Pick your poison: Vampires, devils, werewolves, faeries, or . . . ? Find them all here in Holly Black’s amazing first collection.
In her debut collection, New York Times best-selling author Holly Black returns to the world of Tithe in two darkly exquisite new tales. Then Black takes readers on a tour of a faerie market and introduces a girl poisonous to the touch and another who challenges the devil to a competitive eating match. Some of these stories have been published in anthologies such as 21 Proms, The Faery Reel, and The Restless Dead, and many have been reprinted in many “Best of ” anthologies.
The Poison Eaters is Holly Black’s much-anticipated first collection, and her ability to stare into the voidand to find humanity and humor therewill speak to young adult and adult readers alike.
A Junior Library Guild Pick. Illustrated by Theo Black.
Holly Black is the author of Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults) and two related novels, Valiant (Norton Award winner) and New York Times bestseller Ironside. Her latest novel, Black Heart is the third of a new series, The Curseworkers. She and Tony DiTerlizzi created the best-selling Spiderwick Chronicles. Holly lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.
About the Author
Holly Black's first novel Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was published in 2002 by Simon & Schuster. Tithe received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was included in the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults. Holly has since written two other books in the same universe, Valiant and a sequel to Tithe, New York Times bestseller Ironside. Valiant was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award and received the Andre Norton Award.
Holly collaborated with her long-time friend, Caldecott Award-winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi, to create the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles which include eight novels as well as the lavishly illustrated Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to The Fantastical World Around You, The Notebook for Fantastical Observations, and Care and Feeding of Sprites. The Chronicles have been translated into 32 languages and been into adapted into a major motion picture.
Holly has also been a frequent contributor to anthologies, and has co-edited three: Geektastic (with Cecil Castellucci), Zombies vs. Unicorns (with Justine Larbalestier), and Bordertown (with Ellen Kushner).
She is working on Black Heart, the third novel in The Curse Workers seriesabout capers, curse magic, and memorywhich follows White Cat and Red Glove.
Holly lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Theo, in a house with a secret library.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" by Holly Black
Matilda was drunk, but then she was always drunk anymore. Dizzy drunk. Stumbling drunk. Stupid drunk. Whatever kind of drunk she could get.
The man she stood with snaked his hand around her back, warm fingers digging into her side as he pulled her closer. He and his friend with the open-necked shirt grinned down at her like underage equaled dumb, and dumb equaled gullible enough to sleep with them.
She thought they might just be right.
“You want to have a party back at my place?” the man asked. He’d told her his name was Mark, but his friend kept slipping up and calling him by a name that started with a D. Maybe Dan or Dave. They had been smuggling her drinks from the bar whenever they went outside to smokedrinks mixed sickly sweet that dripped down her throat like candy.
“Sure,” she said, grinding her cigarette against the brick wall. She missed the hot ash in her hand, but concentrated on the alcoholic numbness turning her limbs to lead. Smiled. “Can we pick up more beer?”
They exchanged an obnoxious glance she pretended not to notice. The friendhe called himself Benlooked at her glassy eyes and her cold-flushed cheeks. Her sloppy hair. He probably made guesses about a troubled home life. She hoped so.
“You’re not going to get sick on us?” he asked. Just out of the hot bar, beads of sweat had collected in the hollow of his throat. The skin shimmered with each swallow.
She shook her head to stop staring. “I’m barely tipsy,” she lied.
“I’ve got plenty of stuff back at my place,” said MarkDanDave. Mardave, Matilda thought and giggled.
“Buy me a 40,” she said. She knew it was stupid to go with them, but it was even stupider if she sobered up. “One of those wine coolers. They have them at the bodega on the corner. Otherwise, no party.”
Both of the guys laughed. She tried to laugh with them even though she knew she wasn’t included in the joke. She was the joke. The trashy little slut. The girl who can be bought for a big fat wine cooler and three cranberry-and-vodkas.
“Okay, okay,” said Mardave.
They walked down the street and she found herself leaning easily into the heat of their bodies, inhaling the sweat and iron scent. It would be easy for her to close her eyes and pretend Mardave was someone else, someone she wanted to be touched by, but she wouldn’t let herself soil her memories of Julian.
