Cover Image: The Tangleroot Palace

The Tangleroot Palace

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Member Reviews

The Tangleroot Palace is a dark yet heartfelt collection of short stories with a sprinkle of magic, horror, and mystery. Creepy, tender, and enthralling in equal measure. I can't wait to read more of Marjorie Liu's work!

The first story, Sympathy for the Bones, pulled me in from the very first line with its eerie atmosphere and trance-like prose. Delightfully macabre with palpable tension. 5/5

The second story, The Briar and The Rose, was my absolute favourite. A forbidden sapphic romance blooming despite a curse and its corruption- wistful and dreamy while maintaining the underlying uneasy tension of the first tale in the collection. 1 million/5 (I can do that, right?)

The following story, The Light and The Fury, was fascinating but not quite as engaging as the ones proceeding it. The atmosphere and characters left me a bit wanting. 3/5

Now, another favourite: The Last Dignity of Man. Revolting and horrific, this story made me hold my breath while the nausea passed and yet had a surprisingly poignant ending. 5/5

The Heart Lives follows with a young woman beginning work in a small home on the edge of a mysterious wood. Those who occupy the home are keeping something from her, she knows, and the strange voices from the underbrush lure her closer to the chilling secrets they hide. 4/5

The penultimate tale, After The Blood, is a spooky vampire cum zombie story of survival and family. A killer opening followed by heartbreaking realization after heartbreaking realization. 4/5

And last but not least, Tangleroot Palace. A princess story where the girl in question has the agency to make her own choices. I felt this would have perhaps worked better as a novella rather than a short story, but loved the mystical aspects (especially the villain). 3.5/5

I would highly recommend this collection!
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This collection was my introduction to the work of Marjorie Liu. I found the stories oddly disquieting while I was reading them but Liu’s skill was so evident, I trusted it all to come together and I was not disappointed. I didn’t like all the stories equally, but that’s to be expected in any assortment of short fiction. These feel as if they’re paced like novels, but I think that’s because of the unusually subtle ways Liu weaves together the various fictional elements. Her work reminds me of that of the late Phyllis Eisenstein, who told emotionally complex, sophisticated stories with simple language. Here the real story lies beneath the mechanics of prose and plot, each thread of the tapestry contributing to a gorgeous and emotionally satisfying whole. And the last piece, a novella that gives its name to the collection, is just jaw-droppingly awesome.
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Loved each and every story in this collection. I can’t believe I have yet to read Monstress. Definitely reading it ASAP.
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I cannot gush about Marjorie Liu's short story collection enough! The brother's Grimm only wish they could have written stories this gorgeous, unique, and haunting. I've never made my love of fairy tales a secret and Ms. Liu blew my mind! These tales are short but the reader is pulled in so fast that when you reach the end, all you want it more. There was not one story I didn't like, some were stronger than others, but that's me looking for something to critique. I will be enjoying this collection over and over again!

**Thank you to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was a myriad of feelings. Sometimes was very creepy, other times was very sensitive, sometimes was very exciting.
One thing is for sure, I really liked the lyrism in the writing. I needed a lot of time to read the book, maybe because, for me, the first story was one of the worst, although in general, all the stories were good enough to hook me in the story, when I started one of them I went all the way until the end in one sit.
In general for me is a good collection of short stories, for all the kind of public, mainly if you really enjoy Sci-fi and fantasy. My final note was the media between the individual ratings of the stories. I need to say that was not that high because I didn't really enjoy Sympathy for the Bones and After the Blood.
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4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this collections of short stories. i didn't hate any of them. My favourites were Sympathy of the Bones, Where the Heart Lives and Tangleroot Palace. I do enjoy short stories but I'm also aware the don't completely cater to me as I'm also left with wanting more and not always in a good way.

Sympathy for the Bones: Was really creepy and atmospheric. Written beautifully.
Briar and Rose: Interesting twist on sleeping beauty. Really enjoyed but wish it could be longer, i wanted to see more than hear about events.
The Light and the Fury: Good but a little confusing. Felt like it needed to be longer. While it was confusing at times it was also impressive that eventually you could make sense of a complex world in such a short time. Sorry if that sounds contradictory.
The Last Dignity of Man: Surprisingly enjoyed it. Didn't think I'd care about a Luther eske billionaire story. It was emotional and heartfelt. I feel a complicated about the portrayal of government and billionaires. But it is complicated so so be it.
Where the Heart Lives: Really loved this story. So whimsical and mostly happy but with a background of pain so you value the happy. Will be looking into Dirk & Steele series now.
After the Blood: Enjoyed it and the story kept my attention. Wished there was more, I want to have more detail of the background and of where the story is going. Feels like a taste of something great but ultimately not satisfying. A little bit hard to read in the middle of pandemic.
Tangleroot Palace: Honestly the best story. I wanted more but am also satisfied with the story as a whole. The characters were given so much depth for such a short time. It felt really eery, whimsical and enthralling.

