File Name: The Tangleroot Palace: Stories
Author : Marjorie M. Liu (Goodreads Author)
ISBN : 9781616963521
Format : Paperback 256 pages
Genre : Fantasy, Short Stories, Adult, Anthologies, Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, LGBT, Fiction, Horror, GLBT, Queer, Science Fiction,
Rating: really liked it
Inventive and transportive, magical and haunting, The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of seven unique short stories written with Liu’s beautifully flowing prose. Each story is the perfect length to let you revel in the intriguing worlds she creates, yet leaves you wanting more as well. From hoodoo dolls to supervillains to vampires, every story is unique and captivating, many reading like fairy tales or twisting regular tropes into new shapes. Honestly, I think this is one of the strongest anthologies I’ve read yet, with me enjoying all but one of the stories.
Overall content warnings (some stories have specific ones that I will mention later): murder, death, violence, gore, depictions of blood.
Sympathy for the Bones - ★★★★
The Briar and the Rose - ★★★★
Call Her Savage - ★★★★
The Last Dignity of Man - ★★★½
Where the Heart Lives - ★★★½
After the Blood - ★★
The Tangleroot Palace - ★★★★½
Thank you to Tachyon Publications for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinions in any way.
Rating: really liked it
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Rating: really liked it
For those that still are confused: NOT A COMIC BOOK.
Anthology of short stories and novelletes , ranging from fantasy to horror and post-apocalypsis.
Apparently a good portion of readers know Marjorie M. Liu from the graphic novel Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening, but I have been a fan of her ever since I read The Iron Hunt from her incredible urban fantasy series Hunter Kiss.
Here she presents us with some of her short stories, of which I knew a couple; At the end of these Liu gives some comments from when they were written, some of which she considers to be part of the universe of her ideas (like Dirk & Steel), that is to say full of magic.
1)“Sympathy for the Bones” (4.3 stars)-for me a re-read- is a tale full of dark magic , hoodoo dolls, witches, and desperation in the mountains.
2)“Briar and Rose” (5 stars) is a retelling of Sleepy Beauty. A very interesting, and again dark story, of saphic love, dark witches, and a woman warrior looking to free her love. Skip all the stereotypes.
3)“Call Her Savage” (3.5 stars) steampunk and alternate history, where China is at war with England, and have colonies in America (Scot-Irish and Chinese people). A Marshall is call back to help. War , betrayal, and pain.
Took me a while to get me into this story, a bit confused by the setting. So much elements here. First frustration to hope for a full novel here.
4) “The Last Dignity of Man” (3 stars) a... genious mad scientist? a wannabe villain that dream about a hero? something like that. However, strangely this man with his loneliness pull at my feels.
5)“Where the Heart Lives”(3.5 stars) it's more in the fairytale side, with mysteries in the woods, strange dreams, a lost love, and a young woman finding acceptance and a place for herself.
6)“After the Blood” (3.5 stars) post-apocalypytic story, where the Amish are seek for farming skills, there are monsters in the woods, and a woman hide secrets but the powers calls. Oh, and a (view spoiler)[amish vampire. Reminds a tiny bit of Bill Compton here (hide spoiler)]. Cats are your best friends ;)
Again , leaves us wishing for a novel here.
7)“Tangleroot Palace”(3.6 stars) A princess who must marry a warlord, escapes to the forest looking for a possible solution, But she found old magic (view spoiler)[This time reminds with the horned queen and crows of Malefica (hide spoiler)]. With a bit of humor , a bit predictable but quite charming. I like the idea of strong woman saving herself.
And yes, a theme with the Woods, old magic, and souls trapped. Don't forget the broken people.
+My thanks to Netgalley and publishers for the digital ARC.+
Contain: (view spoiler)[
“Sympathy for the Bones” copyright © 2012. Originally published in An Apple for the Creature, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner (Ace).
| “Briar and Rose” copyright © 2016. Originally published in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe (Saga Press).
| “Call Her Savage” copyright © 2010. Originally published in Masked, edited by Lou Anders. (Gallery Books).
| “The Last Dignity of Man” copyright © 2013. Originally published in The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius, edited by John Joseph Adams (Tor Books).
| “Where the Heart Lives” copyright © 2012. Originally published on Smashwords.
| “After the Blood” copyright © 2010. Originally published in Songs of Love and Death: All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love, edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin (Gallery Books).
| “Tangleroot Palace” copyright © 2009. Originally published in Never After (Jove).
