Cover Image: The Tangleroot Palace

The Tangleroot Palace

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Member Reviews

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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All of the short stories in this collection were fantastic.  I enjoyed the different fairy tale feminist twists, the steampunks world where China discovered America, and so much more.
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Since Monstress is one of my favorite graphic novel series, I was excited to learn that the creator Marjorie M. Liu had a short story collection coming out. While the artwork is spectacular in Monstress, it’s the complex world building and character work that keeps me reading. I was intrigued to see what the author could do with longer pieces of fiction. 

The Tanglefoot Palace is a collection of six short stories and one novella. Most take place in a fantastical setting although two are set in dystopian or post apocalyptic worlds with supernatural elements. They all are beautifully written, often with lush, rich settings and carefully constructed characters. 

4.5 stars   In Briar and the Rose, Liu recreates the story of Sleeping Beauty with a sapphic relationship. It was told in a way that I have never seen retellings of Sleeping Beauty done before. It’s a story of possession, of reclaiming autonomy over your own body, and unbreakable love. One of my favorites in the collection. 

5 stars - Sympathy for the Bones- I loved this story! It’s the story of a girl neglected by her father and taken in by a woman who practices dark magic. It’s about the character becoming her own advocate and taking power into her own hands. Gorgeously told! 

2 stars- Call Her Savage- This one didn't work for me.  It was steampunk, which is not my favorite sub-genre anyway, and dystopian. I felt the world building was too complex for this short of a story. It was like being thrown into the ending of a story without having the clarity of the build up along the way. 

4.5 stars- The Last Dignity of Man - I found this story to be highly creative and clever. It's about a wealthy, male, biotech genius whose name is Alexander Luthor who secretly sees himself as the fictional Lex Luther. For such a short story, Liu does an amazing job with character development and exploring complex themes. 

4 - Where the Heart Lives- Another beautifully told story set in a dark forest. A young girl leaves her home and is taken in by an older woman and man with secrets of their own. 

2- After the Blood- This post-apocalyptic, survival story also didn't work for me. Again, my problem with that it felt like we were thrown into the ending of a much larger story without being given the prior background we needed to be invested in the plot. 

4 stars - The Tanglefoot Palace - The last novella is also set in a dark woods and is about a princess avoiding an arranged marriage. The story was wonderfully atmospheric and the plot fit the length of the novella perfectly. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my reading experience! I would love to continue to read more by Liu in the future. 

*Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for my advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This was the first time I read anything from Marjorie Liu and I really enjoyed her writing style. I really liked the stories as well, some of them more than others. I liked that almost all the stories had strong female protagonists , who were resourceful.
The stories were magical and haunting at the same time, with beautiful world building and from the majority of them I wanted more. 
My favourites were The Tangleroot Palace, The Briar and the Rose & Where the heart lies. 
My least favourite was The Last Dignity of Man.
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The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of haunting, beautiful fairytales I wish were longer than they were.

Liu’s beautiful descriptive way of writing has your attention caught from the first letter. All the stories were unique and intriguing in their own way, without them ever looking like each other (despite there being several magical forests).

All the stories read like the fairytales of old - the ones before Disney, that were haunting and served more to scare than to bewitch (though all stories definitely did both!). The little notes by Liu herself at the end of each story, gave a little insight about how the story came to be. A very interesting addition!

I loved Liu’s writing in The Tangleroot Palace, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
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As a fan of Monstress, this was a book I was looking forward to. Howeve, this collection of short stories was a mixed bag. Only a few of the stories really stood out to me. They were all written well but some just fell flat. The Briar and the Rose, and Tangleroot Palace were probably my favorite stories from the collection. It just felt like there was something missing from the rest of them. There was a sort of disconnect across all the stories and they felt odd to be grouped together. The collection was not as inventive as I felt it could have been or was trying to be. And although The Briar and the Rose was one of the stories that stood out, it felt too short. Its concept is one that I wish was expanded upon. The last story, Tangleroot Palace, was actually a novella and the length fit well. Overall, I would probably read other stories by Liu, but this collection just did not do it for me overall.
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I wasn't aware of Marjorie Liu's work until I came across Monstress, which has quickly become one of my favorite comic series. Once I saw her name attached to this collection—and saw the absolutely stunning cover by her Monstress collaborator Sana Takeda—I knew I had to read it. And I'm not surprised that her short stories are as good as her comics (for which she has won multiple awards). A mix of fairy tales, steampunk adventure, and a lone contemporary riff on a famous comic book character, the stories in Tangleroot Palace can be quite different in form but all share a common thread of strong-willed, outsider characters who push against the forces holding them back, both internal and external. All have been previously published in various anthologies and online but this collection brings them together in a way that makes them sing in a special kind of harmony together that I think really makes this stand out as a short fiction collection.

