Cover Image: The Midnight Circus

The Midnight Circus

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Member Reviews

This book definitely gave me mixed feelings while reading. The Midnight Circus title itself was somewhat deceiving because there's hardly any touch or story in here that was circus related. The book is an anthology  of short stories by Jane Yolen that on my part, captured a lot of dark themed tales. Some, were inspired by classic stories like her stories, Little Red or An Infestation of Angels. 

As a whole, it me that same feels of sinking into a collection of Grimm brothers' stories, but The Midnight Circus has a lot of hit and misses. I only really enjoyed four to five out of the sixteen short stories. The rest just felt like fillers, or forgettable that, even if I try to recall some of the plots, my head is just coming up blank. 

One thing I do like about through the book is the diversity in tales. There's different supernatural beings, retellings, and even historical fiction in the mix. I feel like this is a book that some might enjoy, and others would find weird/bizarre. 

I'd like to thank NetGalley for giving me an E-ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Welcome to The Midnight Circus! It showcases monsters and snatchers, witches and werewolves, selkies and sea-queens in every page. If you’re already familiar with Jane Yolen’s works, you'd know it is wise to enter the midnight circus at your own risk!

The Weaver of Tomorrow: A girl wanted to be able to know future and therefore was apprenticed to a weaver who can bestow upon her the ability, to which the girl later regretted. 

The White Seal Maid - a lonely fisherman who was mysteriously called to the sea one night, met a seal who turned into a beautiful maiden (a selkie), married her and had seven sons. He never felt loved by them, and one day, they just left him and returned to the sea. 

Wilding - Set in Central Park, NYC, Zena who went Wilding with her friends was almost killed but was saved by her will to survive. A very YA-like story.

Requiem Antartica - this one was dark and gruesome; about a man who was not a vampire but also not a man. It was based on the story of a famous north pole expedition by R. F. Scott. Lots of TW!!

The House of Seven Angels – About a boy who saw angels serving dinner to a Ukrainian rabbi in his village, until one day he saw an eight angel who didn’t look like the rest.

Night Wolves - A boy who overcame his own fear of ghosts and bears and wolves

Great Gray - boy who worshipped the great owl and had a very peculiar behavior.

Little Red (with Adam Stemple) – a retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood. This one had Red in an infirmary, who was overcoming her own demons and escaping the real world by creating her own.

Winter’s King - about a boy could hear the whispers of the wind and was always drawn to the cold. 

Inscription- a girl who wasn’t about to be rejected by a man who impregnated her, decided to use magic to bring him back to her.

Dog Boy - half human half dog, who was doted by his mother, but treated like a dog by his father, who trained him to track and trail and used him for his own selfish, cruel deeds.

The Fisherman’s Wife - fisherman, John, found a sea-queen, her body a pale-green cast, on one of his walks to the market, ‘beached and gasping.’ When he left his mute wife for the sea-queen, she decided to get him back even if it meant diving deep into the sea.

Become A Warrior – this story reminded me a little bit of Mulan. This was about a girl who avenged her father’s death by pretending to be a boy.

An Infestation of Angels 
In the land of lithe Gipts under the skies that rained frogs, a leader of the People had to come up with an idea to convince the faro to release her kind, to save them from being eaten by the angels.

A girls was born to her mother calling out the death roll call names she remembered from the concentration camp her mother had been in, and it affected her deeply.

Overall, this is another strong collection of stories by Jane Yolen. I have quite a few that I really enjoyed. I loved the strong female characters in ‘Become a Warrior’ and ‘Wilding’ who didn’t let the society define them. I also loved ‘The Fisherman’s Wife’ who defied the odds to get back the man she loves, and the boy who fought his fear for monsters. True to Yolen’s style, these stories are dark and grim with a touch of magic and fantasy. One’s bound to have some stories that would speak to them more than others. 

Yolen also shared the background and idea behind each story and poem, which I really enjoyed reading. They made me appreciate her work even more.

And I absolutely adore the cover! 