Rating: liked it
**Many thanks to Majorie M. Liu, Tachyon Publications, and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Release date: 15 June 2021**
This short story anthology is one of the most interesting books I have read. I do not know if I have ever read one that made me experience such a range of emotions. There were a few that I absolutely loved and some that didn't really capture my interest as much. That being said, a few of these are an absolute must read!
Sympathy for the Bones: 3.5 stars
This was the perfect story with which to start this anthology. Liu's whimsical writing sets the tone and the morbid twists are wonderful glimpses of what is to come. In fact, the moment I read the imagery found on page one, I thought I would absolutely love this because I absolutely love pretty but purposeful language. Although I did enjoy this (a lot) it wasn't my favorite mostly because of the confusing ending. Despite this, I have to give points for the voodoo themed story. I do not think I have ever read one. The parallelism that is utilised to move along morals was subtle but showed the influence of environment on our lives! I also love myself a good revenge story :)
The Briar and the Rose: 4 stars
A fairytale exactly like I like it (I wish the titular story was more like this one). One of my favorite genres(?) is retellings: I eat them up. Luckily for me, this was a Sleeping Beauty sapphic retelling. Liu creates a magical atmosphere where The Duelist and Carmela and Rose live. It works as a short story because it utilises time jumps, repetition, a character focus, and an ethereal fantasy element to move the story along. Once again I was a bit confused by the ending, but this time I didn't mind it as much because I already understood the ethereal nature of the story and it didn't pull me out of the text. Also the sprinkle of commentary was great.
Call Her Savage: 2.75 stars
This is a steampunk alternate history story about a woman named Xing. I thought this story was just below "good". The reason for this is because, unlike The Briar and the Rose, I do not think it worked well as a short story. This should have been a full length novel. There is much more that was needed to be elaborated on and wasn't. The ending also required an emotional connection and deeper understanding that just wasn't there because of the lack of context and word count. If the author ever makes this into a feature length novel, I'll gladly read it though!
The Last Dignity of Man: 4.75 stars
This is my FAVORITE short story I have ever read. I love superheroes. Though I do consider myself more of a Marvel fan than DC, I absolutely loved the relation between escapism and mental health and self-projecting onto heroes and villains. It is a masterful story. Fits perfectly into the constraints because we get context from setting clues and the way that Alexander Lutheran thinks. It has a bittersweet ending that will stay with me for a long time. Cannot recommend this enough. (Be sure to push through the first page or so, the beginning is a bit weird).
Where the Heart Lives: 3 stars
This is apparently a prequel to a series called Dirk & Steele, maybe I'll check it out now because this story definitely made me intrigued. Unfortunately, I kind of wished that this would have been a bit longer just like Call Her Savage because there was some fleshing out of characters that should have happened and the Fae aspect was a bit rushed. Personally, I don't think this would have been enough for a novel, per se, but rather a novella. Majorie Liu really shows her mastery of creating a haunting tone in this short story, even though I already praised this. The haunting forest shone here and Lucy was a heart-warming protagonist.
After the Blood: 2 stars
The weakest short story in this collection. Amish vampires in a post-plague world where people live in small enclaves does sound very interesting, but I felt like it was a bit too long. Seriously, we could have given these pages to some of the other stories! The themes about morality were being point-blank fed to you and I just didn't really care. Maybe I would if I read Dirk & Steele, but alas I haven't. It was fine, I didn't exactly dislike it. ... and it had cats.
Tangleroot Palace: 2.5 stars
The titular short story of this anthology did disappoint me a little bit, I can't lie. It was written as a fairytale, but in the way that I do not like. Liu plays with the runaway princess trope where the main character Sally refuses to marry the malignant Warlord. To escape her fate, she tries to enter the Tangleroot Forest, but things do not go exactly as planned. First off, the magic was interpolated with the story in a peculiar way: >the author didn't seem to be able to make up her mind if she wants to go all in with the fantasy aspects or if she wants to focus more on the plot. In my opinion it should have been either focus on the realism, but make it magical, or go all in with the fantasy. The twist is obvious from the moment Sally encounters (view spoiler)[Mickel (hide spoiler)] so I wasn't exaclty shocked by the ending. Again, I'm not saying this is a bad short story, it is fine, but I kind of hoped it would be something more. Maybe I just didn't understand this.
The Tangleroot Palace: Stories has been a ride with enormous highs and decent lows. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this collection overall. If anything, you truly must read The Last Dignity of Man!
