Songs of Love and Death
Grade : B

Truth be told, I mostly got my copy of Songs of Love and Death because it features a story by Linnea Sinclair, an auto-buy author for me. There are stories by a lot of other authors in it that I admire or have heard good things about, so that was an added inducement. All in all it proved a very good read.

The collection assembles a number of writers from various sub-genres, and some of the stories are romances (with an HEA), while others have an open, bittersweet or sad ending. The stories are held together by a common theme: Star-crossed lovers, lovers that for some reason find it very hard or downright impossible to be together.

Apart from the common theme, there are wide variations. There are SF romances, romances set in some medieval or renaissance world which features hardly any magic, romances of ghosts, of time travel and of superheroes. (The sensuality rating was also varied and ranged from n/a to warm.) What I loved was that each author created a very distinctive world, one that I entered with great pleasure, and many of the stories really drew me in and held me captivated, sometimes even long after I had finished them.

There were also some tiny disappointments. I usually love Jo Beverley's writing, but The Marrying Maid left me cold, probably because I don't care at all about the fated lovers plotline. And I'd heard good of Yasmine Galenorn, but Man in the Mirror was altogether meh for me.

I was also less pleased with some of the stories that were tied in with larger series. The best of these were the stories where I only wondered after I had finished them whether they were part of a series (After the Blood by Marjorie M. Liu – which may well be a stand-alone, so well does it work on its own), but I got annoyed when I was reminded with every name that was dropped that I did not know what was going on (You, and You Alone by Jacqueline Carey and – sorry, because otherwise it was just excellently written – A Leaf in the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon)

There were also two stories that were more experimental, less conventionally told than the other, and I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not enjoy them nearly as much as the others. In The Thing About Cassandra, Neil Gaiman toys expertly with the reader’s expectations, but I just couldn't care about it much. And Tanith Lee’s Under/Above the Water with its intricate time structure kept me so distanced from the characters that I stopped caring about them less than halfway through.

These are the stories I enjoyed most: The marvelous Love Hurts by Jim Butcher is set in a fairground and features a most intriguing and moving not-quite-romance. Hurt Me by M. L. N. Hanover is most emphatically not a romance, but instead features a most unlikely heroine and one of the most nastily satisfying endings I have come across in a long time. The Wayfarer’s Advice by Melinda Snodgrass is written first-person by the hero’s point-of-view and ever so romantic. Demon Lover by Cecelia Holland features a very unlikely hero and a marvellously imagined magic castle. After the Blood by Marjorie M. Liu contains lots of – guess what? – blood and a post-apocalyptic world that is intricately described, and The Demon Dancer by Mary Jo Putney features the by far sweetest couple in the whole collection.

Here are all the stories for those who are interested:

Love Hurts by Jim Butcher – tied to the Dresden Chronicles – paranormal fiction – A

The Marrying Maid by Jo Beverley – paranormal historical (Georgian) romance – C

Rooftops by Carrie Vaughn – superhero paranormal almost-romance – B

Hurt Me by M. L. N. Hanover – ghost story – A

Demon Lover by Cecelia Holland – paranormal romance – A-

The Wayfarer’s Advice by Melinda Snodgrass – SF story – A

Blue Boots by Robin Hobb – set in the Fool series’ world – fantasy romance – B+

The Thing About Cassandra by Neil Gaiman – paranormal fiction – C

After the Blood by Marjorie M. Liu – futuristic paranormal romance – A

You, and You Alone by Jacqueline Carey – prequel to Kushiel’s Dart – fantasy story – C-

His Wolf by Lisa Tuttle – paranormal romance – B-

Courting Trouble by Linnea Sinclair – SF romance – B

The Demon Dancer by Mary Jo Putney – paranormal romance – A

Under/Above the Water by Tanith Lee – time travel romance – D

Kaskia by Peter S. Beagle – SF story – B

Man in the Mirror by Yasmine Galenorn – ghost story – C

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows – tied to the Outlander universe – time travel story – B

Although the price for Songs of Love and Death may appear a bit steep, this is a charming volume of stories well worth the reading. I recommend it especially to those who like to read in a wide variety of subgenres.

Reviewed by Rike Horstmann
Grade : B

Sensuality: Varies

Review Date : November 29, 2010

Publication Date: 2010/11

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Rike Horstmann

High school teacher. Soccer fan (Werder Bremen, yeah!). Knitter and book-binder. Devotee of mathematical puzzles. German.
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