Saturday, January 9, 2010

Book Review -- The Defiance Anthology

Back in November I was lucky enough to get an E-ARC of Defiance, which is an anthology by Laura Anne Gilman, Angela Korra'ti, and Joely Sue Burkhart.

I had read snippets of Burkhart's story on her blog so was excited to be able to read the finished product. Generally, I'm not an anthology person. I like my stories meaty, LOL, and am often left wanting more from short stories. In the end, an anthology is just a series of short stories tied together by some theme -- in this case, special women during the Civil War. On the plus side, I got to read two authors I'd never read before, and THAT is the beauty of anthologies. This one may just have converted me.

Laura Anne Gilman, Joely Sue Burkhart, and Angela Korra’ti take us back to the days of the Civil War with ministering angels, magical creatures, and death. Each of the women in these stories refuses to take on the role she’s been assigned by birth, race, or circumstance. Each woman demonstrates life changing defiance.

Finder’s Keeper by Laura Anne Gilman

The heroine, Davida, is from a long line of gifted women. She refused to put aside her talent or to be chained down by society. Thus she moved away from everything she knew, finding her own safe haven, among people who occasionally called on her gift. With a few details, she could find things. But then her gift starts coming on its own in the form of dreams, forcing her hand and setting her out on adventure to recover that which SHE has lost. Like any story worth its salt, she ends up with more than she bargained for.

This is one of those stories that is hard to talk about without giving away too much. The ending left me thinking. Gilman allows for her readers to imagine, to read between the lines, to finish the story. I loved how Gilman kept Davida true to her character to the very end with no compromises.

I enjoyed this enough to search out additional works by Gilman.

The Blood of the Land by Angela Korra'ti

The heroine, Dorcas, is a slave attempting to make it to Canada with her lover Caleb. Dorcas has the power to heal which has caused her major trouble, as you can imagine. Along the Underground Railroad, Dorcas and Caleb come across an injured man -- a white man -- who turns out to be the sympathizer they had been in route to. This white man, Elias, has power and it calls to Dorcas. An epic battle ensues when Dorcas and Caleb's "master" catches up to them.

I loved that Korra'ti made Dorcas and Caleb strong, capable, and intelligent people despite their circumstances. I'm glad she didn't shy away from the slavery but nor did she dramatize it.

Not being familiar with Korra'ti's other work I found some of the references hard to follow...or rather too much for a short story. Elias is a Warder with ties back to her first book. The whole power thing somehow connects too. However, I think it is absolutely awesome that the world this story takes place in, is based off her first book, Faerie Blood, which started out as a NaNoWriMo project!

Overall, a well paced story and an author to be on the watch for.

Storms as She Walks by Joely Sue Burkhart

Okay, I'm likely a bit bias here, but this was my favorite. I love the Native American culture. This had the most romance of the three stories, tame for Burkhart but fulfilling.

The heroine, Meli or Storms as She Walks, is masquerading as Thunderer in the US Army. She's got courage and a dream. Of course, her worry though a good part of the story is the men in her regiment discovering her secret.

Meli is a half-breed, abandoned by her white mother, caught between worlds. After working and bleeding with her fellow soldiers, she develops a kinship with two Negros, Lying Abe and Big John. Lucky for Meli, all men aren't stupid or bigoted. Leading this rag-tag outfit is Captain Steadman, a man with three simple rules. First, he'll never ask you to do something that he refuses to do. Second, he'll never leave a man behind. And you can be assured of his promise, because rule number three is he never lies.

Then the commanding Colonel sets a trap for the regiment resulting in Steadman's capture. It is up to Thunderer to orchestrate his rescue. To say more would spoil the read for you.

I was hooked from the first sentence and pulled right along though the story. Burkhart has an amazing knack for building bonds between characters. I loved the dynamic of the regiment. I loved Meli's strength and commitment. I loved Steadmen's straight-shooting manner. I'm left with a soft spot for Lying Abe and Big John. This is defiantly one of the short stories I wish was a full-length novel because I wasn't ready for it to end...despite being satisfied with the ending.

1 comment:

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

Sherri, what a wonderful review! Thank you so much! I'm thrilled you enjoyed the stories. My first writing attempt ever in high school was after reading Gone With the wind. I'd forgotten how much I loved the Civil War until I had the opportunity to write this story.