Rating: really liked it
[grave desecration, dismemberment, blood & gore depiction, needles, murder, and terminal cancer (sc) (hide spoiler)]
Rating: it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up
The Tangleroot Palace was just as good as I hoped it would be. It is a lush, darkly magical collection of short fiction from the creator of Monstress, including the titular Tangleroot Palace as a full-length novella. I loved all of them and was completely swept away. It was also cool because Liu includes brief notes at the end of each tale discussing what it was originally written for and when, which I found to be fascinating.
Sympathy for the Bones features a young woman forced to learn dark magic from the woman who took her in decides she has had enough and will use that dark magic to her own advantage.
In The Briar and the Rose we get a sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty that draws on the fact that the original story involved sexual assault while the young woman was sleeping. In this version, it becomes a story of possession where a witch has taken over the body of a beautiful young woman and the only person who notices is a female bodyguard.
Call Her Savage is like steampunk meets monstrous bioengineering in East Asia.
The Last Dignity of Man is about a wealthy, young, gay biotech genius who fantasizes about being Lex Luthor while carrying out disturbing projects on behalf of the government. It's an interesting reimagining that carries a surprising amount of emotional weight.
Where the Heart Lives is the first of three stories about dark secrets living deep in the woods. This one is about a young woman forced to leave home and live with a woman everyone thinks is a witch in the middle of a haunted forest.
After the Blood is a post-apocalyptic survival story with vampires and zombies where Amish people now hold power because they know how to survive without modernity.
Lastly, The Tangleroot Palace is about a down to earth princess resisting an arranged marriage by running away to the dark and dangerous woods in search of help.
I very much enjoyed all of the stories and would recommend checking out the collection if it sounds up your alley. They often feature queer characters, or characters of color, or women who are not satisfied with the lives they are supposed to live. They are stories about love, death, grief, violence, and identity. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Rating: really liked it
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Rating: really liked it
Do you want to read a short story collection exploring voodoo magic, Amish vampires, a wannabe superhero villain, a princess that does not like others to decide her future and more? Then I can recommend The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu.
Let me first start by saying that I haven’t read any other work by Liu, so I did not know what to expect. However, after reading this short story collection, I must admit that I am pleasantly surprised.
The best thing about this collection is that each story feels unique and different. The plot, the location and characters vary from each other, which made this book enjoyable to read. Liu repeatedly demonstrates how bad-ass women are and how women can achieve great things. My favourite short stories are “Sympathy for the Bones”, “The Briar and the Rose” and “Tangleroot Palace”. After each story, there is a short explanation about why and when the story was written, which I loved reading.
Although I enjoyed this collection, I didn’t find the stories “Call her savage” and “After the blood” interesting. My most significant criticism is Liu’s characters. Unfortunately, there were only a few memorable characters in this collection. Liu demonstrates that she can write compelling and unique characters in this collection. Richard from “The Last Dignity of Man” and Sally from “Tangleroot Palace” were fantastic characters. After seeing that Liu can write memorable characters, it frustrated me that most of the characters in the other short stories didn’t have much depth.
The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu is a unique short story collection that takes the reader on a wild journey. I can recommend this book to anyone that wants to read something different in the fantasy genre and enjoys short-story collections.
4 / 5 stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: really liked it
On my blog.
Rep: lesbian mcs, gay mc, Chinese mc
CWs: gore, violence, implied rape, miscarriage
Galley provided by publisher
The Tangleroot Palace is probably one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. I loved Marjorie Liu’s Monstress series, but I had never tried any of her short stories before now. Each and every one of the stories here is one you want to see more of. They are, at once, perfectly paced and yet not nearly long enough.
I won’t go through each story individually because I wouldn’t really have much new to say about each one after a point, but there wasn’t a single story in this collection I didn’t love. There’s a fair bit of variety in genre — all are speculative fiction, but in amongst that you have fantasy, science fiction, alternative history and a bit of a dystopia too.
The best part of this collection, I think, is that it doesn’t matter what genre or plot Marjorie Liu chooses to write about, you’re always fully absorbed in it by the end of the first paragraph. She has this knack of worldbuilding so seamlessly along the way too, which is great because there’s not exactly time in short stories for info-dumps. But at the same time, it’s that skill that makes me desperate to see what she’d do with a full length book.
And then, obviously, there are the characters. I think probably the best way to illustrate just how good Liu is with characters is this: in a story about a man with a Lex Luthor kink (yeah), creating giant waste-eating worms, I found myself nearly crying.
Really then, this is one you do not want to miss out on.
