It took me over a year to finish this anthology. No wonder, Songs of Love & Death is quite chunky, over 600 pages. The individual stories are all rather long, around 50 pages each. The subtitle of the book is All-Original Tales of Star-Crossed Love which is not entirely accurate as most stories have a happy ending.
While I didn’t like all of the stories equally, I liked that there were so many different genres or rather sub genres of fantasy and romance. Historical Romance, Sci-fi Romance, Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy. Most of the authors were new to me but there were also people like Neil Gaiman, Peter S. Beagle, Lisa Tuttle and Tanith Lee.
Many people bought this anthology for Diana Gabaldon’s story A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows. It’s a tale set in her Outlander series with characters who are important in the series or rather back story of some characters. I can’t say I liked it much. It’s the story of an RAF pilot on a mission to Poland. His plane crashes and he somehow lands in another time. He tries hard to get back to his wife and young son. I suppose that when you are familiar with the series that it’s an interesting story but when you are not it’s not very gripping.
That’s a problem of some of the other stories too. Many of the authors write series and the stories are set in those worlds. Reading just one small story about those worlds can be a bit confusing. Fortunately most writers submitted an original standalone story.
Each story comes with an introduction, naming the author’s genre and most important work. It’s certainly the first time that I have read sci-fi romance. It wasn’t my cup of tea but quite interesting.
These were my favourite stories:
Jim Butcher’s Love Hurts tells a tale of love sickness with an interesting twist.
Carrie Vaughn’s Rooftops is nothing special as story but the voice is charming and made me buy the first in her Kitty Norville series.
M.L.N. Hanover Hurt Me is a horror story dealing with abusive relationships. Really good.
Robin Hobb’s Blue Boots was just a very lovely love story set in pre-industrial England.
Neil Gaiman’s The Thing About Cassandra is typical Gaiman. So original. A story with a really stunning twist that shows that you have to be careful when you make things up.
Lisa Tuttle’s His Wolf was my favourite. It’s some sort of werewolf story but including a real wolf. The story as such is so realistic, the characters so well drawn, one forgets easily that it’s fantasy.
Peter S. Beagle’s Kaskia is a sic-fi story. Very eerie. Has the computer come alive or what is going on here?
Yasmine Galenorn is another writer I didn’t know. Her Man in the Mirror is a very unusual ghost/horror story of a man trapped between the worlds. It has a bittersweet ending.
I was quite disappointed in Tanith Lee’s story Under/Above the Water, and didn’t really understand Marjorie M. Liu’s dystopian vampire story After the Blood. Too bad, both stories are very well written.
With the exception of a few stories the anthology is much more romance than dark fantasy. If that is your thing, don’t miss it. But even if you prefer Dark Fantasy and Fantasy you will still find at least half a dozen really great stories. I guess what I liked most and what made this overall a really enjoyable experience was to discover so many new subgenres. That was really fun. A bit like eating a box of Quality Street.
Delia has reviewed this a while back here.
A warning for the George R.R.Martin fans – he is only the editor, he didn’t contribute to the collection.
30 thoughts on “Songs of Love & Death edited by George R.R.Martin and Gardner Dozois”
You’ve read it! So glad to see that you enjoyed most of the stories.
It looks like both of us liked “His Wolf” a lot – that was probably my favorite. Your review reminded me of Diana Gabaldon – haven’t read any of her books yet but I do have “An Echo in the Bone”. Have you read it?
It too a while… But now I’m almost sad it’s finished. I have read nothing by her but I do have the first of the Outlander series. So many people love it so much that I would at least like to try. Not just yet though.
Lisa Tuttle was so good and unexpected. I’ve only read Gabriel and one or two other stories. Usually I like Tanith Lee but this one wasn’t that convincing for me.
Nice review, Caroline! This looks like an interesting book that I would like to explore sometime. It seems to have stellar cast of writers. Peter Beagle’s ‘Kaskia’ looks like a fascinating story from your description. I want to read that. The Neil Gaiman story also looks quite interesting. I know this is a silly question, but I have to ask this – what is ‘High Fantasy’? Also, is there an Ursula Le Guin or Diana Wynne Jones story in the book? Thanks for this interesting review.
Thanks, Vishy. I could imagine you would like some of the stories. High Fantasy is epic fanatsy or simply “pure” fantasy in other worlds, very unlike dark fanatsy which is mostly set in our world. Patricia McKillip, Marion Zimmer Bradly, they write high fantasy. Tanith Lee mostly too while Lisa Tuttle’s stories ae always taking place in our world. Neither Wynne Jones Ursula K Le Guin were in this.
I’ve read Peter S Beagle’s The Last Unicorn which would also be “high fantasy”. Kaskia was quite interesting. Like always Neil Gaiman stood out. That story is in quite a few anthologies.
This isn’t for me, but congrats for sticking with it. I think any short story collection is better read slowly.
I own a few that I’ve read very quicjkly but ususally I like to read one in an evening but these were very long. I’m glad I finished it though.
