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The Overneath

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It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise in “The Overneath” ($15.95, Tachyon Publications), Peter S. Beagle writes about a few unicorns. But there are a few other nice surprises in this short story collection, as well.

We’ll get the familiar ground out of the way first. Of the 13 stories in the book, three deal with unicorns of various stripes, and two focus on his bumbling magician Schmendrick.

First up is “The Green-Eyed Boy,” which tells the tale of how Schmendrick came to be apprenticed to the wizard Nikos prior to Beagle’s most well-known tale, “The Last Unicorn.” It’s a fun and funny story that should please fans of that book. Though less funny, the same could be said of “Schmendrick Alone,” in which we learn about the first time that the wizard summoned a demon that he couldn’t control.

Of the unicorn tales, the first two may be a little different than what you expect. “The Story of Kao Yu” tells a Chinese-influenced tale of a traveling judge who, on occasion, has the aid of a chi-lin in deciding his cases. He’s known as one of the fairest and most decisive judges available until one case changes his whole life.

The second, “My Son Heydari and the Kakadann” introduces us to an almost rhino-like version of the unicorn, a desert-dwelling creature that’s the bane of the local tribes. That doesn’t keep the young man of the story from trying to befriend one, though.

The only traditional, horse-shaped white unicorn to be found comes in the collection’s final tale, “Olfert Dapper’s Day.” This story is a fictionalized take on the 17th-Century doctor who inspired “The Last Unicorn” when Beagle found information claiming that Dapper had seen a unicorn in Maine. For me, this was the strongest of the unicorn tales and one of the best pieces in “The Overneath.”

If you’ve got unicorns, you need a few dragons, too, I suppose. Beagle gives us those in “Trinity County, CA: You’ll Want to Come Again, and We’ll Be Glad to See You!” We follow a couple of agents seeking out people who are harboring a wide variety of the beasts in the mountains of California.

Beagle delivers a few horror stories in the collection, as well, a couple of which I was quite fond of.

“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” is set in the world of “The Innkeeper’s Song.” When a young boy is faced with a crisis and his father is not around to help, he calls on the only person that he can – a skeleton in the family’s closet both figuratively and literally – and it may prove to be a grave mistake.

“Underbridge” focuses on an actual troll statue that exists in Seattle, but our main character discovers it’s reality is a bit more sinister than the landmark where tourists snap photos.

Finally there are a few oddball stories, which I liked, though I’m not sure why. Beagle kind of dismisses “Kaskia,” a tale of alien contact, in his introduction to it, but I found it quite interesting, if a bit strange.

The true oddball piece, though, is “The Way It Works Out and All,” a story modeled after and featuring his friend Avram Davidson, which also gives the collection its name. In the story, the late Davidson reveals to Beagle that he can travel quickly anywhere in the world by going through the Overneath. There is, of course, a catch.

As with any short story collection, there are some fantastic tales here and some that just don’t seem to go anywhere. I felt that some of the tales might work better as seeds for a longer-form piece, but there was nothing that I didn’t enjoy. Fans of Beagle should love it.

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The Last Unicorn remains my all time favorite book. This follow up did not disappoint. It is going in my school's library for sure.

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This was an excellent collection of short stories from Peter S beagle. I always enjoy his works and this was no exception. I also loved that there was 2 short stories featuring The Last Unicorn favourite Schmendrick!!! I love every story in the collection and I think I would say that The Queen who could not walk was my favourite. Beagle is an amazing author, he takes fantasy stories you would think are for children but brings a real gut-wrenching scoop of life. I love the themes and how he features unicorns and fantasy in a non-juvenile way. I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. A definite 5 stars out of 5.

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Iy took me awhile to get i to tbis book but it was worth it . Great dialogue and world building .

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Peter S. Beagle is one of a handful of authors who are absolute no-miss-wonderful for me. I'd try to make a sports or cultural icon analogy, but I am a book nerd at the end of the day. I read. I read a lot. I believe I have read (and reread) everything widely available which he's published. There are two things I've found to be true with Peter Beagle's oeuvre. 1)The books and stories are accessible, enjoyable, and readable for anyone and 2)the meanings and messages change subtly every time they're read. That's literally as close to magic as makes no difference, and I have absolutely no idea how he does it. I guess I don't honestly really want to know how he does it, because I'm afraid that, like most magic, it won't work properly if it's dismantled.

The Overneath is a collection of 13 stories, including two Schmendrick stories. I was so excited to be allowed to review the Overneath because Schmendrick (and The Last Unicorn) was really the watershed book for me growing up and between Peter S. Beagle and Madeline L'Engle I turned into a ravenous bookworm and never got better.

I therefore expected the Schmendrick stories to be central for me in the collection with 11 bonus stories which I expected to like, but not be blown away by. I am truly surprised that that wasn't the case. Oh, both of the stories are wonderful, and Schmendrick Alone has never been published elsewhere, but for me at least, they weren't the standouts in this collection. It's brutally difficult to pick three to concentrate on, but for me they would be:

Trinity County California: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You. Combining modern realism with dragons and drug control, this is a beautifully written gritty fable about monsters... and the illegal dragons they exploit.

The Way it Works Out And All. Avram Davidson, (yet another of my favorite authors) and Peter S. Beagle go road tripping interdimensionally together.

Music, When Soft Voices Die is a melancholy parable about pursuing a connection to the unknowable pain at the center of existence.

I lied, I couldn't quit at three... They all resonated deeply with me, but two more especially:

Great Grandmother in the Cellar is a wonderful creepy fairy tale about loyalty and family and Olfert Dapper's Day which gives some of the back story of one of the original catalysts for The Last Unicorn.

