the tournament-for-the-hand-of-the-princess story, with a nice twist at the end. In Amber by Rob Haines goes more sci-fi; when an empire destroys an entire world but recreates them in a virtual world, how far does the last of the population want to go to get them out?
The next three stories return to the more traditional fantasy theme. Skating Away by Francis Knight looks at the sacrifice needed to get through a crossroads, and how a vengeful woman and a hunter deal with the hunted man. The Ballad of Sighne by Rahne Sinclair was the one off note in this anthology for me; I wanted to see how Sighne became what she ended as, and how her story unfolded when she was away from her village; the story of the wrongs done was almost too familiar to make for interesting reading. The Crossing by Paul Weimer is the story of an army, battling against invaders in a traditional fantasy world; I really liked the background and worldbuilding of this, as well as the battle scenes.
Lucille by Alec McQuay is a modern tale, the story of an old woman in a care home, fighting back against the bullies. Born by G Clark Hellery is a mother fighting for the soul of her child against demons, and Repo by Ren Warom is an eerie and chilling tale of a team who fight monsters in dreams; an endless battle for the souls of those taken, knowing that they can never win but hoping that the victories will save just one more person. And the final story in the anthology, One Sssingular Sssenssation by Chloe Yates, is a good ol’ cheese-fest of sarcasm and heroism, with an additional bit of time-travel and snark thrown in.
Overall? The anthology’s great fun, with a wide variety of stories ranging from amusing to heroic to unsettling to epic, and the mix of genres ranges from modern to sci-fi to historical to fantasy. The fighting descriptions are all excellent, and there’s some really interesting twists and concepts. While I certainly had favourites, every story caught my attention, and it’s definitely worth a re-read. If you like good speculative fiction and fighting women, get this!
PS. I’m adding this to my Discoverability Challenge, as there were several authors I hadn’t come across before.