They passed by a store with flat-screens in the window, each one showing different channels. One streamed video from Coldtowna girl who went by the name Demonia made some kind of deal with one of the stations to show what it was really like behind the gates. She filmed the Eternal Ball, a party that started in 1998 and had gone on ceaselessly ever since. In the background, girls and boys in rubber harnesses swung through the air. They stopped occasionally, opening what looked like a modded hospital tube stuck on the inside of their arms just below the crook of the elbow. They twisted a knob and spilled blood into little paper cups for the partygoers. A boy who looked to be about nine, wearing a string of glowing beads around his neck, gulped down the contents of one of the cups and then licked the paper with a tongue as red as his eyes. The camera angle changed suddenly, veering up, and the viewers saw the domed top of the hall, full of cracked windows through which you could glimpse the stars.
“I know where they are,” Mardave said. “I can see that building from my apartment.”
“Aren’t you scared of living so close to the vampires?” she asked, a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.
“We’ll protect you,” said Ben, smiling back at her.
“We should do what other countries do and blow those corpses sky high,” Mardave said.
Matilda bit her tongue not to point out that Europe’s vampire hunting led to the highest levels of infection in the world. So many of Belgium’s citizens were vampires that shops barely opened their doors until nightfall. The truce with Coldtown worked. Mostly.
She didn’t care if Mardave hated vampires. She hated them too.
When they got to the store, she waited outside to avoid getting carded and lit another cigarette with Julian’s silver lighterthe one she was going to give back to him in thirty-one days. Sitting down on the curb, she let the chill of the pavement deaden the backs of her thighs. Let it freeze her belly and frost her throat with ice that even liquor couldn’t melt.
Hunger turned her stomach. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten anything solid without throwing it back up. Her mouth hungered for dark, rich feasts; her skin felt tight, like a seed thirsting to bloom. All she could trust herself to eat was smoke.
When she was a little girl, vampires had been costumes for Halloween. They were the bad guys in movies, plastic fangs and polyester capes. They were Muppets on television, endlessly counting.
Now she was the one who was counting. Fifty-seven days. Eighty-eight days. Eighty-eight nights.
She looked up and saw Dante saunter up to her, earbuds dangling out of his ears like he needed a soundtrack for everything he did. He wore a pair of skintight jeans and smoked a cigarette out of one of those long, movie-star holders. He looked pretentious as hell. “I’d almost given up on finding you.”
“You should have started with the gutter,” she said, gesturing to the wet, clogged tide beneath her feet. “I take my gutter-dwelling very seriously.”
“Seriously.” He pointed at her with the cigarette holder. “Even your mother thinks you’re dead. Julian’s crying over you.”
Maltilda looked down and picked at the thread of her jeans. It hurt to think about Julian while waiting for Mardave and Ben. She was disgusted with herself, and she could only guess how disgusted he’d be. “I got Cold,” she said. “One of them bit me.”
Dante nodded his head.
That’s what they’d started calling it when the infection kicked inColdbecause of how cold people’s skin became after they were bitten. And because of the way the poison in their veins caused them to crave heat and blood. One taste of human blood and the infection mutated. It killed the host and then raised it back up again, colder than before. Cold through and through, forever and ever.
“I didn’t think you’d be alive,” he said.
She hadn’t thought she’d make it this long either without giving in. But going it alone on the street was better than forcing her mother to choose between chaining her up in the basement or shipping her off to Coldtown. It was better, too, than taking the chance Matilda might get loose from the chains and attack people she loved. Stories like that were in the news all the time; almost as frequent as the ones about people who let vampires into their homes because they seemed so nice and clean-cut.
“Then what are you doing looking for me?” she asked. Dante had lived down the street from her family for years, but they didn’t hang out. She’d wave to him as she mowed the lawn while he loaded his panel van with DJ equipment. He shouldn’t have been here.
She looked back at the store window. Mardave and Ben were at the counter with a case of beer and her wine cooler. They were getting change from a clerk.
“I was hoping you, er, wouldn’t be alive,” Dante said. “You’d be more help if you were dead.”
She stood up, stumbling slightly. “Well, screw you too.”