This is as good as it gets. Peter S. Beagle is an amazingly generous gifted storyteller and we're lucky that he has shared his stories with us.

Five stars

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Unfortunately, the EPUB was unreadable. The lines blurred together and as much as I tried, I couldn't read a single page without getting a headache. I would love to read an imporved version of the book any time. Peter S. Beagle is one of my favorite authors.

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This was my first time reading Peter S. Beagle's short fiction, and I can see why his short work is so highly acclaimed. Each story in The Overneath is elegantly written and perfectly paced. This is a technically excellent collection, but it nevertheless left me a little cold. A few too many of the stories did things that, for one reason or another, I wasn't a fan of, so I could never completely succumb to their charms. My favorites were probably "The Way It Works Out and All" and "The Very Nasty Aquarium." I also enjoyed the two stories that shine a light on the early life of Schmendrick (from The Last Unicorn) out of pre-existing fondness for the character, though I don't think they were necessarily as strong as some of the others.

The first four stories establish a sense of fairy tale, but the collection takes a sharp turn thereafter, focusing on contemporary, urban, and finally historical fantasy. Beagle's introductions to each story offer a glimpse into his creative process and occasionally contain important information, but sometimes feel puzzlingly like he's just kind of chatting to himself about the stories instead of introducing them to the reader.

The Green-Eyed Boy- The wizard Nikos tells the story of how a boy known as Schmendrick was brought to him for magical training. We get a portrait of young Schmendrick's latent potential and tragic incompetence from a kindly mentor's perspective.

The Story of Kao Yu- This one centers around the chi-lin, a mythic Chinese creature sometimes equated with the Western unicorn. (Beagle likes unicorns, as do his readers.) Kao Yu is a virtuous judge—occasionally assisted by a chi-lin—whose impartiality is challenged by a beautiful thief. You can read this one online here:

My Son Heydari and the Karkadann- Another sort-of-unicorn story. The karkadann is a ferocious, rhinoceros-like unicorn creature from Persia. A father tells the story of how his youngest son found an injured karkadann and became fascinated by it. I was annoyed with the father, who kept interrupting the narrative to explain all the times he hit his son in frustration when his son finally told him about all of this. I did not need that.

The Queen Who Could Not Walk- This one is written as a traditional fairy tale, so I expected it would be one of my favorites. It's about a queen who loses the use of her legs in a kingdom where monarchs retire a the end of their reigns and become beggars, and what happens to her when she must leave the palace. Unfortunately, it does the thing where the disability turns out to be a magical curse, and the protagonist is cured when the curse is broken, and I've become more aware recently that this is unhelpful disability representation.

Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You!- I loved the premise of this story so much, and it was a great way to transition the collection into contemporary territory. A couple of "D Control" officers patrol the wilderness, busting drug dealers' illegal dragon breeding operations. (!!!) But I wished it had been told from the perspective of the the whip-smart, educated young trainee instead of the older officer who's painfully condescending towards her until proven wrong. "My crazy first day on the job" would've been a way more interesting story for me than "that one time an uppity, educated woman surprised me by actually being worth something."

The Way It Works Out and All- I'm not familiar with the work of author Avram Davidson, who passed away in 1993, but this is a story of Beagle's relationship with Davidson, whom he considered a friend and mentor. It starts in 1992, with a sequence of improbable postcards. It turns out that Avram has discovered how to travel to far-flung locales by way of a mysterious place he calls the Overneath. It's a fantasy story, but more importantly it's a touching tribute to a deceased friend, and it gave me feels.

Kaskia- Maybe sci-fi? A sad produce manager named Martin receives an extraordinary laptop that puts him in contact with a being named Kaskia. I think Beagle is going for self-conscious twist on the average-guy-meets-sexy-alien-lady trope here, but however self-aware, that's not a trope I care to spend much time with.

Schmendrick Alone- Schmendrick leaves his master Nikos and must make his own bumbling way in the world. Following a string of failures, he summons a demon to rescue a damsel in distress, and it doesn't go super well.

Great-Grandmother in the Cellar- Apparently this takes place in the world of The Innkeeper's Song, which I haven't read. The narrator's sister has fallen for the wrong type of guy, and he's put her under a sleeping curse until their father permits the marriage, so the narrator digs up the remains of the mysterious great-grandmother of the title, who agrees to fight the suitor for them. Mostly notable for being the second story in a row with a damsel in distress, which made me grumpy.

Underbridge- I wanted to like this one way more than I did in the end because it's about Seattle's Fremont Troll, and I'm from Seattle. A children's literature professor takes a temporary job at the UW, and discovers that the Fremont Troll comes alive at night. It was darker and more disturbing than would be my cup of tea, as the protagonist descends into evil.

The Very Nasty Aquarium- Elderly ladies who stubbornly face down evil magic are some of my favorite SFF characters, so this one was a win for me. Mrs. Lopsided loves her aquarium, but things go amok after she introduces a pirate figurine into this little world. Fish tank exorcism at it's best... what more can you ask for?

Music, When Soft Voices Die- Purportedly steampunk, but I'm not totally convinced. I'd call it an alt-history gaslamp fantasy. In an alternate Victorian London following a fictional Ottoman War, four men in a rooming house become plagued by otherworldly voices. It's a sad little story in the end.

