Yanni Kuznia's A Fantasy Medley featured an all-star cast of contributors and turned out to be a very good anthology. Understandably, this limited edition was quick to sell out. With a couple of New York Times bestselling contributors, I'm persuaded that Subterranean Press expected no less.
With the original anthology ending up being a commercial and critical success, I was curious to see how the second volume would turn out. Yanni Kuznia has once again assembled a cast of quality writers, yet none of them possess the star power of big names like Robin Hobb or Kelly Armstrong. Still, Tanya Huff, Amanda Downum, Jasper Kent, and Seanan McGuire are another disparate group of writers that could make for an absorbing read.
Here's the blurb:
In A Fantasy Medley, editor Yanni Kuznia assembled a diverse quartet of stories from some of fantasy’s most exciting authors, and the sell-out volume earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Now Kuznia returns with A Fantasy Medley 2, offering absorbing new tales of the fantastic from four of the brightest stars in the field:
With “Quartered,” Tanya Huff returns to the world of her beloved Quarters series with the story of the young bard Evicka, whose mission to spy on an assassin brings peril, tragedy, and, ultimately, revelation.
In “Bone Garden,” Amanda Downum revisits Erisín, setting of her critically lauded novel The Bone Palace from the Necromancer Chronicles. Deadly spirits are preying on the city’s most vulnerable citizens in this story of secrets and sacrifice.
“The Sergeant and the General” finds Jasper Kent weaving a tale from the other side of the battle lines drawn in his Danilov Quintet, with a French veteran of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign haunted by more than just memories.
And in “Rat-Catcher,” Seanan McGuire travels into the past of the October Daye series to pull back the veils on both the world of 17th century London theater and the faerie Court of Cats as two worlds collide in one of the greatest conflagrations in history.
I hadn't read anything by Tanya Huff in ages and I wasn't familiar with her Quarters series. And although you can enjoy the short story without any foreknowledge of events and characters from the series, I have a feeling that there were some nuances that I probably missed along the way. Still, I particularly liked how Huff played with readers' preconceptions to surprise everyone at the end.
Amanda Downun's "Bone Garden" is hands down the most thrilling and fascinating short story of the bunch. Again, I wasn't familiar with the author's Necromancer Chronicles or her critically acclaimed novel The Bone Palace, but reading this story really made me want to learn more about Downun's work. I particularly enjoyed what felt like a Russian/Slavic flavor of the universe and the refugees, and I might look a bit further into this. This appears to be a speculative fiction series with a different vibe, one that has definitely piqued my curiosity.
As most of you know, I'm a big fan of Jasper Kent's Danilov Quintet and I was expecting this to be a short story told from the French perspective. And it is, yet it has nothing to do with Kent's series. On the one hand, I was a bit disappointed when that fact sunk in. But on the other hand, the author came up with an unusual and interesting ghost story that turned out to be quite good.
If you like cats, then perhaps you'll enjoy Seanan McGuire's "Rat-Catcher." It was a bit too cute and at times frivolous for my liking, but it reads extremely well. The most fluid story in terms of pace in the entire anthology. But I have a feeling that the faeries from the Court of Cats might not be for every reader.
In my opinion, the best thing about the short stories contained in Yanni Kuznia's A Fantasy Medley 2 is that they work quite well as introductory works which may lure potential new readers to each author's body of work. Having said that, that same material will doubtless satisfy existing fans who will relish the opportunity to return to worlds and characters they have grown to love.