It took eighty-eight days for the venom to sweat out a person’s pores. She only had thirty-seven to go. Thirty-seven days to stay so drunk that she could ignore the buzz in her head that made her want to bite, rend, devour.
“That came out wrong,” he said, taking a step toward her. Close enough that she felt the warmth of him radiating off him like licking tongues of flame. She shivered. Her veins sang with need.
“I can’t help you,” said Matilda. “Look, I can barely help myself. Whatever it is, I’m sorry. I can’t. You have to get out of here.”
“My sister Lydia and your boyfriend Julian are gone,” Dante said. “Together. She’s looking to get bitten. I don’t know what
he’s looking for . . . but he’s going to get hurt.”
Matilda gaped at him as Mardave and Ben walked out of the store. Ben carried a box on his shoulder and a bag on his arm. “That guy bothering you?” he asked her.
“No,” she said, then turned to Dante. “You better go.”
“Wait,” said Dante.
Matilda’s stomach hurt. She was sobering up. The smell of blood seemed to float up from underneath their skin.
She reached into Ben’s bag and grabbed a beer. She popped the top, licked off the foam. If she didn’t get a lot drunker, she was going to attack someone.
“Jesus,” Mardave said. “Slow down. What if someone sees you?”
She drank it in huge gulps, right there on the street. Ben laughed, but it wasn’t a good laugh. He was laughing at the drunk.
“She’s infected,” Dante said.
Matilda whirled toward him, chucking the mostly empty can in his direction automatically. “Shut up, asshole.”
“Feel her skin,” Dante said. “Cold. She ran away from home when it happened, and no one’s seen her since.”
“I’m cold because it’s cold out,” she said.
She saw Ben’s evaluation of her change from damaged enough to sleep with strangers to dangerous enough to attack strangers.
Mardave touched his hand gently to her arm. “Hey,” he said.
She almost hissed with delight at the press of his hot fingers. She smiled up at him and hoped her eyes weren’t as hungry as her skin. “I really like you.”
He flinched. “Look, it’s late. Maybe we could meet up another time.” Then he backed away, which made her so angry that she bit the inside of her own cheek.
Her mouth flooded with the taste of copper and a red haze floated in front of her eyes.
Fifty-seven days ago, Matilda had been sober. She’d had a boyfriend named Julian, and they would dress up together in her bedroom. He liked to wear skinny ties and glittery eye shadow. She liked to wear vintage rock t-shirts and boots that laced up so high that they would constantly be late because they were busy tying them.
Matilda and Julian would dress up and prowl the streets and party at lockdown clubs that barred the doors from dusk to dawn. Matilda wasn’t particularly careless; she was just careless enough.
She’d been at a friend’s party. It had been stiflingly hot, and she was mad because Julian and Lydia were doing some dance thing from the musical they were in at school. Matilda just wanted to get some air. She opened a window and climbed out under the bobbing garland of garlic.
Another girl was already on the lawn. Matilda should have noticed that the girl’s breath didn’t crystallize in the air, but she didn’t.
“Do you have a light?” the girl had asked.
Matilda did. She reached for Julian’s lighter when the girl caught her arm and bent her backwards. Matilda’s scream turned into a shocked cry when she felt the girl’s cold mouth against her neck, the girl’s cold fingers holding her off balance.
Then it was as though someone slid two shards of ice into her skin.
The spread of vampirism could be traced to one personCaspar Morales. Films and books and television had started romanticizing vampires, and maybe it was only a matter of time before a vampire started romanticizing himself.
Crazy, romantic Caspar decided that he wouldn’t kill his victims. He’d just drink a little blood and then move on, city to city. By the time other vampires caught up with him and ripped him to pieces, he’d infected hundreds of people. And those new vampires, with no idea how to prevent the spread, infected thousands.