Olfert Dapper's Day- It is only fitting that this collection concludes with a final unicorn story, but this one was ultimately forgettable for me, despite it's length. A supposition inspired by an obscure bit of unicorn research, this historical fantasy brings the phony travel writer Olfert Dapper to colonial Maine, where he eventually becomes a better person than he was before. Also a unicorn.

All in all, there were a few solid wins here, but also a lot of stories that I had quibbles with.

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The Overneath is a kind of no-Euclidian, extradimensional connectedness linking certain special places in our world via a ramified set of routes through another - provided you make the right moves. It's discovered by Avram in the story The Way It Works Out And All and might function as a useful metaphor for this collection. Overneath. "The sub-basement of reality-all those pipes far down under pipes, tunnels beyond tunnels, vast valves and connections, profound couplings and joints and elbows."

Like the imaginary Overneath, this collection joins things up - will take you to unexpected places. Here be unicorns, and fantasy (which you might expect) but also fairytales, urban fantasy, steampunk (of a sort), ghost and horror stories - and a great deal beside. I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't previously read Beagle but, on the evidence of this book, there is a great range and variety of his work to explore.

There are thirteen stories here, including The Way It Works Out And All. Each is briefly introduced by Beagle. Thus, for example, he informs the reader who hasn't encountered Schmendrick the Magician, one of Beagle's most popular characters, before, of his place in the wider canon when, in The Green-Eyed Boy, we see his "origin story". Schmendrick is apprenticed at an early age to a magician who takes him on almost, it seems, to prove his father wrong. It seems to be a rocky start to an illustrious career - part comedic, part fond, the story looks at a boy on the cusp of growing up - and where that might lead when he has powerful, if ill-controlled, magical abilities. Then, in Schmendrick Alone, we see his first adventure, in which he confronts an arrogant lord )"His voice had the sound of boot heels in it") and eventually summons something unpleasant that he can't control. Schmendrick isn't the first young and inexperienced wizard to have done this (I thought of Sparrowhawk in Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea), but Beagle's story really captures the reader's attention and shows us why he did what he did (it involves a girl, of course).

The Story of Kao Yu is the first in this book that reflects a recurring theme of unicorns. Set in China - or in a Chinese mileu - it features a rigidly honest judge who travels the country trying cases and coming up against something he never expected to, something even the unicorn that sometimes shows up in the courtroom to help him out may have trouble with. My Son Heydari and the Karkadann is another unicorn story. The karkadann is a destructive, implacable Near Eastern variant of the creature, modelled on the rhinoceros but is sadly dying out at the time the story is narrated. This is a fact the narrator rather rejoices over, since one karkadann in particular has caused trouble for him and his son - but we feel that it may actually have led the boy to something better.

The Queen Who Could Not Walk is very much a fairy story, with a curse and a quest, love, loyalty, revenge and consequences. Featuring the oft used trope of a king and queen who lose their royal privileges, it shows have true love may still endure.

In a brisk change of mood, Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll be Glad to See You reads to me as urban fantasy (although Beagle doesn't use the phrase). I loved this story which examines what might happen if dragons were real, and common, in our world. Who would deal with them and how? Under-funded and hard pressed, it focuses on the D patrol, who police the backwoods of California. At the same time realistic and fantastic, it is very convincing and fun.

Also set in the modern world - but in, perhaps, and SF vein - Kaskia is a strange, haunting story in which a supermarket manager acquires a miraculous laptop. We'll all recognise his nervousness at invoking a feature we don't understand or can't control ("There were keys he carefully avoided touching, software settings he never once changed... areas of the screen where he never let the mouse wander...") but in this case the consequences go far beyond lost data or unfriendly account settings, they place Martin in contact with something that draws him in...

Great-Grandmother in the Cellar is, I think, more of a horror story, if an amusing one, and set in one of Beagle's fantasy worlds. A solid merchant family is confronted by a (one suspects) slightly deranged witch-boy who wants his way with the daughter. Father's away - how will they defend themselves, and what resources might have to be called upon? And what will the price be? Creepy, funny, convincing, this was my favourite story in the collection. While not sequential I'd pair Great-Grandmother with The Very Nasty Aquarium which I think is firmly a horror or ghost story that reminded me of M R James classics such "The Haunted Doll's House" or "The Mezzotint". When Mrs Lopsided purchases a pirate figure to place in her new aquarium, she's struck by how keen the shopkeeper seems to be to get rid of it. Maybe she should have paid more attention, as it begins to transform her fish tank into something darker. This story is notable for introducing the redoubtable Mrs Bascomb ("She had taught junior high school English, and feared nothing") who steps in to help.

With Underbridge we return to the modern world. A variant on the troll legend, this is the story of a jobbing academic and his obsession with a very unusual troll. Notable for pairing Richardson's gradual slide into despair of ever getting a safe university position with his growing obsession and loss of restraint this story grounds a horrifying and creepy narrative in a modern setting.

Music, When Soft Voices Die is a strange story. Beagle confesses in the introduction that he's got no background in steampunk (which he then illustrates by mentioning William Gibson - confusing "cyber" and "steam"?) yet this was an attempt at such a story. Thankfully he eschewed brass goggles and airships and instead produced a rather effective alt-Victorian tale (I think that is the essence of steampunk?) set after a UK-Turkish war which went badly for Britain ("Ramadan came early that year"). Four slightly Bohemian young me occupy a flat in Bloomsbury, where one of them embarks upon a series of experiments. Again almost a ghost story I felt that this skilfully blended its Western and Turkish themes, as well as - without labouring the point - exposing the casual racism beneath the surface of the Imperial power.

