xeni's review against another edition

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Overall review: I thought this book was fantastic for what it was trying to do. Each of these authors have their own unique take on how to write (with a lot of creativity in the prose) an ongoing tale, intermingling with each other; writing one overarching plot line that writhes and haunts one another's tales. It's masterfully done, with such interesting takes that I have to admire them all of their actual craft.

I think it helps a lot if you are intimately familiar with Shakespeare's referenced plays (especially for the 4th story, which involves so many plot lines it is almost mandatory to know who all the cast are beforehand).

I am not sure I loved these stories so much as I really deeply appreciated them. I did love how an intertwined world of deeper, darker magic and politics across all Europe emerged slowly while staying true to the original works and characters.

Specific tales reviews:

Coral Bones by Foz Meadows - the story of Miranda and her adventures with 2 fairies including Puck.

I really liked how this one was written. It felt mythological and heavy but also capricious and light. The story is not told in a straight-forward manner. We meet Miranda as she is dying from childbirth fever and begs her fairy childhood friend to save her. Her death is faked and she is finally free. Miranda decides to journey on pilgrimage to Tatania's court and ask her favor and is thus guided by Puck.

It's a beautifully told story, full of mystery and darkness but also the fun adventurous Puck and other fairy spirits. Hovering in the background is a greater story of war between the mortals and interference by Oberon and Tatania. I really loved this tale. A solid 5/5 stars.

The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield - Pomona the witch finds herself traveling a new route home to avoid an annoying satyr and discovers a mysterious garden with even stranger occupants.

This tale starts out so fun: mythical creatures abound, we run into Queen Mab and a prisoner (a man disguised as a woman is so rare! I love it), a mysterious and magical garden. Ah it's a wonderful premise. Pomona is intelligent and quickly puts together what is truly happening. But then I feel the story lost a lot of its magic. The end results in both of these character declaring undying true love for all time and they have only been together for a day and a night? I really dislike insta-love in stories. This is more of a 3.5/5 stars.

The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman - this story features Lucia Medici as she attacks and kills Duke Prospero and then they figure out who set her up to do so.

I do like that these stories are staying a bit more intertwined - Prospero finally sees Miranda again (20 years after her death in the first story), the war threatened in the second story is almost upon them now (or has it already come? hard to say). I enjoyed Lucia as a protagonist a lot. She is young, but has so much spunk and agency and is not willing to put up with any of Prospero's ghost shit.

I thought the ending in this story not to be the one I expected. It was well done! I kind of wish I was more familiar with certain of Shakespeare's tales (Macbeth in this one) so I'd understand more of the background. 4/5 stars.

Even in the Cannon's Mouth by Adrian Tchaikovsky - This one is again different from the previous: here we have most of the As You Like It cast, plus Macbeth and his witches, plus a bunch of previously introduced characters. They all converge in Illyria due to various plot points.

An interesting (and fun) bit here is how every scene change has a bit of a scene description plus a character who ENTERS. After that it is no longer like a play, but it does feel more play-like than the previous tales.

I loved Helena in this. It felt so natural for her to eschew France, head off and become a powerful witch. It fits both her character and her story arc. I never felt she fit so well with Bertram. The other characters were all a lot more forgettable (though Macbeth on screen never was). The plot was also a bit of a doozy. I'm not sure I followed it entirely. There are a lot of background battles happening across Europe that involve most of the powers of the time, of of who have different names (Aragon, Illyria, etc). I did think it interesting that this tale takes place after the last one, as this one starts out with a diplomatic delegation to Prospero to beg for his magical help in fighting the wars. Little do they all know how dead he is...

This story is the one that combines the most of Shakespeare's works yet. I am not strongly familiar with all the references, and it certainly narrowed my ability to enjoy it. (And then a very strange 4th wall breaking moment to top it all off... huh) 4/5 stars.

On the Twelfth Night by Jonathan Barnes - This story finally features William Shakespeare himself, though he's really only on the fringes. The story is in second person, that of his wife, Anne. In this alternate reality William stayed at home instead of pursuing his writing career, and has 3 children, a merry life, and a lot of happiness. Unfortunately the rest of the universes don't, the knife is tearing through them, and all the Williams are pulled together to stop the Void from consuming them all. This story is written as small vignettes spanning 12 days, slowly ramping up to the destruction of the world. I didn't like it very much. I liked Anne and her perspective and her life. I strongly disliked how everything was resolved and we end with nothing. 3/5 stars

raven_morgan's review

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Monstrous Little Voices is a novella anthology, with all of the stories taking place in a fantastical world based on several of Shakespeare’s plays. The particular focus is on the world of the fairies, and how it and the fairies themselves interact with the human world.

