By and large, I am not a fan of short stories. The length is typically frustrating for me -- even when they don't remind me of the various anthologies I had to use in LIt classes throughout my High School and College years. Still, I try every now and then to read some. Finding a good short story is as rewarding -- if not moreso -- than finding a good novel. This is a collection of ten short stories and one novelette -- six of the stories are reprints, the others have been published for the first time in these pages. The novelette belongs to Connolly's criminally under-appreciated <b>Twenty Palaces</b> series, and would be worth the purchase price for fans of that series. If you've never read that, but are interested in in trying out a variety of new fantasy worlds (including one that has some books to go with it), this is a great investment.
There was one story in the batch that I didn't like. But even as I read it, and wasn't enjoying it, I realized there was nothing poorly written/constructed about the story. It just wasn't my thing. I don't care who told the story, or how they did it, <b>Don't Chew Your Food</b> wasn't going to work for me. It's a pretty straight-forward horror kind of thing, and that just doesn't do it for me.
That out of the way, let's focus on the pluses. This was a nice little variety pack of stories -- the styles were all over the place, one (<b>Hounds and the Moonlight</b>) read like something the Brothers Grimm would've appreciated, another (<b>Cargo Johnny</b>) felt like it should've been introduced by Rod Serling, and another (<b>Beyond The Game</b>) demonstrated that Connolly can do funny -- which is nice to see (also nice to have a little palate cleanser after all the mayhem and destruction).
<b>The One Thing You Can Never Trust</b> is a great introductory story -- in just a few pages we have a political system (or two) unfolded for us, society's way of (not) dealing with a racial divide and a new magic system. All while telling a tidy little crime story. <b>Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths</b> is similarly a great short burst of world building with a fresh magic system -- and some wonderful monsters, both human and not. Great opening paragraphs, grab you and make sure you're along for the ride.
The main reason people are going to be picking up this collection is for the <b>Twenty Palaces</b> story: <b>The Home Made Mask</b>. And they are right to do so. I cannot get enough of this series (sadly, I'm a member of a very exclusive club). The fact that Ray and Annalise aren't in the story much doesn't affect that -- this is the strange, creepy, capricious kind of magic at work that makes this series so compelling. Tempted to buy some Power-ball tickets just so I can commission some more of these.
I think my favorite story was <b>Lord of Reavers</b>, which is the closest thing to "traditional" fantasy. This tale of an almost super-human swordsman joining up with a band of raiders was great. I felt that I should've seen the conclusion coming sooner than I did, but it was so much fun I'm glad I didn't. I'd read a novel or more starring this character -- easy.
Most short story collections are uneven at best, full of ups and downs. <b>Bad Little Girls . . . </b> is an exception -- 1 down, and 10 ups. Can't ask for more than that. You'd do well to give it a try.