Monstrous Little Voices – anthology

“The revels in the fairy court of Oberon are, it’s said, less glamorous than those of his wife’s bower, but more wild.”

Subtitled, ‘New Tales from Shakespeare’s Fantasy World’, this collection of short novellas takes characters from Shakespeare plays and continues their stories, expanding the world(s) of the Bard. You don’t need to be familiar with the plays, but you’ll undoubtedly get a lot more enjoyment out of this if you are – certainly, the gaps in my own knowledge were shown up in a couple of the tales.

After a brief, scene-setting prologue, we kick off with what turned out to be my favourite, Coral Bones, by Foz Meadows. This picks up with Miranda’s tale after the events told in The Tempest – and, in my opinion, rights a few wrongs done to the character! But that’s a secondary concern to the story, which takes the magical-to-mundane of the play back to the magical – loved it!

I’ve only relatively recently begun familiarising myself with Shakespeare’s work (via the live broadcasts in cinemas) beyond what I was taught at school, so there are still several plays I’m unfamiliar with. These gaps in my knowledge really showed here, with a lot of less-than-familiar (to me) characters. Adrian Tchaichovsky’s story in particular seemed to be trying to cram as many in as possible, and to be honest this didn’t really work for me – if you knew who they all were, that might be different, but I was finding it a little cluttered.

What makes this volume really interesting, I think, is that the stories aren’t entirely stand-alone: that is, they seem to follow on from each other. I’m not sure if this is true (did one author pass their tale to the next?) or if the brief each was given, or the editing, makes it seem that way.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love the idea of taking a body of work and giving it a shared ‘universe’, and then expanding on that. And I really love some of the ‘what happened next’ ideas, especially where they bring the original story more up to date for a modern audience. I’m already looking forward to a reread once I’ve seen a few more of the plays!

Kindle: 240 pages / 5 novellas
First published: 2016
Series: Monstrous Little Voices (1-5)
Read from 31st January – 14 February 2016 (arc from NetGalley)

My rating: 7/10 – really enjoyed it, but none as much as the first story

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