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Book Review: Silk and Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 - 07:00
Silk and Steel - cover image

A while ago I started working my way through reviews of things I’ve read in the last year or two. Ha, ha, yes, my up-to-datedness is that bad. And then in the last month or so, I finally seem to have broken through my “reading block”. So let’s spend some time getting reviews done, though they’re going to be briefer than I sometimes write. I’m scheduling 18 reviews (following my usual one-blog-per-day maximum) which gets me caught up with everything in my spreadsheet, though I need to comb through iBooks and other files to see if I’ve overlooked something.

The premise for this kickstarter-based anthology was so solidly in my sweet spot that I not only backed the kickstarter immediately, but I was inspired to write a story to submit for it. (Alas, they didn’t take my story, but perhaps it will see the light of day at some point.) The basic premise, inspired by a piece of art, was “two women, one with weapon skills, one with more social/courtly skills, plunge into adventure and romance.” The settings range from classical fantasy worlds to space pirates, with a wide range of character types, story flavors, and interpretations of that premise. The variety is such that I’d predict  if the basic concept attracts you, there will be at least one story that’s perfectly on target for you, and more that are thoroughly enjoyable. Some of my favorites were: Freya Marske’s “Elinor Jones vs. the Ruritanian Multiverse” for its delightful self-conscious poking fun at tropes and the process of storytelling; the delightfully bittersweet worldbuilding of Cara Patterson’s “Little Birds”; the comic romp that is Elizabeth Davis’s “The Epic Fifth Wedding Anniversary of Zayne the Barbarian and Tikka the Accountant”; and the twisty emotional tightrope of Aliette de Bodard’s “The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute.” The only story that didn’t really work for me and felt ill-suited to the theme was Elaine McIonyn’s “The Commander and the Mirage Master’s Mate” whose characters simply felt incompetent in their setting and which spent far too much attention to the technical details of the martial magic and not enough developing the plot.

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