I will admit up front that my memory of much of Shakespeare is more than rusty, and I chose not to go back and refresh any of that before reading this series of novellas. It’s entirely possible that someone more familiar with the plays will get more out of this collection that I did.

Not to say that I didn’t get anything out of it. For me, the absolute standout story is the first one, Foz Meadows’ Coral Bones, which extrapolated from the story of The Tempest, in particular focusing on Miranda, and in making her genderfluid. I would recommend this to anyone, even if they hate Shakespeare, just for the excellent view on gender and fluidity. I’d think that even if you have little knowledge of The Tempest, you’d be able to get a lot out of this novella. I’d expect to see it possibly popping up on awards shortlists, as well.

The rest of the novellas didn’t quite have the impact that Coral Bones did. All of the novellas were well written, and it’s to be noted that they particularly focused on strong characterisation of female characters, but none of them grabbed me quite the same way as Coral Bones. I did like the way the novellas all interweaved with each other at times, giving the whole collection what felt like a cohesive narrative.

I did also particularly like the last novella in the collection, Jonathan Barnes’ On the Twelfth Night, which uses William Shakespeare and his wife Anne, as well as their children, as characters, interweaving them with the fantastic narrative of the previous novellas. This isn’t an easy story to read, with the bulk of it being in second person, but it’s definitely worth it.

If you have a passing knowledge of Shakespeare, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this collection. If you have a deeper knowledge, I suspect you’ll find even more.

polyhy_14's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A


eclectictales's review against another edition

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I was approved an ARC of this book by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review in its entirety was originally posted at eclectictales.com: http://www.eclectictales.com/blog/2016/03/08/review-monstrous-little-voices/

If you mash up all of Shakespeare’s plays together (the big ones, at least) with the magic of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest with characters from Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, and Macbeth just to name a few, this book is the result. It was interesting how all of the settings from Shakespeare’s plays were able to co-exist seamlessly in this collection on top of it being set in 17th century Europe :) All five stories featured in the anthology can work as standalones but the setting and the overarching backstory of growing tensions between King Oberon and Duke Orsino serve as a link between all five tales.

The collection is interesting, each story with its own flavour and take on mashing up different characters from different plays, adding more to their characters, continuing on with certain stories, its take on magic and its impact on growing hostilities between King Oberon and Duke Orsino and other conflicts at work. Foz Meadows’ “Coral Bones” is my favourite from the five as it was very haunting and sombre yet fantastical, Miranda such a strong woman in reclaiming her life and what she wants to do with her life. Kate Heartfield’s “The Course of Love” was also interesting, featuring a witch who not very young and who has to find a way to stop war from erupting in the land. Emma Newman’s “The Unkindest Cut” was also haunting in a way, but you could feel the danger lurking around the corner as Lucia de Medici tries to navigate her way and figure out who deceived her. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Even in the Cannon’s Mouth” really brings the impending war to the forefont as characters from Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Twelfth Night, along with the darker side of magic come together. And finally Jonathan Barnes’ On the Twelfth Night brings everything to a full circle, involving the bard himself ;) and his wife, Anne Hathaway.

Overall I really enjoyed reading Monstrous Little Voices. It was a fun romp continuing along into the magical worlds and settings that Shakespeare comprised to set his timeless stories. It’s an added delight if you recognise which characters came from which plays but even if you don’t, it’s okay, it’s still a fun and mad romp through these interconnected stories. Whether you’re a reader of fantasy or of Shakespeare’s works or simply a reader of short stories, it’s definitely an anthology to check out.

lulustjames's review

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For fans of Shakespeare and fantasy, Monstrous Little Voices is sure to be a gem, but for the casual Shakespearian aficionado, you might find yourself wanting more. This is a complication of five different stories by five different authors that all choose different pieces of Shakespeare's works, yet weave them together in an overarching story. That said, one book with different authors is always a gamble, one that might not always pay off.

With the different authors writing each of the five stories, it's difficult to say whether it's the content or the style that did and didn't work for me. It's likely a combination of both. I really enjoyed Coral Bones by Foz Meadows, The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield, and The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman. Perhaps it's because they dealt in greater detail with fae and witches. Perhaps it's the love and romance. I just really found these three stories to be fantastic.