Rating: really liked it
The Tangleroot Palace contains six short stories (“Sympathy for the Bones,” “The Briar and the Rose,” “Call Her Savage,” “The Last Dignity of Man,” “Where the Heart Lives,” “After the Blood”) and one novella (“Tangleroot Palace”), all of which are fantasy with hints of horror and gorgeously written. At the end of each story, there is also brief commentary by Liu, providing some background and thematic connections between the stories.
I adore the writing, which flowed beautifully, and I love how effortlessly detailed each sentence is. Fantasy short stories are extremely difficult to pull off, given the need to provide enough world building and plot within the limited word count, and Liu delivered not one but six satisfying stories.
The first story, “Sympathy for the Bones,” opens with a funeral and is about hoodoos, setting the tone of the whole book to be both magical and macabre. In “The Briar and the Rose,” we have a sapphic retelling of Sleeping Beauty as suggested by the title, a love story between swordswoman Briar (WOC) and Rose, whose body is possessed by a sorceress. I really enjoyed this one but the climax was glossed over and I felt it could’ve been so much more amazing than it already is.
“Call Her Savage” is set in the Tang Dynasty around the Opium War and Empress Xiao Shen Cheng (Manchu: ᡥᡳᠶᠣᠣᡧᡠᠩᡤᠠ ᠣᠯᡥᠣᠪᠠ ᡧᠠᠩᡤᠠᠨ ᡥᡡᠸᠠᠩᡥᡝᠣ) was also present in one scene. The main imagery of this story revolves around stars, in military star, stars in the sky, the name of the main character Xīng (which is 星, stars, in Chinese yet never explicitly mentioned in the text). This one was a little confusing for me—perhaps I tried too hard to tell history from fiction—with some information being laid out too thickly, but I loved the historical aspect nonetheless. With Xīng (Chinese-Scottish, sapphic) being a superhero, this leads us to the next supervillain story, “The Last Dignity of Man.” Alexander Lutheran (achillean) is a powerful but lonely man who loves the idea of being Lex Luthor. This is definitely the most disturbing story for me due to the gore.
“Where the Heart Lives” stars a non-speaking love interest and follows Lucy’s journey into the forest in an attempt to save a woman taken twenty years prior. Cursed forest and magic are important themes that thread through the rest of the book. “After the Blood” is a story about a pandemic with three characters who are not fully human, one of which is vampirish. In the novella “Tangleroot Palace,” Princess Sally, whose name is Salinda, faces the haunted Tangleroot Forest in search of an escape from the marriage proposal from the Warlord. I liked the atmosphere of the story and how Sally prefers to live a relatively common life, leading her to some adventures that she didn’t anticipate.
With Liu’s beautiful writing as smooth as breathing, The Tangleroot Palace is an engrossing story collection debut (she has several published graphic novels), and I absolutely cannot wait for more of her works.
I received an e-ARC from Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Content warnings (in the order of the seven stories):
1. death, murder, dismembering, bones, past child abuse, pedophilia, blood
2. rape, possessing, hints of slavery, racism, mention of war, blood, death, pregnancy, miscarriage, dismembering
3. war, blood, drowning, death, poison, bullets, mention of rape
4. gore, blood, bone, hospitalization, mention of death, mention of drunk driving
5. kidnapping, mention of death
6. blood, cutting, gun, pandemic
7. blood, death, arranged marriage
Rating: liked it
I love this cover so much, I would buy it just to stare at it. As for what's inside, I only liked half of these stories unfortunately. I really do enjoy Lui's writing but I do think there's too many extra details that we don't need in most of the stories. I haven't read her graphic novels but I definitely want to soon. She has unique ideas that I enjoyed reading about. Some of the stories did bore me though.
Thank you Netgalley and to the publisher for an advanced copy of this book!
Rating: really liked it
I am familiar with Marjorie Liu’s work from her "Monstress" series, which I love for its darkness and tough women. And the series' beautiful artwork, from the mind of Sana Takeda, whose gorgeous work graces the cover of the terrific collection of short stories (and one novella).
The Tanglewood's stories are dark and creepy, and I didn't find a weak one in the bunch.
I particularly loved the recurring presence of trees in these stories, with their age, hunger and power central to situations in several stories. The stories are:
-Sympathy For The Bones
-The Briar And The Rose
-Call Her Savage
-The Last Dignity Of Man
-Where The Heart Lives
-After The Blood
It was hard to pick a favourite within this collection, but if hard pressed, would say that Sympathy for the Bones and Tangleroot Palace lingered in my mind after finishing this book.
Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for this ARC in exchange for a review.
Rating: liked it
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Some people saw the author, the cover, and immediately thought it was another graphic novel like Monstress. While the cover was done by the same artist, this is actually a collection of short stories by Marjorie Liu, written by her at different times of her career.
As with all collections like this, some stories are going to be better than others. There are 7 total and I personally enjoyed 4 of them, all of which turned out to have similar dark fairytale vibes. Those were Sympathy for the Bones, The Briar and the Rose, Where the Heart Lives, Tangleroot Palace. These stories are creepy, atmospheric, feature reimagined old tales, hoodoo dolls, magical woods, and dangerous witches.
The other 3 stories didn't work for me for different reasons.
Call Her Savage didn't leave any impression on me and I immediately forgot about it the next day. Nothing interesting happened, and I didn't care or was interested in the characters or the world.
The Last Dignity of Man was absolutely atrocious and disgusting. The protagonist was the most unbelievable character I've ever seen. Basically he was obsessed with comics and tried to look like Lex Luthor because that made him believe that because of that a Superman should also exist and would come one day and love him. WHAT? Also the plot was so vomit inducing and full of worms, human feces, and blood. Don't eat or even drink while reading it. I would actually just advise to skip this story.
After the Blood was kind of a post-apocalyptic tale about the forest soaking up some virus and turning people into vampires, zombies and something else. I think? Honestly I'm not sure what happens here because it was painfully vague the whole time.
Overall I would recommend checking out this collection just for the 4 aforementioned fairytale stories.
ARC provided by Tachyon via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: really liked it
This is my first foray into Liu’s work (Monstress sits, frowningly, on my shelf unread) and while I can’t say I liked all the stories in this collection, the ideas presented and the worlds created were so incredibly unique and bizzare that I’m now very interested in her other works. I usually review anthologies as a whole because individually reviewing 10+ stories, some merely a couple pages, is difficult. The Tangleroot Palace only has seven stories, all of which nicely fleshed out and ‘full’, so I’ll review these independently.
Sympathy for the Bones – 4/5
A creepy, Appalachian(?) inspired story about a young girl trained by her grandmother to kill people through voodoo dolls. I enjoyed the overall vibe and MC’s determination to free herself from this vicious cycle of grandmother indoctrinating granddaughter
The Briar and the Rose – 5/5
A sapphic sleeping beauty retelling, told from the perspective of the beefy sapphic duelist. Big sword lesbian/book lesbian vibes and overall very cute
Call Her Savage – 2.5/5
A ragged old superhero called to duty one last time, set in an alt-history backdrop where China has colonized the West Coast of America and losing a war to the Brits. There’s a lot of moving parts here and I can see what Liu is trying to do, but this is one of those, would work better as a novella or full length novel stories
The Last Dignity of Man – 5/5
SadGay™ wannabe Lex Luthor slowly learns to let got of his childhood comic book ideals and learn that he doesn’t need a Clark Kent to be happy. My favorite of the entire collection. CW for graphic descriptions of worms
Where the Heart Lives – 3/5
A Forest with a Secret story. The concept was interesting but I wasn’t really engaged with any of the characters
After the Blood – 2.5/5
There were a lot of moving parts and I didn’t understand what Liu was trying to do. Post-apocalyptic, people with superpowers hiding from those without, the Amish are involved in some form? Apparently this is a prequel to one of Liu’s other stories, which is probably why I didn’t understand it.
The Tangleroot Palace – 2/5
I think this is a very loose interpretation of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, where a young princess, forced to marry a feared Warlord runs away to a forest to do….stuff? Just didn’t like this story in general.
Overall, I rate this collection a 3.5/5. A lot of interesting concepts and I adored The Briar and the Rose and Where the Heart Lives but the rest of the collection was a miss for me.
Rating: liked it
The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu is a collection of 7 stories, one of which is a novella. Many of you probably know Liu from the dark fantasy comic series Monstress, but she has written novels, too. My previous experience of Liu is only from the Monstress comics, but I love especially the worldbuilding in those, so I was excited to check out her short stories. The gorgeous cover art is by her Monstress collaborator, Sana Takeda.
These dark fantasy stories once again show Liu's strength in worldbuilding. Some of them are even a bit too packed for such short stories, but in most of them the world feels real and unique and well-thought-through. Each story has a short author's note following it, and I really like when that is included in short story collections. I also prefer the notes after rather than before the stories so that I have some context for them.