Sounds like an interesting book and one I might track down. I used to read a lot of fantasy collections but have somehow dropped out of the habit. I’ve always found them to be a good introduction to various authors’ works without committing the time necessary for reading full-length novels – and some fantasy novels can be very long!
I agree, it’s an excellent introduction. I always discover at least one new author and find a few stories of authors I like. I think this one can be found in libraries.
Normally I like anthologies which stick to one genre but it as interesting.
Seems like a good idea for an anthology.
I suppose it was a really clever marketing idea to include a story that is part of a really popular series.
I suppose it was as the majority read it for her story. I think that it is a common habit of fanatsy series writers to write additional stories. Not always to sell them. Some authors, like Kelley Armstron,g offer them for free on their blogs, as a thank you to their readers.
I do mean to read Neil Gaiman one day, but have never understood the allure of the Outlander series. Kudos to you for finishing such a long anthology!
I haven’t read it and after reading this story I have a feeling I might not be the ideal Outlander audience. Did you read one of them or is it just a feeling you wouldn’t like it?
I tried reading one of them and just couldn’t stay with it. Not my genre at all.
Doesn’t sound promising. I’ll give a try some day but it’s not high up on the pile.
I often had problems with Anthology, a year is still better than me 😉
I still haven’t finish dark anthology by Australian writers over 2 years. I just don’t feel comfortable reading shorts by so many writers.
Your description on Neil Gaiman’s story makes me more eager to read his book. I went to a book store last week and couldn’t find his book, I will search again next month as I have already bought King’s book (when I couldn’t find Gaiman’s) Your readalong already made me curious but his episode in Doctor Who is the one that made me eager
It’s weird, it should go quickly but it takes a lot of time when there are different writers or it depends on the anthology. I have read some that went quickly.
I hope you can find Gaiman. Strange you couldn’t find it. I thought this was an excellent story, strange but good.
I remember reading Birthday Story, an anthology collected by Haruki Murakami, that one also took longer than when I read collection of shorts by one author.
Well, Gaiman hasn’t gained much popularity here yet. If you read my interview with Marky Jahjali, he explained it pretty good how Indonesian readers are being led by publishers. He and I are rare readers who read beyond the books which usually promoted by publishers.
I hope he will get the attention of the publishers then. 🙂
It’s good to read outside of mainstream.
One of his books is already been translated, I think. So I am sure other store has his original books…but of course it’s not as easy as finding Stephanie Meyer books 😉
Although all the things I love are mainstream in their country but not in my country, I often have no one to talk about my favorite things (like Doctor Who, Stephen King, etc)
That’s what I meant, not mainstream in yours.
I guess that’s one of the reasons why you have your blog, to discuss your favourite things.
Neil Gaiman is far less mainstream than Meyer.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this collection, although it’s not one that I’m familiar with. But I do find myself taking a long time to read some anthologies, so I took great comfort in that as well (although not because the stories are as long as they were in this one…you seem to have had good reason, whereas often I simply lose track with collections of works by multiple authors)!
You’re not alone, that’s for sure. I started to feel bad about taking so long. It’s seems I read 1 – 2 stories per month.
In the past I adopted a different approach, I read the stories out of order, reading my favourite authors first, keeping the rest for last. For some reason it was quicker like that.
Only reading a few doesn’t work, I mostly finish books, even collections.
I went through a phase where I read stories out of order as well, but I’ve returned to the start-to-finish method; perhaps that’s largely because when it does take you a long time to finish an anthology, and you have a poor memory as well, there’s a risk of actually forgetting which ones you’ve already read. *sigh, while grinning at absurdity of it*
I think it depends on the collection, Both ways can work. When I read out of order I aöways cheat I mark those I’ve already read in the table of contents section.
This sounds like quite an undertaking! I am trying to work my way through a few longer story anthologies, too, and suspect it will take me a good half year or longer to finish them. The nice thing about collections, though, you can read a story or two a month yet not feel like you have lost the thread by taking your time with it. I’m not sure the genres would be for me, but it sounds like there are some intriguing stories in it. I read the first three Gabaldon books and meant to get back to them and read more, but it’s been so long now I think I would have to start from the beginning again. (They are also seriously hefty books and I seem to be reading a lot more shorter fiction this year).
I enjoyed reading it but there are more literary fantasy anthologies out there. I think the pages would have given that away. the shorter the story, the better and denser the writing.
After Carole’s comment I thought I will not read Gabaldon but I usually like the books you like too, so might try one as well.
I don^t think you would be able to restart a series like that with such chunky books. Don’t you think you’d remember as soon as you started the next in the series?
I’m impressed you read all of it. I have a tendency with anthologies to pick and choose – something I probably shouldn’t do but I don’t seem able to override the instinct. I can never read in the proper sequence either. This is strange as normally I am very ordered and organised about things – almost to the point of being anal about them! But they are good for finding new authors.
There were such a lot of authors I didn’t know and all the stories were equally long that I decided to read them in order.
I don’t always do that with anthologies. When it’s an original collection by one author only I read all of it in order.
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