The final story, Olmert Dapper's Day, stands out slightly as it is, while still fantastical, basically historical story, set mainly in New England, based on an actual recorded sighting of a unicorn by Dr Olfert Dapper in 1673. How cool is that? We want to know, however, who Dapper was, how he came to be in Maine, what became of him - and how he met a unicorn. Beagle sets out to answer these questions in what is a beautiful little tale.

Altogether an exceptional collection, a beautiful introduction, as I've said, to Beagle's writing.

One note of warning. The Overneath may be a convenient way to travel, but it doesn't always get you exactly where you expect, and you may find yourself attracting attention from what dwells there. venture in, and eyes will be one you.

You won't be quite the same when you come out...

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Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro

If there is a book with unicorns and author Peter S. Beagle’s name in the description, then it is a must-read book. And this is just what The Overneath is. Composed of several short stories, Beagle takes readers into enchanted countries, magical cities in our reality, and introduces us to new and old characters in his most recent book, The Overneath.

In The Green-Eyed Boy, readers are re-introduced to a well known character from beloved story, The Last Unicorn, none other than Schmendrick. In this short story we get a glimpse of Schmendrick’s beginning as a wizard’s apprentice. His mentor is Nikos the Wizard and the narration is from his point of view, detailing how he met Schmendrick, his family, his time teaching him, and the how he set off into the world. I really liked this story, especially because you get to see more of Schmendrick that you don’t see in The Last Unicorn.

“Call me Schmendrick, master. I might not answer to another.”

“I took you in because I smelled power around you, the way one smells lighting before a storm.”

“The whole secret of magic, is that nothing is fixed, nothing is forever; that everything, from the house I built, to that willow tree I planted, to that mountain you can see from my front door… all of it yearns to be something else.”

“But I explained to him, any number of times, that magic is not permission. That everything in this world costs, most especially including the gift residing somewhere in between his liver and lights and his soul.”

The Story of Kao Yu, is a short story that you will remember because of its somewhat tragic romance or one sided love. It is also about justice, honesty, and a different version of the unicorn readers are used to reading about. The main character is Kao Yu, a well-known judge who is able to see the Chinese unicorn, chi-lin, who helps the judge when he most needs it in making decisions. But there is someone the judge can’t bring himself to impart justice.

“China is one of the few countries where sadness has always been medically recognized.”

My Son Heydari and the Karkadann, this was an interesting short story, 1) I liked that it is told from a father’s point of view of what his son went through, and 2) I found the description of this other unicorn very interesting. This story takes place in a forest between Heydari, the Karkadann, and a shepherd girl. For a slight moment I thought the outcome would be different. I guess I wanted to believe that this unicorn could change its nature.

“He felt the way you feel when a storm is coming, even though it may yet be a day, or even two days, from reaching you: there is a smell, and there is a kind of stiff crackle, like invisible lighting, racing up and down your arms, and you have to think about each breath you take.”

The Queen Who Could Not Walk is a story that goes into my top favorites. I liked the way rulers in this story are chosen, and how when their term comes to an end, they peacefully go their way back into the world. The queen of this story uses a wheelchair to help her move around, which has an interesting background story, when her term comes to an end she can not take any other special possession but the wheelchair. In her journey she meets an old woman who helps the queen. It is not until the end that the reader learns of the old woman’s true reason for helping the queen.

“Just never saw anyone drown sitting up before. So stupid, I took it for a sign.”

“I used to tell him that he loved the hunt more than he loved me. And he would kiss me and say, ‘Not quite, heart of mine… never quite.’”

“Always a price. For all we take, we pay…”

Trinity County CA: You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You! This story was very thrilling, kind of had me on the edge of my seat, not knowing what to expect. You have your senior and newbie on a mission that is supposed to be an easy one, until they come against a couple that knows more than what they’re saying, add some dangerous creatures, and you have a perfect action story.

“What, you had to be smart as well as big?”

The Way it Works Out And All, is the story of the Overneath, and very interesting I might add. The story involves two men, one sending the other correspondence from different parts of the world in impossible lapses of time. How can he be in one place of the world on day and in a different one another day? Where do all the tunnels lead to?

“I call it the Overneath, because it is above us and around us and below us, all at the same time. I wrote you about it.”

Schmendrick Alone. Once more, readers get another glimpse of Schmendrick. This story takes place some time after the events of The Green-Eyed Boy and before The Last Unicorn. Schmendrick finds himself without money and in trouble with an innkeeper. After getting himself out of that situation, he come across an older couple and their granddaughter who is set to marry a proud, wicked Lord. Schmendrick decides to help, and in the process realizes his true self.

“No wonder Nikos never took any fee for my apprenticeship. He knew…”

Great-Grandmother in the Cellar

“I am your great-grandmother, boy. If that is not all you need to know, then you must make do as you can.”

Underbridge, this is another story that goes into my top favorites. I can even see it as a short film or something alike. This story takes place in Seattle, where a professor is struggling to get a full-time position, when he comes across an old man that takes care of a Troll under a bridge. As the story progresses, Richardson, the professor, becomes more and more aware of the Troll and its relationship with his guardian, the old man.

“But it was in daylight that Richardson first saw the Troll.”

“And love will keep you reasonably sane for a long time.”

“How about a taste of the guardian?”

The Very Nasty Aquarium, one more of my favorite short stories of this book. This story has a bit of horror, thriller, and slight romance. It all starts when Mrs. Lopsided is gifted an aquarium and she starts buying and decorating it with different objects. At one point she has the perfect couple for her aquarium, a mermaid and a diver. One day, while looking for more decorations, Mrs. Lopsided comes across a little pirate, very attractive at first sight, but she quickly learns that there is more to the pirate that can be seen. I loved this story, the supernatural aspect of the pirate and the events that take place while he is in Mrs. Lopsided’s possession is just out of a horror movie. This story would be in my top to read recommendations of the book.