Table of Contents
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
A Reversal of Fortune
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Night Market
The Dog King
In Vodka Veritas
The Coat of Stars
Paper Cuts Scissors
The Land of Heart’s Desire
The Poison Eaters
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
**Originally posted on Libby Blog** One touch from a Poison Eater and you will drop dead at her feet. Within 88 days of a bite from a Cold one you'll become so hungry for blood and warmth you will bite anyone nearby you. If you ever meet the Devil, be sure to be just as clever and cheating as he is or your soul will certainly be his. When dealing with an Elf who wants to curse you, be sure to wear gold. And most of all...don't keep your secrets or your secrets will keep eventually you... My thoughts: This was a delicious break from the normalcy of life around me. I adored the darkness and pain that Holly Black turns into beautiful stories. I will freely admit that there were a couple that I was both completely turned off by and/or didn't "get" at all. On the other hand, there were many that I adored and will be reading again. In some of the stories you can almost see or feel the original Grimm's Fairytale that they blossomed from, and others are completely new and untouched stories like Coldtown. One of my favorites of course was The Land of Heart's Desires where I got to peek back in on all of my favorites from Black's Modern Faerie Tale series. Loved that series! So dark and raw and real while also completely fantasy! My favorites: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Night Market, The Coat of Stars, and The Land of Heart's Desire. My absolute favorite was The Night Market though. It made me think of the magic, beauty and love that seeped into my soul while reading Valiant (my favorite Holly Black book.) If you're looking for something different, or don't have time for a full book right now then this is for you! It was great because I could read a story while I waited for a video to load on YOUTube or while the dryer was finishing up. This is why I love short story collections. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Which ones are your favorites?
The title story is fantastic & amazing. Much like Stephen King's The Long Walk, sometimes the short stories are the best ones. This collection is a must read!
Some stories are better than others but they are all great. Holly Black is a truly amazing writer in my opinion. I loved this book and wish some of the stories had been much longer.
Fantastic collection and a good introduction to Ms. Black's work.
This is by far, one of my favorite short story collections. If you are a fan of Black's young adult books, specifically the Tithe series, this is a *MUST* read- but honestly, I think anyone could enjoy these stories. GREAT BOOK.
The Short of It:I don¿t usually like to review anthologies,mainly because I like the depth in stories but I've ALWAYS loved Holly Blacks writing. This book is "Wicked Lovely" i really enjoyed the way Holly played with the different roles of characters. I seriously think that all these stories need a book.My faves were "Paper Cuts Scissors," "The Dog King," and "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown."Holly has always been a edgy,dark,beautiful writer. She's the black widow of words, She does an amazing weaving life into her stories,you can't help but get sucked right in.
I gave this a fairly low rating because although a few of the stories are fantastic, there are a few stinkers here as well.
This book is a collection of Holly Black's short stories. Overall it is a decent collection. It you are a huge Holly Black fan, like I am, beware that many of these stories appear in other anthologies. So, I had already read some of them. There is a nice publication history in the back of the book just in case you want to check and see which stories you may have already read.The stories tend to be dark and follow paranormal/urban fantasy themes. Most of the stories are a bit ironic and have some sense of dark humor to them. There are a number of stories that touch on fairies, a couple that touch on werewolves, a story that deals with characters in books coming alive, one that deals with vampires, and a couple that deal with mythology. There is one story that takes place in the world that Black's Modern Tales of Fairie is in. There are twelve stories in all, they vary quite a bit in length.I tended to like the stories towards the back of the book better. Among my favorites were: The Night Market about a girl who saves her sister from a fairy by braving the strange Night Market, Virgin a story about unicorns, The Coat of Stars a story about a costume designer fighting the fairy Queen for his lover's return, Paper Cuts Scissors at story about characters coming out of books and mingling, and The Poison Eaters a story about poisonous sisters.There were also some stories that were a bit weak. The Land of Heart's Desire, which uses the characters from the Tithe series, wasn't the most interesting. Overall though I enjoyed the majority of stories and am glad I read the book. It is a quick read, but if you are a Holly Black fan...or an urban fantasy fan in general you should enjoy this collection. Now I am looking forward to reading the start of Black's Curse Worker series "The White Cat".
Let me preface this review by saying that I am not generally a huge fan of short story collections. I enjoy spending a good amount of time reading and I find that short stories are better for small bits of time as I cannot move from one directly into the next as I can with chapters of a novel. I think good short stories are also incredibly difficult to write as the author must convey enough background information to the reader for the story to make sense while also keeping the narrative short.With that said, I did enjoy most of the stories in this book. My favorite by far was Paper Cuts Scissors about a library student who discovers that the characters in the books can come out of them and change their own stories. My least favorite was actually the very next story, Going Ironside, because it felt like an incomplete writing exercise. Maybe I just didn't get that one. Each story in the book is very different from all of the others and Black does show a great range in her writing. The characters were unique, although some felt a bit underdeveloped. Unfortunately, nothing about this book really stood out for me positively or negatively and I've found that I've already forgotten the majority of the stories.