Something that Liu remarked upon in one of her author's comments, and something that I also noticed myself, was that a few of the stories share in common magical forests with terrible secrets or powers. Apart from the recurring dark forest, I could also find recurring themes of making your own family and finding your own place.
I'll go through the stories individually, since seven seems like a manageable amount to talk about in one review.
Sympathy for the Bones– 3 stars
An apprentice witch seeks her freedom.
This was one of those stories that I didn't have any strong feelings about. It had elements and themes that I find interesting, like revenge, family, and freedom; a main character with maybe questionable morals; doll magic... but the story just didn't hook me. It might've been the setting that wasn't my cup of tea, or then I wanted the story to be more spooky or dark.
The Briar and the Rose – 4 stars
An original take on Sleeping Beauty, and my second favourite from the collection. We follow a main character, called the Duelist, who is the bodyguard to a sorceress who can't stay up too late every Saturday because of a dark secret that we learn during the story. It's also a love story between two women, one of which isn't the sorceress.
To probably no one's surprise, this was one of my favourites from the collection. You know I enjoy my fairytale retellings, and this was a very different take on Sleeping Beauty, with a different storyline and setting, but still some elements in common. I liked the main character and the love story. This was first published in The Starlit Wood fairytale anthology, which I really want to get my hands on. I've now read two stories from the anthology and liked them both.
Call Her Savage (The Light and the Fury) – 2 stars
In my ARC copy the story has the first title, but judging from the Amazon preview it seems the title was changed. I'll update the title when the book is out and this is confirmed.
"In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex." That short description from the back of the book sounds really exciting, doesn't it? But to me it was one of the weakest stories in the collection. It had way too much worldbuilding for such a short story. The crystal skulls powering everything, as well as the people getting sort-of-superpowers from them, were very interesting concepts, but it was a lot, and I don't think it worked as a short story. So many elements and ideas. The fraught relationship between the MC and the ex was my favourite part, but it was a very short part of the story.
The Last Dignity of Man – 4.5 stars
My absolute favourite, the standout of the collection. A rich, young businessman, who owns a large company specialising in biotech, models his life after Lex Luthor.
This one was a story that I wasn't sure about in the beginning (because I didn't know how the Superman link would be handled), but which quite quickly turned into my favourite. The main character was the strength of the story. He wants there to be good in the world, wants to be loved, but isn't sure either possibility really exists. He is so lonely and conflicted, and it really radiates throughout the whole story with this sad atmosphere. Such a good story.
Where the Heart Lives – 4 stars
This was a cosy story about finding your family, and it was my third favourite from the collection. Lucy is not wanted at home by her father and brothers, and is sent to be a serving girl to a mysterious woman living a few towns over. There, in a house surrounded by a mysterious & haunting forest, among strange magic, she finds somewhere she belongs.
Some parts in the end were perhaps a bit rushed, but I really enjoyed the feel of this. I liked how magical everything in the world felt and how cosy and peaceful the life in the house felt even though the people had their own tragedies and there was dark, scary magic around. A found-family type of story. This was apparently a prequel to a series of hers.
After the Blood – 2.5 stars
This is a post apocalyptic story where, after some sort of a pandemic, people now live among overgrown forests and strange monsters and magic. This takes place at a farming community led by the Amish. The main character isn't Amish, she lives on the outskirts, but there are Amish characters in the story.
This one had a vampire in it, so one would think I'd like this, but sadly, no. This was another one that was a bit of a miss for me. It had a lot of other stuff in it as well apart from the vampires. The post-apocalypse, the Amish farming community, past trauma, strange new magic, ghouls, something going on with the forest. It was hard to get a grasp on, because not all the elements felt quite 'done' yet. The main character in this one was the one I got the least from in the whole collection, the others felt like complete characters. Maybe it was also slightly too long.
Tangleroot Palace – 3 stars
The title story of the collection was also the longest story, a novella. The official description goes like this: “A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods." And that's a pretty good description.
I liked the fairytale setting, the characters were good, but I wanted more from the plot. I enjoyed it, but it was a middle-of-the-road story for me. I felt like the other stories had more of a Marjorie Liu twist in them. This is also the earliest written story in the collection, so that might have something to do with it.
These stories were published between 2009 and 2016. The ones that were my least favourites were from 2010, so they were earlier works of Liu's.
I give the collection as a whole 3 stars. It's hard for a short story collection to get more from me, since there are always stories I love more and stories that don't work for me. But I am very happy I got to read The Last Dignity of Man and The Briar and the Rose, especially.