“Was wicked as wicked could be, but oh, he was perfectly gorgeous to see…”

Music, When Soft Voices Die. Ever wondered what the voices that belonged to people that once lived in your home sounded like? Well, this short story has the answer! When a group of young men sharing a London apartment, after the Ottoman War, discover more than just sounds through an invention. Another great story of the few supernatural/paranormal stories of The Overneath.

“Emanetoglu manifested himself promptly at 8 a.m. on the fifteenth of every month, to collect the rent, and to drift into corners and corridors like smoke, commenting diffidently on the condition of paint, wallpaper, and bathroom floorboards.”

“[..] all of them rattling on about electromagnetism, etheric force, amperes, communal fields… I don’t half know what three-quarters of that gibberish means, but I have to know.”

Olfert Dapper’s Day. More unicorns! What better way to finish the book with a unicorn centered story, than this one. This story is filled with adventure and interesting characters. A story you must not miss.

“I saw it twice, and I had no right, I know that. I should never… did it… I mean, the creature – did it… do you think…?”

The Overneath is a great book of short stories by author Peter S. Beagle. He creates fantastic stories where you least expect it, and at the end they stay in our minds for a long time. If you are a fan of Beagle’s work, I recommend you read this book, and if you’ve only heard about him, this is a good book to start with.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*

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An excellent anthology with a little bit of everything.

There's a couple stories focusing on Schmendrick from The Last Unicorn, and many of the other stories in the collection focus on unicorns of various types, but there's also trolls, a Caribbean duppy, and dragons.

Out of the full collection, I think my favorite is "The Queen Who Could Not Walk", which had a rather fairy-tale-ish feel to it, but a close runner up is "The Story of Kao Yu", which felt rather folkloric.

Overall, it's a solid collection, and I really need to check out his other collections eventually.

Thank you to Tachyon Publications and NetGalley for the opportunity to review the eARC.

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The author of The Last Unicorn presents a series of lyrical short fiction, containing many new and previously uncollected works. Easily nine-tenths of this book contains 5-star stories that will hold fast and infuse your imagination. With a well-known wizard, three flavors of unicorns, fire-breathing cannibal dragons, a troll, and judges and scholars and queens and beggars, these tales are diverse in tone and subject matter, but all are pure enchantment!

My absolute favorites include -

-The Story of Kao Yu is a heartbreaking tale of longing in which an honorable judge falls in love with a thief, and a unicorn passes judgement.
-The Queen Who Could Not Walk is a tale of forgiveness with a surprising twist, in which crippled queen is a inferior beggar, until a new companion insists on helping.
-Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See you! is an exhilarating buddy story in which two county animal control officers track down trafficked dragons!
-The Way It Works Out and All is a suspenseful tale of discovery and exploration in which two old friends attempt to navigate the Overneath, a series of passageways to anywhere.
-Underbridge is pure tragedy, in which things go from bad to worse for an unlucky scholar of children's books who takes a temporary teaching position and visits the Freemont troll.
-The Very Nasty Aquarium - is a resourceful tale of courage in which two old ladies fight an evil spirit that has taken over one of their aquariums! I have a soft spot for elderly protagonists, and this story was sheer delight.

The beginning of each short story includes an excerpt from the author, which not only provides insights into the story following it, but are so genuine that they seem to give a glimpse into the humble mind of the author, who claims that his stories decide not only when to write themselves, but also what happens, as if he has no part in the matter.

Recommended for all fans of fantasy that's full of wonder and charm and magic!

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[I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

Above is the obligatory disclaimer that I’ve received an early copy of this book for review, but the true disclaimer should be that I am an ardent, unabashed, and enthusiastic admirer of Peter Beagle’s work. I have a bias; going into any of his stories I do so with the utmost confidence that I am in for a treat. Sometimes it is bittersweet, charming, whimsical, wistful or sorrowful. Sometimes the story is all of these things, or many other things beside. Always, his stories delight me.

This newest collection is no exception. I was beside myself when I received the ARC, and began reading that same afternoon. Delving into the tales, I was greeted by unicorns (no less than three varieties!), dragons, kings and queens, trolls and deeply unfortunate English professors, a few Protestants, an alarmingly ominous aquarium, something you shouldn’t hope to find in a cellar, and a tale or two concerning our favorite red hot swami. There’s a little something steampunk, for which Beagle does not given himself enough credit (as per his intro to the tale). It was a remarkable story and one of my favorites out of the entire collection. And after all of these things, there are more stories still.

It’s not uncommon for a collection of stories to feature one or two weaker tales mixed in amongst the stronger. On rare occasion, you may find an anthology or short story collection full of gems from cover to cover. It’s all subjective of course, dependent upon the reader’s taste, where they are in their life, what’s happening to the world around them, and a million other variables. I can only attest to how this collection treated me at this moment in my life, and I found it to be a great comfort and pleasure in an admittedly overwhelming time. I found in this collection a veritable treasure trove, one precious bauble of a tale after another, evoking a myriad of emotions and leaving me torn between wanting to reflect upon and admire the one I had just completed, or reach eagerly to inspect and explore the next.

Suffice to say, I loved it.

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J'adore. An incredible collection of short stories with viewpoints and flavors from all over the globe. I don't normally care very much for short story collections, and this one had its share of stories I absolutely loved and other that I slogged through waiting for them to be over (like most short story collections inevitably do.)