These stories are meant to be savored, a few at a time. A suggestion though: just don’t enter the circus at night. Oh no. You can't. This is the Midnight Circus. Sorry. Enter at your own risk then! Good luck!

Thank you NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing the free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
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The Midnight Circus is the latest collection of Jane Yolen's works, and as such you just know that I had to read it. This is a collection of some (note: only some) of her fantasy works, many of which have a historical or darker edge.
Along with lots of work by Jane Yolen (sixteen, plus poetry towards the back), there's an introduction by Theodora Goss. Finally, to give credit where credit is due, two of the short stories had co-authors, Robert J. Harris, and Adam Stemple.
Below you'll find individual reviews for each short story in this collection. It's also worth nothing that about the last ten percent of The Midnight Circus contains notes and poetry, all of which relates to the stories that preceded them.

“In the end, with only a bit of sweat, we produced the book. You are now judge and jury of it all.”

The Weaver of Tomorrow
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
They say that you should be careful what you wish for. That may just be true in this tale. This is the story of a young woman with a rare gift. She could see the future of those around her, yet it still wasn't enough. She wanted to know it all.
“The true knowledge she desired was each tick of tomorrow, each fall and each failure, each heartache, and each pain, that would be the portion of every man.”
This was an intriguing tale, and an interesting start to this collection. I love the idea of a seer learning a greater craft, as she finds her place in the world – and it is not at all what she (or I) would have expected.

The White Seal Maid
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
We've all heard the tale of Selkies, how they can come to land, and how even when they do, they always crave the sea. This is Jane Yolen's take on the Selkies, and a love (perhaps) that formed from it.
“And as she sang, the water began to fill up with seals.”
I loved this short story. My only regret is that we weren't able to see both sides of the story – that would have been truly compelling, if you ask me. Still, I enjoyed this take very much, and would honestly love to see more like it. Then again, I've always enjoyed hearing about Selkies, so I might be biased here.

The Snatchers
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is a darker story, one that pulls details of real-life and history to make it feel even more real, and haunting. This is the story of what some Jewish people went through to avoid the draft.
“He was a kidnapper, a bounty hunter, a Jew against Jews.”
This is a dark tale, that can probably go without saying. Yolen really does have a talent for using fiction to explore the horrors and atrocities of her past. It's beautiful if also daunting at the same time. This is one of those stories.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Assault
Sometimes even the most civilized of worlds need a reminder of the past. Need an excuse to blow off steam, and let loose from time to time. In this world, that little bit of allowance is called Wilding.
“Sweet sixteen
Powdered green
Out in the park
Well after dark,
Wilding is one of my top two stories from this entire collection. It has a little bit of everything, from science fiction/fantasy elements, to a coming of age story, and even a little bit of a thriller. Plus all that commentary on society. This is a story I would have liked to see more, if given a chance.

Requiem Antarctica with Robert J. Harris
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is the story that one man has carried with him alone, right up to his deathbed. Now it's time to speak up, to speak of the horrors he learned of, while traveling to Antarctica. It is nothing like what you'll expect, with the horrors having followed him there.
“You'll need a drink if you are to hear me through to the end.”
Here's my other absolute favorite from this collection. I love the themes that ran through this short story, as well as all of the implications. Admittedly I'm a bit biased here, as I love tales about the exploration of Antarctica, as well as the other surprise that this story brings. But still, it was great fun to read!

Night Wolves
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A haunting tale of the horrors that terrify a little girl once the lights go out, but with several surprising twists along the way. This is the tale of one girl learning the reasons to be brave.
“The wolves lived under my bed, the bear in my closet. They only came out at night.”
This was one of those stories that started out dark, but got pretty sweet towards the end. It has some dark implications, but otherwise is brilliant from start to finish.

The House of Seven Angels
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A little boy is the only one to have witnessed what happens in one man's house. You see, Moishe has witnessed seven angels residing there, aiding the man. Until one day that all changed.
“And he was being served, Moishe said, by seven angels.”
This was an intriguing story. I love the way it was told, as it really gave it that classic folktale feel. I think that enhanced the story quite a bit in my mind, if I'm being honest.