It was like reading a book of fables, but I couldn't work out what the morals were supposed to be (which may be a plus, actually). There was a real mixture of stores I liked and stories I didn't care for but regardless, it was a fun little book and a quick read.
I don't usually like short stories. They are too short! I know, that's the point but I like to connect with characters and spend a lot of time with them. That's why I don't usually like short stories. I can honestly say that I really really enjoyed this batch though.I tried to read Tithe by Holly Black a long time ago and could not get into it. I'm thinking after reading The Poison Eaters that I really need to give it another chance! There is something for everyone in this collection of stories. Vampires, elves, shapeshifters, and of course faeries. I liked some of the stories more than others but I enjoyed all of them. The thing that stands out the most though, is Holly Black's gritty and honest writing. She doesn't pretty it up for anyone. I love that! Her writing is very dark at times but it's always beautiful. She weaves a web with her words and you get sucked right in.I really recommend this collection to any supernatural/paranormal fan. Like I said, there's something for everyone!
The Poison Eaters was as almost all collections of short stories are- a mixed bag. Some of them¿such as The Night Market, In Vodka Veritas, and The Coat of Stars¿were great and made me wish for more than just a few short pages. On the other hand, some of the stories were downright confusing and mildly disturbing. Virgin and Ironside were the two that left me scratching my head and wondering what the point was. But, as in all Holly Black books, the good outweighs the bad. The standouts in this collection were Paper Cuts Scissors and The Poison Eaters. The first brings to life the dream that so many book lovers have¿seeing all your favorite characters leap out of their pages and interact with one another. Not to mention the ability to fold yourself into your favorite volumes and live there. The latter reads like a traditional, though twisted, fairytale. Of all the stories, it felt as though it would make the best stand alone book. I enjoy short story collections, and this was no exception, though I think I prefer those that have selections from different authors. By the end I knew what to expect from each story since Black has such a distinctive style and way of storytelling. Overall, I liked this book, and would recommend it to any fan of dark paranormal literature.
This was a quick, enjoyable read full of delicious wickedness and strange tales. Holly does an amazing job weaving life into her stories. I can honestly say I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection and wish there were more to be read. From vampires to unicorns, to characters from books coming to life there's a story for all tastes within these pages.If you're looking for a quick story to bide you over between appointments or just before bed, this would be the perfect book.(I received this from the Library Things Early Reviewer program.)
This book is composed of short stories. The book is entertaining and easy to read. Great for wanting to read a book that is short and passes the time. Some parts can be a bit confusing and weird, but it's a new way to read.
Loved this! There was only one story I didn¿t really care for: Going Ironside ¿ it didn¿t seem to actually go anywhere. The other stories were dark in topic as well as tone. Many of the stories fit into the Tithe world, and some seemed like they¿d fit into the Spiderwick world, but not all the stories are appropriate for younger teens. I especially loved Paper Cuts Scissors for this Jasper Fforde-ish tale.Recommended for anyone who likes short stories on ¿.the dark side. (cue music!)
Most of these stories appear in other anthologies. Some of them a humorous. Most of them are on the dark side. Maybe that is what I liked about them. My favorites by far were "The Night Market" where we discover what love really is and at what length we will go to obtain it," The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" a twisted vampire story, "The Poison Eaters" a story of revenge, and "A Reversal of Fortune" a story of beating the Devil at his own game. This book has something for everyone. Not all of the stories were as good as I would have liked. I will say there was enough here for everyone to find something for their taste in short stories.
Best Holly Black to date! Very original.