• "The Green-Eyed Boy" It's funny because I had just recently been talking to someone about examples of the second person narrative. This is a lovely story about Schmendrick the Magician (whom you may remember from The Last Unicorn) and his origins. As a child, I loved Schmendrick in the movie of The Last Unicorn, and I'm a little ashamed to say I haven't actually read the book. Reading about Schmendrick in this short story made me resolve to read The Last Unicorn, and soon. 5 bright, shiny stars full of childhood wonder.
• "The Story of Kao Yu" Set in China and featuring the Chinese unicorn, the chi-lin. This short story read like some of my favorite fairy tales, and makes me wonder if this is entirely out of Beagle's head, or based on a Chinese fable? I give this story 4 imperial stars.
• "My Son Heydari and the Karkadann" Set in Persia, this story features the Karkadann, the Arabian unicorn that is "powerful, pitilessly aggressive, and ugly as fried sin" (or so writes Peter S. Beagle). Another second person narrative, this story is told from the point of view of the father of the (for lack of a better term) hero of the story, Heydari. I didn't care much for this story, 2 stinky Karkadann stars.
• "The Queen Who Could Not Walk" Loved this story, it touched my heart in a number of ways. What the heck is up with their system of governance though?! Reads like a traditional, classic fairy tale with characters known only as the beggar woman, the queen, the king, and the servant. The ending was one of those bitter sweet ones that just hit you right in the feels. 5 sweetly sad stars.
• "Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You!" Set in an alternate modern-day California where drug traffickers use dragons to protect their labs, as well as trafficking illegally in dragons themselves. Gruber works as a county D Patrol (dragon patrol) officer and Connie is intern on her first day on the job. I loved this story, and would happily read a full novel set in this world; preferably about Connie and Gruber, but about another set of characters as well. 5 fire-proof stars.
• "The Way It Works Out and All" Didn't care for this one as much, it was jumbly and confusing - Which, to be fair, I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be. 2 stars.
• "Kaskia" …Not sure what I just read, but I think I liked it?? 4-ish stars?
• "Schmendrick Alone" YAY SCHMENDRICK! All the Schmendrick, all the time! I just want to hug him up and tell him it will all be okay. 5 stars with tears in their eyes.
• "Great-Grandmother in the Cellar" Amazing story. That's all I can say. 5 bones… I mean stars.
• "Underbridge" As a lover of children's books, I loved this story. Super uncomfortable, but loved it. Because trolls, man. TROLLS. 5 stone stars.
• "The Very Nasty Aquarium" I love the note in the preface that "This one began as an intriguing title, with absolutely no story to go with it." Way to come up with a killer story, Mr. Beagle. Just wow. Loved this, and I want to be Mrs. Bascomb when I grow up, but I will probably end up being Mrs. Lopsided. 5 sinister stars.
• "Music, When Soft Voices Die" Found myself skimming this one just to get to the end. Not sure if the story itself wasn't for me, of if I'm just growing tired of short stories. Angelos did remind me the teensiest bit of Schmendrick in his bumbling, well-meaning way, but I can still only give this story 1 skimming star.
• "Olfert Dapper's Day" Read the first couple pages of this and didn't even skim the rest. It just did not capture my attention.

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What Worked and Didn't Work
The majority of stories in this anthology follow something of a theme: unicorns and other mythological friends. Three of the fourteen stories are about unicorns, whether the traditional western European version or the chi-lin of China and Indian karkadann. There is also an assortment of dragons and trolls and other shape-shifters. My favorite of the anthology was "Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You!", positing the creation of an organizational cross between the ATF and SPCA if dragons were a part of this world and possibly used by California marijuana growers for "security."

Another two  stories are about the early days of  Schmendrick the Magician, from The Last Unicorn. While always nice to have his narrative expanded, neither "The Green Eyed Boy" nor "Schmendrick Alone" come close to the pathos and complexity of "The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon," a story from the 2011 collection Sleight of Hand. My second favorite story of the book involves a different "wizard" and gives the book its title. In "The Way it Works Out and All," a fictional Beagle and fictional Avram Davidson embark on an adventure into the Overneath, an alternate plane of sorts---navigable, if careful.

The setups for a couple of the stories where rather long and the collection might have been better if it were about one story shorter. My nomination would be  "Music, when Soft Voices Die" or "Olfert Drapper's Day," though the latter does fit the theme better.

A whimsical collection with definite high points.

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The Overneath is a collection of short fiction by the author of The Last Unicorn. So, of course, there are tales of unicorns herein, both of and not of that world. But there's also a nice variety of other tales collected in this book. As long as you don't have an aversion to fantasy, there's a little bit of something for everyone.

The collection as a whole is a bit uneven, but the quality of the writing more than makes up for this. There are a number of stories about unicorns (you'd think the guy had a thing for them or something *wink*) but not all are what one might expect. There are two stories involving the world of The Last Unicorn, specifically Schmendrick the Magician, and others that are stand-alone. My favorites of these are the ones that explore different cultural interpretations of the mythical beasts, such as the Indian Karkadann in My Son Heydari and the Karkadann or the Significant Animals of Asian lore witnessed in The Story of Kao Yu (both appearing in print for the first time).