Great Gray
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The invasion has occurred, and with it, there are countless birds now to be found. Yet Donnal can't help but be fascinated with them, and every little detail they bring into his world.
“Donnal didn't know a great deal about birds, but the newspapers had been full of the invasion, as it was called.”
This was an intriguing story, though I'll admit that I found myself confused at times. Donnal's story is complex and slightly convoluted, with intention I have no doubt.

Little Red with Adam Stemple
Rating: ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Sexual abuse, cutting
This is the story of one young woman, and the imaginary world she delves into in order to escape the horrors of her real life.
“The forest is dark but I know the way. I have been here before.”
I'll admit I enjoy the concept of this world being pure imagination – I've seen it before, and done to great effect. However, the implications (see the warnings) are just a bit too dark for me.

Winter's King
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
There once was a baby who was brought to life by a stranger, only for all those around him to believe he was cursed by winter from that moment onward. He embraced the idea of becoming Winter's King.
“Then he shall be a Winter King, more than any of his kin or kind.”
This is a dark and twisted tale, which actually makes it perfect for this collection. I love the themes that run throughout this short story, and honestly almost would have liked to see more of it. Though it's also solid the way it is now.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Deathbed confessions are not a new thing. This is the story revealed by one mother, to her son, on the off chance that she doesn't survive what ails her. It's the story of the father he never met.
“It is a lie, you know, that inscription. From first to last.”
I love how this story unraveled. It didn't end at all as I expected. For that matter, none of this story went how I expected, and I loved that about it. This is classic Jane Yolen storytelling if ever I've seen it.

Dog Boy Remembers
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
This is the story of one boy trying to live up to the standards of his father, while missing the life his mother had worked so hard to give him. With a magical twist, naturally.
“When his father came to fetch him that first time, his mother wept.”
I really wanted to like this story more, but I struggled with it. Maybe it's the implications that were in it, but I'm not sure. It had an interesting core concept, which I respect. Likewise, I appreciate the creatures that were pulled into this tale.

The Fisherman's Wife
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
The legends of fishermen are not to be ignored. They have warnings in them, that must be heeded. That applies even to fishermen, who should know better than to tangle with creatures of the deep.
“But every fisherman knows that when you have dealings with the deep you leave something of yourself behind.”
This was another brilliant story by Jane Yolen. Here she's taken fishermen lore, mermaids, and a tale of love, and twisted it all together to create something new. I loved it, though I was blown away by the ending.

Become A Warrior
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Death, gore
This is the tale of one little girl, and her journey to become a warrior. She once had a family, until the war took it all away. Now she's forced to find a new path in life.
“To become a warrior, forget the past.”
What an intriguing story. I'll be honest with you, I struggled to get into this one at first, but I'm so glad I stuck with it, because that ending makes it all totally worth it! Though I won't ruin the ending, I promise. I will say that is was a surprise, all while being highly satisfying.

An Infestation of Angels
Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Once a contract has been signed, you must stay with it. Even when those contracts take advantage of an entire people.
“One who goes back on his signed word is no better than a thief.”
This was an interesting story, though to be honest, I wish it had been longer. I think having more time to develop would have helped this particular piece.

Rating: ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
Warnings: Starvation, survivor's guilt
The past haunts us, especially those of us who have lived through the most harrowing events possible. Take Rachel's mother, who lists out those who did not survive as she did.
“But Rachel always knew that when the toll call was done, her mother would start the death-camp stories.”
This is a dark and disturbing tale, one made all the more so because of the use of real events in history. It was an interesting piece, though the ending made me want to run for cover (maybe that's a good thing though?).
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3.5 stars

TW: Death, murder, mutilation, graphic depiction of suicide, rape, mental illness, abuse, self harm.

