The Beastly Bride: Stories of those between worlds
In my opinion, Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow are two of the best fantasy anthologists out there. Which is unsurprising, as they curated "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" together for 16 years, not to mention the Adult Fairy Tale series. My favorite example of their output, however, has been the loosely collected "Mythic Archetypes" series, which has taken a mythological trope (such as green men, fairy-folk, and tricksters) and had a wide variety of authors let loose to come up with their own unique twists. I have liked the majority of these collections, so I was very interested in tracking this book down (the only reason why I hadn't done so earlier being I had some difficulty remembering its name).
"The Beastly Bride" deals with those entities who are half-human and half animal, for instance werepanthers, bear shamans, selkies, a half-Sasquatch, pookas, and the god Ganesha. There is a real variety of what various writers have come up with, which is a real plus.
Not all of the stories work for me. Some, such as E. Catherine Tobler's "Island Lake" and Richard Bowes' "The Margay's Children," didn't seem focused enough in their storytelling and their commitment to the theme seemed a bit weak. Also, as in many of the animal wife stories that the various authors took as inspiration, unhappy endings seem to be inevitable, even if the story didn't seem to warrant them. Tanith Lee's "The Puma's Daughter" was the most irritating example of this, in my opinion.
However, there were significantly more good stories in this volume. I particularly liked Johanna Sinisalo's "Bear's Bride," Gregory Frost's "The Comeuppance of Creegus Maxim," Ellen Kushner's "The Children of Cadmus," Terra L. Gearhart-Serna's "Coyote and Valorosa," and Marly Youman's "The Salamander's Fire." Each of these managed to put an interesting twist on some myth or story and come up with something fresh and new. I was also impressed by the amount of cultural diversity captured in this volume: my favorite stories had their origins in Finnish, Irish/American, Greek, Southwestern, and Biblical folklore, and other submissions include stories with basis in cultures as diverse as Polynesia, India, Europe, and Japan.
All in all, a diverse and interesting collection, one that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone looking for a wide variety of well-written stories. Check it out if you find it.
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