But don't be fooled, there are plenty of stories in this collection that have nothing to do with unicorns. In fact, many of the other stories offer a wide variety of other fantastical offerings. One of this collection's brand new offerings, The Very Nasty Aquarium, is a strange folk-influenced tale about a woman who buys an old wooden statue for her fish tank when things start to get weird. The Queen Who Could Not Walk is another standout, being a touching take on a timeless tale. In Kaskia a man finds star-crossed love, in more ways than one. And in Music, When Soft Voices Die, a young inventor tries to create the telephone only to discover something else that may cause him to lose his mind.

I also enjoyed Beagle's introductions to each story. He does a great job of giving some insight, even if its just a little bit, to each story without dulling the experience. They provide some nice bits of biography and make for a nice pallet cleanser between tales.

If you like Beagle's previous work then this is a done deal. But even if you just enjoy fantasy stories and are looking for a pretty solid collection, you can't go wrong with The Overneath.

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As a long-time Beagle fan, you can imagine my excitement when I opened my email to find that I'd been approved to receive an advanced e-copy! I'll confess that I don't typically read short stories, but I'm weak when it comes to Beagle and I knew that I had to try.

Overall, this is a very solid collection. There were some misses for me, but I think that's typical of short story collections. I'm not an avid reader of paranormal or urban fantasy, so they tend to leave me unimpressed. In the case of this book, that's true of some, but Beagle managed to suck me into a few of his short stories in these genres - I particularly enjoyed "The Way It Works Out and All" (which features Beagle himself as the point-of-view character!) and "The Very Nasty Aquarium."

Beagle doesn't stay in our world; he takes us back to the world of The Last Unicorn with two short stories about Schmendrick the Magician - poor, lovely Schmendrick - and to the world of The Innkeeper's Song with "Great-Grandmother in the Cellar" (one of my absolute favourites in the collection). He brings us to a new world in "The Queen Who Could Not Walk" (another favourite) and presents us with unicorns from different cultures in "The Story of Kao Yu," "My Son Heydari and the Karkadann," and "Olfert Dapper's Day."

Beagle proves himself once again to be a master of the English language with his clever use of words and beautiful, thoughtful descriptions. There's something for everyone in this collection by Beagle and it is a must-read for fans of his works.

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I’m far from an expert on the books of Peter S. Beagle. I’ve only read The Last Unicorn and A Fine and Private Place. The impression I’ve got from those two is that what he writes are not so much stories as tales. Even though they were created in the last few decades (and, like A Fine and Private Place, take place in a contemporary setting), they feel ancient, steeped in the old traditions of oral storytelling – so much so, that Polish SF writer Jacek Dukaj The Last Unicorn “the last fairy tale” in his review. In light of all this, I was very eager to read The Overneath so that I could see whether Beagle’s short stories – representing a more varied sample of his output – have the same quality.

The first four stories definitely fall into the category of “tales” – they take place long ago and far away (and, in the case of The Green-Eyed Boy, featuring Schmendrick the Magician, in the world of The Last Unicorn) and resemble folk stories the most. My favourite of the bunch is by far The Story of Kao Yu, which draws inspiration from Chinese folklore and follows a wandering judge, a wise, kind and honourable man, who becomes smitten with a beautiful thief. What in the hands of a less-skilled storyteller could become a cliché (and old man longing for a young woman), in Beagle’s telling becomes a slightly melancholic, humane tale where both characters are allowed to retain their agency.

The collection shifts somewhat after that and what follows are unmistakably stories. This in and of itself is not a judgment on their quality; Trinity County, CA, for example, is a humorous, inventive story that achieves a great effect through its juxtaposition of the mundane realities of being a ranger in remote woodland areas with the fact that the job of the main characters is tracking down people who keep contraband dragons. A similar effect is achieved is Kaskia, in which Beagle makes the realist story of a man in a disintegrating marriage who strikes up an online friendship fresh by the simple fact that his computer connects him with an alien being in a completely different part of the universe.

In fact, most of the pieces, regardless of whether they’re tales or stories, possess a mix of hope and melancholy that is, as far as I can tell, unique to Beagle alone. The characters often regard the world with a curious mixture of hope and cynicism: they are certain that nothing good can happen to them, and yet, despite that, they hope that it will – the same attitude is often displayed by the voice of the narrator as well. The best example of that may be The Green-Eyed Boy and Schmendrick Alone, because they utilise a character we already know very well from The Last Unicorn and create a powerful resonance with each other: in both Schmendrick experiences a tenuous connection with someone, a spark of warmth and companionship, but has to leave it behind when his magic gets wildly out of control. Because it happens twice, the effect compounds, making the reader acutely aware of the desperate loneliness that haunts the character.

This infusion of emotions elevates a lot of the stories in the collection, such as Music, When Soft Voices Die – Beagle’s attempt at steampunk – that reads a lot like a classic ghost story, until the poetic, achingly beautiful reveal of what it is exactly that haunts its protagonists. In fact, the collection seems to stumble precisely when the stories lack the warmth and wisdom – as in The Way It Works Out and All, which seems no more than a demonstration of a fantastical concept, or in Underbridge, which aims at a story of a man pushed to monstrosity by his obsession and alienations (it brought to my mind characters from Edgar Allan Poe’s stories), but feels mean-spirited in a way that struck me as wholly uncharacteristic of Beagle and in effect created a strong dissonance with the rest of the collection.

Unicorns are a recurring motif for Beagle (they feature, in very different versions, in three stories in this collection), so it seems fitting that one appears at the very end. Olfert Dapper’s Day starts as a story (a very good one, although a big part of that might be my predisposition to like stories about conmen) – and then, at some point, with the appearance of the unicorn, the story seems to transform into a tale of a man who, if not exactly bad, was never particularly good, and who suddenly has to use his one true talent – lying – not to serve himself but to save another person. In the end, he loses something, gains something, and I felt that he will never be the same again, although it would be hard to define how exactly was he changed.