Its been an exceedingly busy few reading weeks for me, I've received a bundle of ARC's plus there has been the release of Artemis Fowl the Atlantis Complex, Mockingjay and now Clockwork Angel on Tuesday. I've been reading full out to get everything in (of course enjoying every minute of it too!), but once in awhile I find I've got a day or a day and a bit before a new release and after wrapping my current book. So I've been picking up Holly Black's short story collection The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories. I'm not generally a lover of the short story, but the hubby found The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories while we were making one of our many visits to The Strand in New York, and I just couldn't turn it down since it promised stories linking into Valiant, Tithe and Ironside. Now first off, I have to say, only one of the stories actually linked into her characters from Valiant, Tithe and Ironside. One of the other stories (called going Ironside) was about elves so I suppose it tied in via subject matter, but it really had nothing to do with her previous faerie books.A whole mix of stories from sudo-fairy tales, a vampire story, a competition with the devil and of course a variety of faerie stories made for a good mix. My only complaint is I find Holly's gritty style doesn't work as well on the extreme short stories. Going Ironside was about 3 pages long and was so gritty with no relief (i mean it's 3 pages after all!) that it was just depressing and slightly horrifying. The longer stories fared much better and in fact some were so enjoyable I would like to read more about them. On the bonus side, the book is extremely pretty, black hard cover with green foiled lettering across the front with a green foil scull and cross bones underneath, and lovely matching green end pages, makes this one of the prettiest Holly Black books I've ever picked up (outside, of course, of the spectacularly pretty Spiderwick books).Be warned, if you haven't read Holly's YA before, this is no Spiderwick. She likes to write from a very gritty and intense angle often following runaways, teens who are so beyond caring that they abuse their bodies via sex and drugs, teens tangled up in hopeless lives where their mother sleeps with their boyfriend or they're struggling with their sexuality in all the wrong places etc, etc. This isn't your usual YA fare, which is part of what makes it great, but if that's not your cup of tea and you want a generic teen love triangle with the good girl and two gorgeous guys then she's not the writer for you!
This fantasy anthology of 12 stories is definitely meant for an older audience. Due to the content (mature themes AND use of profanity, I definitely would NOT recommend this book to middle school students. Some of the stories were just a bit too strange for my liking, but others were easier to follow. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was an interesting read. Coldtown is an isolated area where folks who have been afflicted with vampirism go to survive. They keep humans as sources of blood. If you enter Coldtown, you don't get to leave. Matilda wants to rescue her boyfriend. She believes he has gone to Coldtown to save her, but that's not actually the case. Won't tell you what happens when she figures out the truth. In Reversal of Fortune, a girl makes a deal with the devil. He cheats, and she knows she's going to lose her soul to him, so she cheats as well, and manages to outsmart him. I quite liked that, although how she wins is a bit disgusting. Overall, some interesting stories, but definitely meant for older teens.
For me, this book was a mixture of like an dislike. Some of the stories I absolutley loved an thought were great such as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Night Market, The Dog King, Paper Cuts Scissors, and The Posion Eaters. All of these I really liked. But some of the other ones were very confusing and a little out there like Virgin and Going Ironside. I din't like these at all.
I Loved this book!!! All the stories made me want to read more. If I had to complain at all it would be about the short story a coat of stars. I sometimes wonder if people write about homosexuals to tell the world that they're not against them. Like blatantly saying see I'm not racist I have black friends. But over all the book was wonderful.
The Poision Eaters and Other Short Stories was my introduction to the awesomeness that is Holly Black. In it you'll find a variety of stories written by Holly (most have been previously published in other anthologies). But in this volume you'll find them all in one place. Fans of paranormal will rejoice in this book. There is a little bit of everything thrown in here - vampires, shape-shifters, elves, and, my favorite... faeries. These stories are dark, edgy and even show a flair for the macabre, but I could easily see Holly's humor interwoven throughout. For a collection of stories, I was really impressed by the world building and character development found in such brief entries. Among my favorites were The Night Market (about a girl who ventures to save her sister after a fairy has cursed her), The Coat of Stars (a costume designer bribing the fairy Queen for his friend's return), Paper Cuts Scissors (a story where favorite characters leap out of their books and interact with each other), and The Poison Eaters (a story about poisonous sisters, and my favorite in the bunch).Ms. Black has a distinctive style of storytelling and I was very impressed by this collection. For fans of Holly's previous works and lovers of all things paranormal, this is one book you won't want missing from your collection.This collection of stories includes:The Coldest Girl in ColdtownA Reversal of FortuneThe Boy Who Cried WolfThe Night MarketThe Dog KingVirginIn Vodka VeritasThe Coat of StarsPaper Cuts ScissorsGoing InsideThe Land of Heart's DesireThe Poison Eaters
This had at least one retelling of a fairy tale, lots of fantasy, a bit of faeries, and lots of darkness. Holly Black infuses her stories with wisdom and an occasional bit of humor, and she's got her own take on fantasy. Her characters tend to be runaways hovering on the edges, but hovering on the edge of society seems to allow them to touch the edge of reality as well.