I also really enjoyed hearing Liu's thoughts and the background to each story at the end of each piece.
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I’m a big fan of Marjorie Liu’s Monstress series, so was eager to pick up her collection of short stories, entitled The Tangleroot Palace.  Unfortunately, while there was a lot to admire in terms of the prose itself, the stories didn’t do much for me, though they were solid enough.  I’ll note, however, as I always do when reviewing a collection, that I’m a tough audience when it comes to short stories, generally preferring longer, more developed works (though one of my favorite books this year will be a collection of stories).

Liu’s collection brings together a half-dozen stories and the eponymous novella.   As noted, the prose is strong throughout, especially considering the stories were written while she was still in her twenties and thirties, as she tells us in the introduction.  Not particularly lyrical or poetic, the strength of the prose lies in instead in its carefully concrete precision. Characters, setting, objects are all sharply, precisely depicted, while various atmospheres (tense, ominous, surreal) are vividly created and maintained.  Forests play a major role throughout, and Liu has a deft hand in conveying the different feel a tree or an entire forest can have dependent on time of day, season, and type of tree.  On a sentence level, a craft level, the stories were a pleasure to read.

Characterization and voice were also strong throughout, with each story’s main character (s) having a unique sense of individuality; each feeling like a fully formed person of conflicting needs and desires and traits as opposed to props in service of plot.

Plot though, and impact of plot, is where I had trouble connecting in any strongly positive way.  I didn’t dislike any (maybe one), but also none truly surprised me or moved me or excited me.  And where several reached for an emotional impact, it didn’t feel earned to me, sometimes due to “insta-attraction,” sometimes due to not enough development, or a distancing due to not enough explained.  And between the several forests, the several near-retellings of fairy tales, there was a bit too much overlap for me as well.

My favorite was probably “Sympathy for the Bones,” in its depiction of desperation and a person in conflict with what they feel they must do.  “The Briar and the Rose” was a well-told and somewhat different take on the Sleeping Beauty story, but didn’t bring much new to the table, was a bit predictable, and suffered, as several of the stories do, from a relationship we’re more told exists than feel exists. “Call her Savage” is set in an intriguing alternate universe where China has a second “Pacifica” Empire in North America, having secretly colonized the west coast even before the British colonists arrived in the east.  The story, though, felt disjointed and again set up an emotional impact that didn’t feel earned.  I would have liked a novella-length story here to develop both the setting and the characters a bit more. 

The same issue of relationships that are written but not felt occurred in “The Last Dignity of Man”, “Where the Heart Lives,” and the title novella.  “After the Blood,” a kind of post-apocalyptic Amish vampire story was the one story I didn’t really care for at all and the only one that truly felt overlong.  As for the novella, it was marred a bit by some predictability, an anti-climactic confrontation, and a sense that we’ve seen these character types and storylines before in numerous pieces. But despite those issues, it was my second favorite after “Sympathy for the Bones,” and probably the most enjoyable, being less grim and involving several engaging characters with good banter.  

While I didn’t really dislike any of the stories (save for the Amish vampires), and the style maintains a high quality throughout, the collection also doesn’t contain any stories I want to proselytize about, no “you’ve got to read this . . . “pieces. So while I admit it’s a bit muddy, I’m still going to have to go with “solid” as the overall descriptor.
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What a wonderful collection of stories. Usually in any collection, whether solo-authored or with multiple authors there will be some stories that you love, and others that don’t hit home, that was not the case here. I loved every story in this collection, and I love how Liu is able to capture the magic and make each story immersive, capturing your attention and emotions even between different focuses and settings. The titular story was undoubtedly my favourite, I just love the idea of sentinent forests and this story was just so atmospheric and deep that it pulled you in, and just a highlight of the collection. Other favourites included The Briar and the Rose and the Last Dignity of Man, but honestly there was nothing about this collection that I didn’t love, and I certainly can’t end this review without mentioning that stunning cover – again very atmospheric, and just absolutely beautiful.
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The Tangleroot Palace is an anthology of short stories and novelettes from various genres, featuring unique and engaging protagonists. Each story was so different from the rest. For sure the strongest anthology I've ever read.
Magical and immersive, each world felt even more incredible than the last. After finishing each story, I always wondered what could come after to top it; I was never disappointed. 

Sympathy for the Bones ★★★★
Creepy and dark. A story about revenge and redemption.

The Briar and the Rose ★★★★★
It features a bodyguard sapphic romance. My favourite sleeping beauty retelling EVER.

The Light and the Fury ★★★★
I didn't realize how good this one was until way after. I want a novel set in this world. There is so much potential!

The Last Dignity of Man ★★★
This one just did not work for me. The loneliness gave me all the feels, though.