This is one of the stories that demonstrate what I love about Beagle best: his characters are often weak and failing, yet all the more heroic when, through chance or grace, they manage to rise to the trials that stand before them. At his best, he opens your heart up and, through his writing, makes you want to speak in poetry. And that’s exactly what happens when you read The Overneath.

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Peter Beagle can write anything--literally anything. He's written novels, short stories, screenplays, and songs, all many-hued in style, theme, and subject. Over his career, he's written tales about ghost cats and teenage angst (Tamsin), restless spirits and larcenous ravens (A Fine and Private Place), cranky Italian farmers and mischievous goats (In Calabria), and of course, unicorns and love-lorn princes (The Last Unicorn).

Of all the magical creatures Beagle has written about, unicorns loom largest in the author's catalogue. The Last Unicorn is arguably one of his best-known works, thanks to the beloved animated film from the 1980s, to say nothing of the novel’s stunning prose and wonderfully well-drawn characters. In this book, Beagle captures all the magnificence of unicorns and spellbinds his audience to follow them wherever they may lead. I've often suspected he became ensnared in his own literary spell. Is it any wonder that he's often found himself writing about those mythical creatures? In Calabria involved unicorns at the heart of its plot, and Beagle's new short story collection, The Overneath, which will be published by Tachyon in November, features three very different stories about unicorns, and another two in the universe of The Last Unicorn. While there are storytellers who often retread the same subjects, Beagle is one who manages to make the experience feel new every single time.

The stories that takes place in the world of The Last Unicorn both feature the hapless magician, Schmendrick. In “The Green-Eyed Boy,” we learn how Schmendrick came to study with the great wizard Nikos and the cost of power. The narrative picks up in “Schmendrick Alone,” where we find Schmendrick on the road, using his wits and burgeoning power to fend off bandits. At their heart, these are character pieces that enrich their story universe, but Beagle infuses both stories with heart and sorrow. It's no wonder Schmendrick is one of Beagle’s most beloved characters: he's just like us as he wanders along, hoping he’s making the right choices and persevering even when he doesn't.

Beagle doesn't limit his examination of the unicorn myth to Europe. One of my favorite tales is “My Son Heydari and the Karkadann,” which features the karkadann, a Persian unicorn-like creature, in a story rich with voice and imagery. I also enjoyed “The Story of Kao Yu,” which takes place in China and follows a judge who meets his own judgment in the form of a unicorn. “Olfert Dapper’s Day,” is a sly nod to the inspiration for The Last Unicorn and features genuine romance and wonder within a buttoned-up Puritanical setting.

My absolute favorite story in the collection had nothing to do with unicorns, however. I adored “The Very Nasty Aquarium,” which incorporates Caribbean folklore and genuine chills in the form of an evil pirate turned aquarium ornament. I really wish this were a longer story because I didn't want to leave any of the characters, even the aquarium figurines. I also loved the plucky older ladies that took matters into their own hands, red underpants and all. I don't often come across stories that manage to be both heartwarming and terrifying, but this one does so quite successfully.

There's a story in this collection for everyone. Beagle may revisit similar subjects, but he never writes the same story twice. This many faceted-collection sparkles with gems old and new, all unique in their telling.

I highly recommend this collection to fans of fantastical tales. If you'd like to read more by Beagle, check out his catalogue at Tachyon.

The Overneath's table of contents is as follows:

The Green-Eyed Boy
The Story of Kao Yu - First time in print (2017 Locus Award finalist)
My Son Heydari and the Karkadann - First time in print (appeared in a Humble Bundle limited ebook edition)
The Queen Who Could Not Walk
Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll Be Glad to See You!
The Way it Works Out and All
Schmendrick Alone - First publication
Great-Grandmother in the Cellar
The Very Nasty Aquarium - First publication
Music, When Soft Voices Die
Olfert Dapper’s Day

Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon for providing an advance reading copy for review.

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[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.]

Peter Beagle has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Admittedly, I didn't know much about him outside of The Last Unicorn until I was in my late teens. Which is a very sad sad thing. I know I had several of his books hanging around my house, but can't remember if I read them or when. (Remind me to go find them and read them, just to be safe!)

The Overneath is a collection of short stories, some of which were published elsewhere, and some of which are new. I believe both Schmendrick (!!!) stories are new, and they both made my heart skip a few beats. Reading about his life before he met the unicorn was magical! It was like a completely new depth brought to a character I've loved for years. (Peter, please write more Schmendrick! And Molly Grue! And Lir, oh bring Lir back...Yes I know he's gone...but I always want more. The Last Unicorn is one of my absolute favorite books.)

The other stories were very different from the others of his that I've read (although I can't say I've read his other short stories, I am really just talking about his books). I enjoyed the title story very much, and the very last one based on the dedication to The Last Unicorn. Both were intriguing. I still want to know what happened to the narrator's friend in The Overneath, and more more more.

Peter Beagle has always had a way of making me just want more. Can you tell?

I highly recommend this collection. His short stories are just as magical as his novels and novellas. There is so much atmosphere, such great character development in such short spaces. The stories are interesting (except that troll one - that one kind of left a bad taste in my mouth). And the unicorns! Okay, I think there was only one unicorn. But that's all right. The fantasy was there, the mood, the magic and the wonder of it all. Read this if you are a fan. Even if you're not a fan, give it a shot. You never know what you might find...

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