Ummmm...this stories totally rocked my socks off!!! I loved reading each and every single one. They all held a significance of someone getting back at someone. Basically, what goes around comes around. I loved that each story is unique. There were fairies, unicorns, etc. So much goodness.I am hoping to see if Ms. Black will continue any of the stories into a full novel. Which anyone she picks, if she does I know for sure I will be dying to read. This a great book with strong characters and plots you will never forget.
I preface this by saying that my previous exposure to short stories was about the bare minimum you would expect from someone with an English degree. As I want to write novels, I focused mostly on studying novels. One creative writing professor forced me to expand my horizons. I¿ve read some Alice Munro, some of Junot Diaz¿s Drown, and though I am aware that I read more authors¿ works for class assignments, those were the only two authors whose names immediately spring to mind. You see, the short story is a tricky thing, and I think people expect different things from them. I can already tell you that I liked Munro and Diaz because they were the only authors this one professor assigned that I thought gave me a complete story that was nuanced, but didn¿t make me read the same page fifteen times just to figure out what the hell was going on.Short stories can be many things¿ snapshots that give us deep insight into a character¿s mind, legends reminiscent of the stories our parents told us a million times, the exact moment that things went wrong and why. Black delivers all of these in The Poison Eaters. Some of the highlights for me were:¿The Coldest Girl in Coldtown¿I was blown away by the first story in the collection. I mean, I was already amazed by White Cat, but in this short story Black showed me that my utter fangirly devotion is not misplaced. In 28 pages, Black somehow manages to create a whole world dealing with the aftermath of a vampire-plague AND deliver a plot. Again, that¿s in 28 pages. The narrator explains the surroundings to the reader, but it doesn¿t feel forced. I was sad when the story ended, because I could have easily read a whole novel about that world. If you like the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, make sure to check this story out.¿The Coat of Stars¿This story was one of my favorites because the entire tone of the story shifted about halfway through. In the beginning of the story, we follow the main character as he navigates a family gathering (which is a little awkward, as he is gay and VERY closeted about it around his Hispanic, urban family). By the middle of the story, however, the story has morphed into a story based on a classic fairy tale structure: the hero tailor must make three beautiful garments to convince the fairy queen to release his love. As disjointed as the two concepts seem, Black weaves them together so smoothly that I didn¿t even notice the transition until we were on the second coat.¿The Land of Heart¿s Desire¿This was my favorite story in the whole collection (though the above two were 2nd and 3rd place). This is exactly how I like my short story: a snapshot of someone¿s day that shows us what makes them tick. This story is urban fantasy bordering on magical realism¿ the setting is a little cafe in a city (that I am presuming is New York) run by a pixie named Kaye and her best friend. Our protagonist is Kaye¿s boyfriend Roiben, the King of the Unseelie (Fairy) court, who is roped into working at the cafe while he waits for Kaye. From here, we see Roiben contemplate his relationship with Kaye, including why exactly it is he¿s willing to debase himself like this for her.Also, I am kind of under the impression that Tithe is going to be set in this space and with these characters as well¿ GoodReads tells me that the main characters of that book are also called Kaye and Roiben¿ Oh dear. I hope I haven¿t accidentally spoiled something for myself. On the other hand, even if I did, I¿m kind of just glad I get to go back into that story. I will keep you posted, as Tithe is slated for review next week.Rating: 4 stars (I really liked it and think that urban fantasy fans will love it. I¿m still not sure how I feel about short stories in general though. I especially think I need to expand my reading of current, YA short stories, as all of my other experience has been a little snobishly high-brow.)