Where the Heart Lives ★★★★½
Such a whimsical story that reads like a fairy-tale. I loved everything about it. I'm reading Tiger Eye soon for sure.

After the Blood ★★★★
I need more post-apocalyptic fantasies in my life. Sometimes I did not understand what was happening. 

Tangleroot Palace ★★★★½
I love the sentient forest trope. The magical atmosphere had me hooked from page one. Although predictable, it had everything that I love in a story. But my favourite part was how Liu explored the illusion of truth.

This book was such a joy to read, with gorgeous writing, enthralling worlds and unusual characters. I loved that at the end of each story, Liu gave us a few comments about them; what they meant to her or how she felt at the time.
Now I find myself wanting to read everything this author has written, starting with the Dirk and Steele series.
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This was a good variety of short stories - witches, Amish vampires, wannabe evil scientists, lots of badass women - and yet they all tied nicely together as well. I definitely enjoyed some stories more than others, but I found each of them interesting in their own way. I’ve never read any of Liu’s other work but I am planning on it now. Her mind is weird and magical place for stories to be created.
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A good collection of short stories. The first two stories Sympathy for the Bones and Briar and the Rose were the best of the bunch in my opinion. Both had superb world-building and deeply compelling characters. 

The longer stories while good suffered a little either from uneven pacing or tone. Tangleroot Palace is the best of the longer tales. In places, it reminded me of Gaiman's work where he plays around with fairytales. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.
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There were a couple of really great stories in this collection. A great intro for this author for me. Will be looking for more of their works for sure.
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I did enjoy this short story collection, especially the foreword by the author but unfortunately, there were some stories that weren't entirely memorable. Some stories felt drawn out and had too much "backstory" and worldbuilding for such short lengths. I did enjoy The Briar and the Rose, The Last Dignity of Man and After the Blood.
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I picked this up not for her multiple award-winning Monstress, which I haven’t read yet, but for Dirk & Steele and Hunter’s Kiss, her marvelous urban fantasy/paranormal series that I read when they came out back in the late 2000s. I loved both of those series, but I’m kind of astonished that they came out way more than a decade ago.

But it has been a while, so I was happy to see this collection as a way of renewing my acquaintance with an author I very much loved. And I’m glad I did. There’s even a prequel for Dirk & Steele in this collection, at least if you squint a bit.

My favorite stories in this collection were The Briar and the Rose, Call Her Savage and the title story, The Tangleroot Palace.

The Briar and the Rose takes the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty, adds in a bit of magical possession and body-swapping, and wraps it in a bodyguard romance. Except that this takes place in a world of myth and legend, where an evil sorceress is maintaining her youth and beauty by possessing pretty young women and discarding their corpses. That sorceress is defeated by the love that develops between her female bodyguard and the true personality of the body being possessed in stolen moments when the sorceress sleeps. And it’s a powerful story about just how strong people can be when they have something, or someone to fight beside and to fight for.

Call Her Savage was fascinating because it hints at so much world and such a rich history that we don’t get to see in this story. There’s alternate history and revolution and wars and flawed heroines and politics and lost causes and fighting the long defeat. It reminds me a bit of Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune, but with an alternate 19th or 20th century instead of alternate early history. This is the one I wish there were more of. A lot more.

The Tangleroot Palace was lush and lovely and kind of perfect. On its surface its about a princess who runs away from home to find magic in order to save herself and hopefully save her kingdom from subservience to a brutal warlord. And underneath that it’s a romance about hiding behind masks to protect one’s true self, about the power of illusion and the power of agency. And of course nothing about the warlord or the kingdom or the subservience turns out to be quite what the princess was expecting. But the magic at the heart of the forest is all too real, even if, or especially because, it too is based on an illusion.

Of the rest of the collection, Sympathy for the Bones, Where the Heart Lives and The Last Dignity of Man were interesting and I’m glad I read them but they weren’t quite up there with my faves. After the Blood played with a supernatural/paranormal take on a post-apocalyptic story but didn’t give enough details to really hang together. Not that some characters weren’t hung or otherwise eliminated, but this one felt like it had been done before, and better, elsewhere.

Still and all, I’d have read this for those three favorite stories, and I’m glad I stuck around for the whole thing. It was just the right amount of lovely and romantic and creepy to while awhile a rainy evening with a cat on my lap.

Escape Rating A-: This is a strong collection, filled with stories that grip the heart, ramp up the adrenaline and occasionally wring the tear ducts. They’re not new stories, but they were all new to me, and I got completely wrapped up in every single one. They have the feel of feminist fairy tales, in that all but one of the stories are led by women, and are from mostly female perspectives. So these are heroine’s journeys – and occasionally villainess’ journeys, rather than told from the point of view that such stories are usually told.

