Friday, August 8, 2014

Anthology Spotlight : Beyond The Pale Anthology by Various


Available for purchase at Birch Tree Publishing

I was so blown away by the talent attached to this anthology, and the opportunity to work with a new to me publisher. Beyond The Pale brings this group of writers together to explore Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal themes. Editor Henry Herz has chosen stories that aptly represent their genres, yet move beyond what is expected. It’s been a long time since I read such a perfectly blended set of stories. The total atmosphere of the book guides readers through the dark woods, down the rabbit hole and beyond  the edges of the veil between worlds.

An Excerpt is worth a thousand thoughts so here is a snippet from The Children Of The Shark God by Peter S. Beagle

Once there was a village on an island that belonged to the Shark God. Every man in the village was a fisherman, and the women cooked their catch and mended their nets and sails, and painted their little boats. And because that island was sacred to him, the Shark God saw to it that there were always fish to be caught, and seals as well, in the waters beyond the coral reef, and protected the village from the great gray typhoons that came every year to flood other lagoons and blow down the trees and the huts of other islands. Therefore the children of the village grew fat and strong, and the women were beautiful and strong, and the fishermen were strong and high-hearted even when they were old.
In return for his benevolence the Shark God asked little from his people: only tribute of a single goat at the turn of each year. To the accompaniment of music and prayers, and with a wreath of plaited fresh flowers around its neck, it would be tethered in the lagoon at moonrise. Morning would find it gone, flower petals floating on the water, and the Shark God never seen—never in that form, anyway.

Now the Shark God could alter his shape as he pleased, like any god, but he never showed himself on land more than once in a generation. When he did, he was most often known to appear as a handsome young man, light-footed and charming. Only one woman ever recognized the divinity hiding behind the human mask. Her name was Mirali, and this tale is what is known about her, and about her children.
Mirali’s parents were already aging when she was born, and had long since given up the hope of ever having a child—indeed, her name meant “the long-desired one.” Her father had been crippled when the mast of his boat snapped during a storm and crushed his leg, falling on him, and if it had not been for their daughter, the old couple’s lives would have been hard indeed. Mirali could not go out with the fishing fleet herself, of course—as she greatly wished to do, having loved the sea from her earliest memory—but she did every kind of work for any number of island families, whether cleaning houses, marketing, minding young children, or even assisting the midwife when a birthing was difficult or there were simply too many babies coming at the same time.

She was equally known as a seamstress, and also as a cook for special feasts; nor was there anyone who could mend a pandanus-leaf thatching as quickly as she, though this is generally man’s work. No drop of rain ever penetrated any pandanus roof that came under Mirali’s hands.
Nor did she complain of her labors, for she was very proud of being able to care for her mother and father as a son would have done. Because of this, she was much admired and respected in the village, and young men came courting just as though she were a great beauty. Which she was not, being small and somewhat square-made, with straight brows—considered unlucky by most—and hips that gave no promise of a large family. But she had kind eyes, deep-set under those regrettable brows, and hair as black and thick as that of any woman on the island. Many, indeed, envied her; but of that Mirali knew nothing.
She had no time for envy herself, nor for young men, either.
Now it happened that Mirali was often chosen by the village priest to sweep out the temple of the Shark God. This was not only a grand honor for a child barely turned seventeen but a serious responsibility as well, for sharks are cleanly in their habits, and to leave his spiritual dwelling disorderly would surely be to dishonor and anger the god himself. So Mirali was particularly attentive when she cleaned after the worshippers, making certain that no prayer whistle or burned stick of incense was left behind. And in this manner did the Shark God become aware of Mirali.

Awesome right? I quickly pegged this story as my favorite but then I read Misery by Heather Brewer. I've been in love with Heather’s work since her  Vladimir Tod series, but this was the very first short story of  hers I’ve read. Misery is one of those short but sweet stories that manage to have a significant journey with the protagonist in afar pages. A definite twilight zone feeling to this tale.

As the pages turn the stories just get better and better: Even Hand  Is a great stand  alone read that has a few fun Easter eggs for fans of the Dresden Files.

Red Run was another favorite of mine since I'm a fan of Kami Garcia’s Beautiful Creatures stories. The anthology as a whole is a revelation for fans of the authors spotlighted because we get to see a different side of their writing styles.
I also loved that the majority of the writers in this book were women. I especially enjoyed reading Nancy Holder again after a long time, and the Two stories by Gillian Philip, one tying into her Rebel Angels series, are solid reads

I left this book with an even greater appreciation for the talents of the authors I was familiar with and also excited to seek out more books from the authors I read for the first time.

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