In Coral Bones, the message is one that is great and should be repeated to all. The form you are in should not dictate the role you should play or how you should be treated. This dips into The Tempest and looks into gender roles and the rigidity that some adhere to them. Also, it features the ever delightful Puck and the loving eternal war between Oberon and Titania. It has a serious message woven through the clever witted tale.

The Course of True Love, is my favourite of Monstrous Little Voices. In it, there is a debate on what the true nature of a person is. Whether it is something immutable or something that is changeable, dependent on your actions. It was also super sweet to see the elderly in a bit of a romance story. Pomona, the wizened old witch was great and had the best quote of the book, which I had featured in this past Thursday Quotables post and Vertumnus was a fantastic bounding partner for her.

Finally, the last of my three favourites is The Unkindest Cut, which seems like the natural culmination of the earlier three stories. Here, we see a prophecy fulfilled after going awry. There is a spirit in a form that is not theirs. We see the idea of one's true nature being based on actions rather than feelings, or words. Here's a spoiler, do not expect a happy ending here.

The final two stories of the collection were, in contrast, lackluster. Even in the Cannon's Mouth was strange. The mixture of stage direction with a narrative format was distracting. The war story background of the shipwrecked survivors flew right over my head. The addition of he who must not be named was interesting, but as a HUGE fan of that work, a bit out of character and strange, until the final lines at least. The story seemed to focus on characters that I didn't really care about, and then ended with characters going on an adventure I really wanted to see. It just didn't work for me. On the Twelfth Night was simply comically strange and so random compared to the earlier four works. It sort of makes sense as the ending of the book, but it's just...weird.

Monstrous Little Voices is a solid three stars. It gives me a great introduction to the different authors and leaves me intrigued to find more of their works. However, all of the stories may not interest all readers. The collection on kindle is definitely worth the price ($5.99 USD at the time of this post) as each individual story is priced at $2.99 USD each.

// I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review //

bookfessional's review against another edition

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I am ready. Please be as EPIC as I want you to be.

vsbedford's review against another edition

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It's a bit unfair to give this collection of fantasy stories inspired by Shakespeare only two stars, but this rubbed me the wrong way from the first few pages. I'm a fantasy reader (high, low, urban, whatever), so I don't think my reaction was based purely on subject matter, but rather the funky writing; if the only way an author can indicate jumps in time (or has the necessity to) is to write half the story in italics, that author has some serious problems with the strength of the story he or she is telling and the way they are telling it. A good idea with middling to poor execution.

I received an ecopy from the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

taisie22's review

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Monstrous Little Voices is a collection of short stories written in a Shakespearean style that utilizes characters from his plays. The stories are written in Acts like his plays and are an elaborate form of fan fiction.
Characters from A Midsummer's Night Dream, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, and others are skillfully woven into a series of stories that the final story 'On the Twelfth Night' uses to explain them all.
I especially enjoyed 'Coral Bones' and 'The Course of True Love', but all of the stories are wonderful. Shakespeare fans will enjoy this great collection.

marita379's review

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The only problem with this book (and the reason it's not a gloriou five stars for me) was that the absolute very best story was the first in the collection, Coral Bones and everything that followed it was, although VERY GOOD in and of itself, still a gentle let down. HOWEVER. Brilliant book. Brillian use of characters and settings and the Shakespearean mythos.

sadie_slater's review

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I bought this because it was one of the many fascinating-sounding books mentioned during the "Transformative Shakespeare" panel at Nine Worlds this summer. Monstrous Little Voices is a collection of five stories by five different authors inspired by Shakespeare's plays and looking at the lives of his characters after their canon stories have finished. The stories are located in a kind of shared world where all the plays take place together, almost simultaneously, and each one builds on the events of the earlier ones to create a wider arc plot.

The stories themselves were variable. My favorite was Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Even in the Cannon's Mouth", an entertaining romp combining characters from Much Ado About Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, As You Like It and Twelfth Night and featuring magic, swashbuckling and humour. I also liked Emma Newman's "The Unkindest Cut", a much darker story about prophecies and fate, and Foz Meadows' "Coral Bones" which explores Miranda's life after The Tempest along with much more modern ideas about gender and sexuality. I was less keen on Jonathan Barnes' "The Twelfth Night", which was about (a version of) Shakespeare himself rather than the characters from the plays, and thought that Kate Heartfield's "The Course of True Love" was definitely the weakest of the stories, a fairly unexciting romance with some magical elements.

Overall, it was enjoyable enough to read, though I didn't quite feel that the different stories tied together as neatly as I think they were supposed to, and I might have preferred more separate stories.