The following selection is part of the stories I am reading for #SpooktasticReads – which are curated to route me through the following genres of interest: Dark Fantasy, Cosy Horror, Paranormally inclined stories inasmuch as stories of Suspense, Thriller and Cosy Mysteries. 13 days to read the spooktacular stories we’re drawn inside leading into Halloween!
Acquired Book By: One thing I love about being active in the bookish side of the twitterverse is being able to interact with authors. Ms Allen is one of the authors I first crossed paths with when I first started to interact with the authors and friends of Seventh Star Press back in Autumn of 2013 and the first six months of 2014 – when I was a 1st Year Book Blogger. Over the years, I have happily been following her writerly career, however it wasn’t until I accepted for review an anthology called: Gifts of the Magi from an author who I also knew of via Seventh Star Press (RJ Sullivan*) gave me the chance to become properly introduced to the collection of stories and the writers who wrote them a few years ago. I wasn’t able to review the anthology until January 2017 – giving my first introduction to the world of SAGE writ by Ms Allen.
(*) On my connection to Mr Sullivan and Ms Allen:
I have reviewed stories by Mr Sullivan whilst hosting for Seventh Star Press via Tomorrow Comes Media or directly for the author himself. His writing style is one of the ones I happen to love reading and without being able to host blog tours for Seventh Star Press, I am unsure if I would have discovered his writings, Ms Chris (Garrison), AshleyRose Sullivan or Stephen Zimmer’s as well. They are one of my favourite Speculative Fiction publishers in the Indie market.
My path in the twitterverse crossed a few times with Ms Allen, especially in regards to events attached to Seventh Star Press, The Star Chamber Show or the Imaginarium (an annual writer’s convention); however, despite our paths crossing over the past five years since I first went on Twitter, I sadly haven’t had the chance to seek out one of her stories to read. Reading her short story “The Warmth of Midwinter” from the anthology ‘Gifts of the Magi’ was my first introduction to her craft of writing Fantasy fiction and from there, a conversation emerged between us how I could re-enter the world of SAGE.
I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Allen or Mr Sullivan during bookish events online or in convos via Twitter. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author, whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their series in sequence of publication.
Closer to the time I released my review for ‘Gifts of the Magi’, Ms Allen and I were in communication and she offered for me to receive ‘Shifty’ the anthology of stories which also takes place in her world of SAGE. This anthology was released in print and thereby was a good option for me to continue reading her stories. I had fully intended to read this close to the time she sent it to me, however, for most of 2017 I was still adjusting to the first year of healing my father was undergoing after his stroke and for most of 2018 I was transitioning through my own set of health afflictions and issues. Autumn 2018 became the first time I could honestly focus on reading the stories within this anthology and I am so very thankful I could feature them during my co-hosted event called #SpooktasticReads which is an extension of my co-hosted event #WyrdAndWonder (@WyrdAndWonder) which celebrates the world of Fantasy.
I received a complimentary copy of “Shifty” by the author Marian Allen in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Re-Visiting my Introduction to the world of SAGE:
I liked how Ms Allen pre-empted her story by asking the question ‘does time truly matter when it comes to stories that encircle your mind?’ to which I would aptly reply: not really!
What was quite stirring about this short, is how wicked interesting the world was where Ms Allen set her tale! To have food magically appearing in cookpots and having a hen produce eggs which whip up the delights of your foodie senses upon cracking them? Or rather, upon first crack of an egg – what you truly need might not even be food? It could be something dearly necessary (i.e. clothes) by which somehow your thoughts of willing an object or item to be ‘hatched’ is stirred inside the egg and thus, the egg produces what is needed. Who wouldn’t want to live there!? It would be a foodie’s dream or a baker’s delight – imagine if you could cull the magic to help you bake everything ‘right’ the first time you attempted a new recipe!? How fetching the aromas would be in that kitchen! Not to even mention how all the rudimentary necessary items would no longer be a worry because you’d always have exactly what you need!? I am sure there is more to this kind of magic, but on the onset of learning about it, how lovely it would be to know by cracking an egg, at least one immediate worry is dissolved?
There are two rather eccentric characters at the heart of this story – an elder man of unknown years and his equally elder grandmother; she is a bit more interesting because she’s attending the scene peripherally rather than centre-focused. You gather this man wouldn’t be housed in this particular part of his realm if circumstances hadn’t exiled him. From his grandmother, you sense he should be thankful for what he has now and not bitter about what he has lost in the past. They have an interesting duality to them.
The beauty of the tale is one of finding the moral ground to walk in a life of duty and honour, where the fine line between what is right or wrong might not be as clearly visible. It’s a good story to read at the holidays because of the truthfulness in being humble and forgiving; to err your wrongs and to find ways to affect other people’s lives for the good. You get so caught up in this short piece of literature, the ending comes far too soon!
I’d love to find out if this was a one-off or a connected story to one of Ms Allen’s series. I’m thinking it’s a one-off addition as per each story in the anthology, there is a footmark of where to ‘read’ next if you wanted to continue your appreciation of the author’s collective works you’ve been treated to viewing. This is how I knew about the series attached to the other authors and why I think this might be a gem of an extra rather than an inclusive piece to a series. Knowing that – the other question that sparked to mind, is which series should I seek out first after having appreciated this short!?
-quoted from my review of Gifts of the Magi (anthology)
As you can see I felt immediately connected to this world and how crafty Ms Allen was with the fantastical bits which were so dearly stitched into the heart of the story! You almost felt this short was fuller in scope than its short delivery allowed it to feel as there was a lot of world-building happening in the background! As this short is included in Shifty I won’t be re-reviewing it but I will be re-reading it as I move through the collection! I happily wanted to re-share my thoughts as a precursor to explain why I was so dearly excited about receiving Shifty and why Ms Allen’s fantastical style appealed to me in the first place!
This is why I will always contend the best way to feel introduced to a new writer is to seek out anthologies as the shorts and novellas contained within them have a depth of joy awaiting you! I realise not everyone feels this way, as over the years of declaring this joy of my own, other readers have found this to be a bit hit/miss for their own reading tastes. All I can say is that you just never know when you’ll find an anthology which will speak to you and within it, there is a chance a writer will capture your heart and your imagination. I hope we all get to continue reading those writers who ignite a joy of happiness through their shorts with longer works of fiction as they are developed and released! I know I have a long #mustread list myself now as a fifth year book blogger!
Whether you've read Marian Allen's SAGE trilogy (The Fall of Onagros, Bargain with Fate, Silver and Iron) or not, you can dive right into these stories set in the same world. Some feature settings and characters from the trilogy, some explore lands and people only hinted at in the novels, but all are filled with strong characters and Fantasy.
Places to find the book:
Published by Per Bastet Publications
on 25th November, 2016
Format: Trade Paperback
Converse via: #DarkFantasy, #Fantasy and #HighFantasy
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- #SpooktasticReads 2018