This is a collection of short stories that read like dark folktales. Although the title of the book led me to believe the stories would be about a circus, they weren't. And there also weren't any stories that had anything to do with the circus, but rather about various creatures, and legends. I enjoyed reading these stories, though some of them were uncomfortable for me to read. Below will be my ratings for each of the stories. The ones that don't have a rating are the ones I felt uncomfortable while reading them.

The Weaver of Tomorrow 5 stars
The White Seal Maid 2 stars
The Snatchers 4 stars
Wilding 1.5 stars
Requiem Antarctica 4 stars
Night Wolves 3.5 stars
The House of Seven Angels 3.5 stars
Great Grey 4 stars
Little Red (Didn't rate it)
Winter's King 3.5 stars
Inscription 4 stars
Dog Boy Remembers (Didn't rate it)
The Fisherman's Wife 3 stars
Become a Warrior 3 stars
An Infestation of Angels 5 stars
Names (Didn't rate it)

Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This was an anthology of short stories written mostly by Jane Yolen (a few had cowriters). They were darker themed fairy tales, and there was a wide range of styles. Some were set in the future, some were set in the past, some were modern. Some were said in third person, some were said in first person. The change in styles was a little bit jarring, and I wasn't sure what they all had in common, except for the fact that they were all a little bit dark. I thought it was supposed to be YA, but apparently I was wrong.

A lot of them were beautifully told. It obviously shows how talented Yolen is. I just didn't understand what they had in common? Especially because the styles were so different. Most of the short stories have been published before, and this collection was pulled together from her other works. Of course I liked some stories more than others but I didn't really think the collection was very cohesive. But Yolen is an amazing storyteller and that was a delight to see.
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CW: rape, abuse, self-harm, other disturbing content

This collection of 16 previously published stories and 16 poems (most previously published elsewhere) showcases the dark side of Yolen's work. Within these pages, you'll find fairies and fairy tale monsters, ghosts and things that go bump in the night, vampires, terrifying angels, and more. There are also historical and mundane horrors, such as the Holocaust, pogroms, and serial killers.

This is the third volume of Yolen's collected stories published by Tachyon. If you haven't read the others, I highly recommend The Emerald Circus and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, as well. I preferred these other collections to this one, but Yolen is a master of her craft and this is a collection worth reading if you're a fan of dark fantasy and horror. My favorites in the collection were the fairy tales, since I found them less disturbing than a lot of the other stories, though I also enjoyed Yolen's supernatural take on the doomed Scott expedition to the South Pole. Keep reading through the notes section at the end for a series of poems to go with each story and insight into Yolen's inspiration for each story.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing me with an ARC e-copy of this book!

The Midnight Circus is a short story collection of bizarre, scary, unsettling and overall strange stories. They cover a wide variety of subjects, folklore and fantasy. No matter your interest or reading preferences, there will be something inside this book for you.

Reading up on some of the reviews of this book, I tend to agree with what most people are saying. This book is a mix-and-match; some stories I thoroughly enjoyed and kept me up until late in the night, others I didn't really care for so much. However, there's no denying Jane Yolen's ability to write, craft interesting worlds and creep you out. Like I said, I definitely didn't enjoy every story (I won't bring up the Wilding story if you won't), but something about how Jane Yolen wrote these stories made me always come back for more.

If you enjoy creepy, weird, unsettling and sometimes deeply serious horror and fantasy stories, this is the perfect book for you!
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Jane Yolen’s darker side comes out to play in The Midnight Circus, a brief anthology of fairy-tale like short stories each with a grim twist. The collection includes a forward from another brilliant fantasy writer, the inestimable Theodora Goss, along with thirteen original tales that explore the darker side of fantasy and a number of poems and ancillary notes. Most if not all of the stories have been published before, but never together in one single, dark collection such as this. Stand-outs include The Weaver of Tomorrow, The White Seal Maid, Winter’s King, and The Fisherman’s Wife among others. Newcomers to Yolen with a penchant for dark fantasy will enjoy this collection, as will her seasoned readers.
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A new collection of older stories from a master storyteller. Some are dark as a new moon night, others are as bright as day, but still with a darkness lurking within. Selkies and singers, wolves and Wild Things, owls and angels, all lurk within. Step into the tent: the show is about to start.
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The Midnight Circus is an anthology chock full of dark twisted fairy tales. It's more Grimm than Disney, full of monsters, both man and beast. These sixteen stories have something for everyone: from people turning into wild animals and running free in Central Park, a seal maiden falling in love with a fisherman, and even a dark secret below the snow in the South Pole. 

