Science Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal
Shards and Ashes
Anybody who knows anything about me knows that it didn’t take very much to get me interested in Shards and Ashes, a collection of young adult dystopian short stories. For one, I love young adult novels, especially dystopian ones. Factor in the fact that Kelley Armstrong, my all time FAVORITE writer, co-edited this with Melissa Marr and the fact that Armstrong has a short story in it that takes place in a future version of her Otherworld series, and that’s pretty much the perfect way to reel me in.
According to the forward by Marr and Armstrong, A collection of Young Adult authors were thrown the question, “How do you see a dystopian future?” and the results find their way into this collection of science fiction, fantasy and paranormal stories, threaded together only by their sad takes on reality. The first story is from Veronica Roth, creator of the very popular dystopian series, Divergent. Titled “Hearken”, the story is about a world where musical virtuosos are taught to use a special implant to hear people’s life songs or death songs. From there it continues on to display stories from an array of well known young adult authors. Armstrong (best known as a young adult author for her Darkest Powers series) and Marr (Wicked Lovely series) each have stories that feature along, as well as Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires), Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (known for the Beautiful Creatures series, writing separately here), Nancy Holder (Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV tie-ins), Beth Revis (whose story actually takes place in her popular Across the Universe series) and Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth).
It would be impossible to even summarize all of these shorts, just because of the complexities of their dystopian worlds, I will, however, attempt to do so with my least liked as well as my favorite and then tell you what fell in between. I was most surprised by Nancy Holder’s magic-infused short, “Pale Rider”. The story was about a girl with a magical knack for finding things who encounters a stranger that tells her that she will be instrumental in saving the world. So, obviously, despite her lack of trust in him, she goes off after him and investigates. This story just hit all the wrong notes with me. I actually enjoy a lot of Holder’s work, so was surprised at this, which I actually felt was amateurly written. That’s harsh for an author I generally liked.
Marr’s horror story, “Corpse Eaters”, was another questionable installment. Roth’s “Hearken” and Armstrong’s supernatural “Branded”, didn’t disappoint. I love their other work, and I loved this. I was intrigued by the science fiction installments: Stohl’s “Necklace of Raindrops”, Garcia’s “Burn 3”, and Ryan’s “Miasma”. Revis’ “Love is a Choice” turned me on to another book series.
But it’s surprisingly Caine’s “Dogsbody” that wins top honors with me (I truly thought it would be Roth or Armstrong). Based in a futuristic world of poverty that clashes with the rich technology of the upper class, Caine’s story follows a boy who narrowly avoids the mass killing of the teens in his town after he is recruited to work as a bodyguard or a Dogsbody, for the rich in society. He vows to avenge the deaths of the others and spends years climbing the corporate ladder until his final assignment - working as the guard of the man who ordered the tragedy. However...nothing is as simple as it seems or it wouldn’t be a good tale. Put simply, her story forced me to make a note to run to the store and pick up some of her full-length work.
The verdict? If you love Dystopian stories, and you love young adult tales, you will be sure to gobble up this collection of short stories. While there are a couple of iffy stories in this collection, they are well worth wading through to get through the insanely cool installments that surround them. From the moment I finished "Hearken" with an actual tear in my eye on the damn NYC subway, I knew that I was going to recommend this book.