Title: The Very Best of Kate Elliott
Author: Kate Elliott
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Literary Collection
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This book was given to me by the publisher, Tachyon Publications, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Since this is a collection, I'm going to rate each piece individually.
I'd never heard of Kate Elliott before this delicious collection--I know, I know, shame on me! But I think it's pretty safe to say that she's definitely got my attention; I will most definitely be looking into her other work, especially the forthcoming Court of Fives! But what refreshed me most about this collection was that Kate Elliott is a woman, and writes from the point of view of multiple ones. Women can be titans in the writing industry, and she's part of the proof!
Riding the Shore of the River of Death: 5 out of 5 Stars. A thrilling, yet mysterious and dark tale of female power and independence, this story completely swept me away--a beautiful tale.
Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine: 4 out of 5 Stars. A dangerous journey begins for a young widow, and she must leave her family in order to fight for what she thinks is right, even if it means sacrificing herself. I really enjoyed this one, mostly because of the main character--a badass in her own right!
The Queen's Garden: 5 out of 5 Stars. This was probably my favorite piece of the whole volume; two clever princesses scheme to win the throne out from their clever, ambitious father's fists--I loved the entire story, especially the two main characters!
On the Dying Winds of the Old Year and the Birthing Winds of the New: 4 out of 5 Stars, Set in the world of the best-selling Crossroads series, this tale was wonderful: a story of female camaraderie and friendship, set amidst the frightening world of the Crossroads, but it was a little hard to follow.
The Gates of Joriun: 5 out of 5 Stars, I really enjoyed this story, mostly because of the magic in it--and the main character. A young woman risks her life for her brother, and his quest to take his rightful place--even as she skids toward the edge of madness.
The Memory of Peace: 4 out of 5 Stars. This tale was heartbreaking and brutal, the account of a war on a poor village family. I really liked this story, a lot because of the family dynamic--it was sad and terrible, but beautiful as well, even though it was hard to follow.
With God to Guard Her: 5 out of 5 Stars. This story is another contender for my favorite of the volume; a young woman, lusted after by a rich duke, is forced to turned to God, and her own strength, to protect herself and her family. I loved the main character: a fighter named Merofled who wrests her independence from her circumstances. Brava!
My Voice Is In My Sword: 5 out of 5 Stars. This one was just hilarious, in a dark, baleful kind of way! Ross and his friends are at the rehearsal for Macbeth, and things go wildly awry when they perform the play for alien creatures that can sense emotions. You're in the dark for most of the story, but then it becomes laughably clear--wonderfully dark humor that I enjoyed!
Sunseeker: 3 out of 5 Stars. I wanted to love this story--I loved Eleanor, and the way she stood up for herself, but it was really hard to follow and I didn't really get it. Disappointed with this one.
A Simple Act of Kindness: 4 out of 5 Stars. Set in the world of A Crown of Stars, the story begins with a storm, and a young woman named Daniella. I really liked this one because it crept up on me, and it was just spooky enough to give me chills, but not terrible nightmares. Wonderful!
To Be a Man: 4 out of 5 Stars. This story was the sexual one, and despite it all, I enjoyed it! A cat--or is he a man--maybe both?--ends up outside a castle. Charmed by two voluptuous maids, he ends up entangled with them--and ends up literally saving their lives. Hilarious, warm, and frank! Wonderful!
Making the World Live Again: 5 out of 5 Stars. Eili doesn't want to marry; she wants to work in the temple. And she gets her wish. What sold this tale to me was Eili; I loved the way she wanted her own path, social mores be damned! Wonderful and engaging!
The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze Through Female Eyes: 5 out of 5 Stars. This essay had my inner feminist roaring out in approval; where has this woman been all my life? Elliott points out that male gazes in literature--that is to say, often too sexual ones--are not accurate, and must be changed, though it isn't necessarily someone's fault.
The Narrative of Women in Fear and Pain: 5 out of 5 Stars. Again, Elliott makes an excellent point in literature; not only are we asked to identify with abuse, it is often unnoticed, and it was scary to me that I never realized this; often, women are in pain, but it is never told from the woman's perspective. Enlightening, eye-opening, and truthful. Amazing.
And Pharaoh's Heart Hardened: 5 out of 5 Stars. Speaking more generally of prejudice, Elliott tells us about a significant moment in her life. In explaining Rosa Parks to her children, she realizes just how predominant prejudice is in society, and it really touched me. Highly personal and poetic, I enjoyed this essay the most!
The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building: 4 out of 5 Stars. Speaking of world-building and its complexities, and namely, the unsaid in it--I really enjoyed this essay as well. Amazing!
The bottom line: Though I'd never heard of Kate Elliott before this, I'm now definitely a fan! A feminist titan in the fantasy/science fiction industry, Elliott's writing is just like magic! Next on deck: The Forgotten Fairy Tales by Angela Parkhurst!