Anthology stories tend to be very hit or miss for me, and unfortunately, this one missed the mark. As with these types of books, there are always stories that are better than others. I did enjoy one or two, namely "The White Seal Maid", but most of the others just didn't capture my attention. Some felt like they dragged on a little too long, and I ended up finding myself wander and I had to force myself to finish. I think the majority had a lot of promise, but in the end, just fell flat. I also was a bit confused because, from the title, I expected the stories to have a circus element or something that ultimately tied them all together, but that wasn't the case. Sadly, this isn't going to a memorable one for me.
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This book was... intense. It wasn't what I was expecting at all -- there isn't anything about circuses, for example -- but I really enjoyed it anyway. The first few stories were magical and left me wanting more, and then the collection took a turn for the dark, and then the darker. Some of the stories I wanted to look away from, some I wanted to forget what I'd just read. 

Many of them gave me that shivery feeling I associate with Ray Bradbury's short stories. The one that tells me that those stories *work* in a way that isn't entirely logical but that I recognize deeper than conscious thought.

I don't know if I'd reread many of the stories, but I'm glad to have read them. And *very* glad to have read them in the daylight, because otherwise, I think I would have some difficulty falling asleep.

Also one of the final stories features the creepiest angels I've come across (perhaps rivaling the weeping angels of Doctor Who).

I also enjoyed the poems collected at the end (one for each story) as a way to see another facet of the stories.
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This was a great collection of short stories. The craftsmanship is fantastic. The scenes are vivacious. The world is engrossing. Everyone should read this set of stories. They bring a bit of wonder into this (lately) dreadful world. The  dark circus theme/aesthetic is my absolute favorite. I want to live in this beautiful creation.
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Jane Yolen's career is based on the fairy tale, and there's a pretty big chance that if you're a reader of fantasy you've likely come across one of her 365 BOOKS. Literally, you could read one of her books every day for a year and not run out of material.  The Midnight Circus collects 16 stories from her writing that I wouldn't necessary call horror, but are most definitely on the dark end of the story spectrum.

The Midnight Circus features stories that are frankly, all brilliant (and I'm still mad about that. Yolen, how do you do it?).  They include a story teenagers who go to Central Park to thrill in temporarily becoming wild beasts, but one who almost doesn't make it out after trying to prove that they are stronger than safety precautions. It features a story of an abusive Red Cap and his son learning to fight back. It also features a story of how the Israelites may have fought off punishing angels much like a vicious mosquito or really large pest that they learned to use to their advantage. In short, even with 16 stories there is not a slouch between them. Be aware that these stories have previously been published in magazines and other collections, so if you have taken up my joke challenge about reading a different one of her books per day you'll probably see some familiar content.

The Midnight Circus is a great collection for readers who like their stories a little on the dark side of fairy tales, but with mostly satisfying endings.

Look for The Midnight Circus from Tachyon Publishing October 1, 2020.
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I appreciate having had an opportunity to read and review this book. The appeal of this particular book was not evident to me, and if I cannot file a generally positive review I prefer simply to advise the publisher to that effect and file no review at all.
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Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on October first.

Jane Yolen is a big name in fantasy. While she’s written a ton of other books – the incredibly popular How Does a Dinosaur ? children’s book series being some of them – I always think of her fantasy books first. How could I pass up a chance to read her newest collection of short stories?

Overall, this was a solid group of stories. As with any short story collection, some stories were better than others, but the majority were really good. Yolen is comfortable and confident in her ability to weave a tale, and it shows. She includes a plethora of fantastical creatures, and no story was like another.