Although the one story that is told from a male perspective, The Last Dignity of Man, while it was not among my favorites was one of the most purely lonely stories I have ever read. It was so sad and so heartbreaking and had so much possibility but the monsters, and there certainly were monsters, were more disgusting than scary, not that they weren’t scary too. Still, the idea of someone emulating a supervillain in the hopes that a superhero would arise to thwart them, just like in the comic books, was a great idea that I’d love to see explored more fully with less puking. Seriously.

The Tangleroot Palace reminded me just why I loved this author so much, and has made me resolve to get stuck into Monstress at the earliest opportunity!
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I have wanted to read more by Marjorie Liu since I enjoyed Monstress so much, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC of The Tangleroot Palace! I have a mixed experience with short story collections, since there can be such high highs and such low lows, but this was one of the best compilations I've read in a while! I would love to explore these worlds and stories more in their own novels, as some of the stories felt like they needed more time and expansion. "The Briar and the Rose" and "The Tangleroot Palace" were probably my favorites in the anthology. I appreciated the queer rep and the focus on women in many of these stories, and would recommend this collection to any fans of fantasy and speculative fiction.
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I received this and as an eARC to read for free in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for giving me access.

I loved Monstress so when I saw Liu wrote a collection of stories, I knew I needed to read it. With each story I was immediately drawn in and could honestly use whole novels on each. I just want to dive into all the worlds she creates. With there being seven stories, there is sure to be one that will appease any reader. I highly recommend.
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Solid collection of short stories. Liu does a great job writing stories with deep worldbuilding and engaging prose.

As with any short story collection, there were some I enjoyed more than others, although all were well-written. I especially enjoyed The Briar and the Rose (really interesting, dark take on Sleeping Beauty), The Last Dignity of Man (nice exploration of loneliness and a man's desire to connect with others), and the Tangleroot Palace (had a classic adventure story vibe to it).
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I forget how much I enjoy well-written short story collections until I come across one such as this. These stories are so varied, I’m just including the publisher’s summary instead of my own. “Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods. Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.”

I loved this collection. There are so many types of characters, super solid queer representation, amazing worldbuilding for such short works, and each story has a unique POV and soul. After each story, Liu includes a little blurb with context about writing assignments, themes, and where she was at/what was going through her head while writing these stories, and that made the experience all the more richer. Many of these are slight retellings, but still completely original, and that made my heart so happy.

It’s out now, and I even picked up a copy from my local library, so I could physically turn the pages, because apparently that’s the kick I’m on lately. If you need some solid fantasy storytelling in your life, definitely check this one out.
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I liked all the stories a whole lot. Ancient forests and love triumphing with change and hardship.

The neatest I think was the tale with the Daoine Sidhe and the girl finding a home. The best was the final tale with Sally not because of any obvious traits but because it synergized so well with the other stories and it just clicked. The editor did a great job in how they ordered the stories because the book really does sort of build on itself despite the fact the stories are not related in topic.

If you like weird fantasy with lgbtq and PoC characters that is well written and composed this is an anthology for you.
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Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with short story collections? Like, I always think to myself, "They're short! I'll breeze through it!" Then, I start them and if they're good...well, I forget about wanting to let each story sink in. Basically, it always takes longer than I expect and I do it to myself. Anyway...to the stories!

Sympathy for the Bones -Similar premise to "Malice" as far as dark magic goes...I loved the language-the dialect. Some of it was difficult to understand, but you could still follow the emotions. Awesome/gruesome magic system. Well-ended. ☆☆☆☆

The Briar and the Rose -A sapphic twist on Sleeping Beauty that was SO original (and I've read at least two other sapphic retellings...). I loved how the sleeping curse was applied and how intertwined all of the characters were. Beautiful. ☆☆☆☆☆

Call Her Savage -An alternate-history in which California was settled earlier than the east coast in America. Dirigibles and war and rumors and legend. Probably my least favorite story...still pretty compelling and easy to follow. ☆☆☆

The Last Dignity of Man -A complex look into the psyche of someone who wants to be a villain, but actually has a heart. With sci-fi government experiments as the backdrop, I was actually fascinated by this premise! ☆☆☆☆☆

Where the Heart Lives -All I could think while reading this one was "Oh my gosh, I wish could read more of this world!!" Found family, the start of something good...At the end, I found out it was a prequel story to her urban fantasy series...and I'm so excited to dive into it!! ☆☆☆☆☆

After the Blood -Post apocalyptic, never really got introduced to the world, just kind of stumbling through it, surviving. Zombies...vampires? Magic? Creepy. Felt like the beginning of something more...very dire. ☆☆☆

Tangleroot Palace -I'm so glad this one was last. I figured the "twist" out, but it was still an absolute joy to read. All about lineage, found family, responsibility, self-fulfillment. I mean, I closed the book with a smile. What a lovely little fairy tale. ☆☆☆☆☆
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