These are darker stories, so be aware of that. A couple of them actually took a harsh enough tone that I skipped parts. However, they aren’t harsh just to elicit a reaction. Even the hard stories have a purpose behind the content. That being said, be aware that these aren’t your Disney happily-ever-after tales.

I have to mention a few of my favorites in the collection, of course! I loved “Winter’s King,” which felt mysterious and sad. It was beautifully written and felt complete, even though the ending was not exactly a happy one (see my thoughts on happily-ever-afters above). This story showcased Yolen’s ability to create an entire world with just a few pages.

“The Fisherman’s Wife” was another favorite of mine. It felt the most like your typical fairy tale out of all the stories in this collection. I loved the simple, circular feel to it. Plus-selkies!

Finally, I really enjoyed “Wilding.” The best way to describe is bizarre. I can’t really compare, or even explain it, it was so unique. I thought the ending was the perfect beginning for a full-length novel and I’m curious to see if anything ever comes of that.

I consider a short story collection a good one if I like more stories than I dislike. The Midnight Circus definitely ended up in the “good” category for me. If you like your fantasy with a slightly darker edge, check this out.
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Full disclosure:  I received an advance copy of The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen from Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for possibly writing a review.

The original fairy tales were seriously dark and morbid to reflect the time during which they were written.  They were meant to teach children the harsh realities of the world.  Obviously, they are no longer like that...unless you read Jane Yolen.  The fairy tales in this book are not going to be made into Disney movies.  These short stories and poems take place all over the world and involve mythical creatures like selkies and vampires.   You may recognize the bones of some of the stories as retellings of classics, but many are originals.  One of my favorites is about the race to the South Pole.  If you didn't think climate change was scary before, you will be terrified after this.   

If you like your fantasy dark and twisty, you'll want to check out this book.
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Una raccolta che conferma Jane Yolen come profonda conoscitrice delle fiabe e dei loro topoi e come inarrestabile narratrice.
Ha nuociuto un po', forse, l'impronta dark, non nelle corde della scrittrice: alcuni pezzi sono infatti molto belli, altri mediocri, alcuni francamente incomprensibili.
Nel complesso, comunque, una piacevole lettura.
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I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have read a few novels by Jane Yolen but this is the first book I have read of her short stories. They all have magic, even it for some it is just a smidge.  The magic helps make twist in them. I preferred the less modern ones, though the Antarctic Expedition one was quite interesting and unexpected. The Red Riding Hood one was dark. I think my favorite one was the selkie one though there were several ones that were also good.

This was a good collection and I enjoyed reading it.
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I want to give a huge thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for gifting be an advanced copy of this book. 
I'm not going to lie, the cover of this book sold me, and I hadn't quite read the description for it, so when I got the copy and realized that it was a collection of short stories, I was surprised. That was on me, that being said I really enjoyed pretty much all of the stories that were written. All of the stories have fairy tail like themes, which I liked.  My personal favorite being The White Seal Maid because it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Song of the Sea.
Overall, I give this book a 3.5 and I can see myself picking it up to read certain stories when I want to read something specific, it would also make a nice Halloween read.
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The Weaver of Tomorrow: 3 stars
The White Seal Maid: 2 stars
The Snatchers: 2.5
Wilding: 2.75
Requiem Antarctica: 4
Night Wolves: 4
The House of Seven Angels: 3
Great Gray: 1.5
Little Red: 2
Winter’s King: 3
Inscription: 1.5
Dog Boy Remembers: 1
The Fisherman’s Wife: 2
Become a Warrior: 4.25
An Infestation of Angels: 2
Names: 3
All together: 2.5
I wish I liked this, but I really didn't. Besides three stories, they were all immediately forgettable, or ones that I really didn't like. I'm sick of stories that are just of women's pain. Almost none of them had plots, and it was just about how the main character (a girl) who has been abused/raped/killed. It seems to be appealing to an audience I do not want to be associated with.
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