(One story felt very familiar and it turns out I had, in fact, encountered Liu's work before and not realized it. "The Briar and the Rose" was one of my favorite fairy tale retellings from the Starlit Wood anthology.)
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'𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕿𝖆𝖓𝖌𝖑𝖊𝖗𝖔𝖔𝖙 𝕻𝖆𝖑𝖆𝖈𝖊' : 4 𝖘𝖙𝖆𝖗𝖘

(𝚄𝚗𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝙰𝚛𝚌 𝚁𝚎𝚟𝚒𝚎𝚠: 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚔 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚝𝚘 𝙽𝚎𝚝𝙶𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚢, 𝙼𝚊𝚛𝚓𝚘𝚛𝚒𝚎 𝙻𝚒𝚞 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚃𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚢𝚘𝚗 𝙿𝚞𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚍𝚒𝚐𝚒𝚝𝚊𝚕 𝚌𝚘𝚙𝚢 𝚒𝚗 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚊 𝚛𝚎𝚟𝚒𝚎𝚠)

I've never read any of Marjorie's works before. I've heard so many great things about her graphic novel "Monstress" but never actually read it.
So, as soon as this came up, it caught my eye instantly and I was so lucky to have read it. Marjorie's writing is incredible and so elegant, perfect for fantasy and horror reads. 
My favorite short story was 'Sympathy for The Bones', so different from anything else I've ever read about and so, so intriguing. I knew from the moment I had read that one, I was hooked. Another one I loved was 'The Briar and The Rose', where the author shows how powerful women are.
However, not all the short stories got my eye: I couldn't deal with 'The Last Dignity of Man', it creeped me out so badly, I just couldn't.

Overall, this book is worth the read and I cannot wait to read more of Marjorie's works! I simply cannot recommend this book more!
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The Tabgleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu is a collection of short stories with some vastly different concepts and themes. The cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous and you can tell that it was definitely done by someone experienced with the covers of graphic novels. I liked most of the short stories. They were easy to read. There were also some stories that I found to be boring and that just didn't grab my attention.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was fantastical and dark which I really loved. A lot of the short stories were somewhat open ended and I enjoyed that quite a bit. I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who has to have a super concrete story because it was definitely more speculative than I thought it would be.
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Marjorie Liu's previous works are fantastic, and The Tangleroot Palace is no exception. The majority of the short stories in this collection read like they were meant to be longer works, but work as stand alones. Liu does a fantastic job of building intricate worlds and characters within the limited number of pages, including a blurb about the inspiration behind the stories. I loved reading these, trying to guess the roots behind the stories. The stories varied in genre, in my opinion, from more horror leaning to sci-fi and romance, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My favorites were "Call Her Savage" and "After the Blood" (I was so disappointed when this last one ended! So many questions!).

Highly recommend for fantasy/speculative fiction fans looking for something to gobble up. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Tachyon Publications for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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4/10 stars

My full review can be found on my blog (link attached).

I’ve known Marjorie Liu as the author of Monstress, a dark fantasy graphic novel series with the wonderful art by Sana Takeda. I liked Monstress well enough to request Liu’s short stories collection from NG the moment I saw it there – just look at this cover! In hindsight, I might’ve been better served by gathering more intel on Liu’s work of fiction first. That’s not to say that the collection is irredeemably bad; most stories are inherently readable and subtly creepy in Liu’s trademark Monstress way, and there are a couple that are actually all right. As for the rest, however, ah – best see for yourself, below.

As usual, I offer here a short summary of each story, each scored separately, with an overall rating at the end.

Sympathy for the Bones 7/10

A nicely creepy voodoo (here called hoodoo) story, with dolls and gris-gris and the possession of one’s soul. The sewing aspect was what’s really drawn me to the story, and the spin on the usual witch-and-her-victim trope was interesting. In Liu’s stories men have no agency – and while in this one it made perfect sense, the issue of male agency clearly delineated in the conclusion in a wonderfully perverse way, the whole idea quickly turned into a tired, overused schtick in other stories.

The Briar and the Rose 4/10

A retelling of The Sleeping Beauty, with a completely unnecessary heaping of cringy. Here, men are actively stupid and spineless, the fabled prince is a masculine lesbian, and the princess’s body is inhabited and continuously sexually exploited and abused by an old powerful witch with some sort of sexual addiction. The Sleeping Beauty is creepy enough on its own, without such weird spins. The relationship here is quite sweet, actually, and I would enjoy it but for the plot. I know that those idealistic wishes of mine will never realize, but I just wish authors would have enough responsibility and presence of mind to read not only fairy tales but also their analyses – some really smart people already covered that ground, and better, and didn’t leave in their wake the lingering feeling of distaste.

[...]

Summary

All in all, this collection boasts of strong feminist vibes, strong LGBT+ representation, fairytale inspirations, and acres of haunted forests. All of it is very tame and mainstream, bordering on mushy, with just a tad of uncanny here and there to spice up the comfortable popcorn read. If you feel like this is something for you, you may quite enjoy it. For me, it was unfortunately a largely forgettable experience, the stories laying bare the deficiencies of Liu’s storytelling I was willing to overlook earlier in the Monstress comic books because of Takeda’s art.

I have received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.
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I'm such a fan of Marjorie Liu (author of Monstress) that when I saw this book on NetGalley I didn't even read the synopsis before requesting it and I would do it again.

Instead of being another graphic novel like I was expecting, it ended up being a collection of short stories written throughout the years, alongside a short comment by the author, giving the story a bit of context both to when it was written and to how it had aged.

Sympathy for the Bones

In this story perfect for your dark cottagecore loving heart, a girl raised by a witch slowly learns her mother's trade.

This is a very disturbing story touching on themes such as abusive families, death and grief but it is more importantly a story about a young woman taking control of her situation and building the life she wants.
It reminded me a bit of Spinning Silver and For the Wolf tone-wise in how it refused to make apologies for bad people and harmful beliefs and didn't force girls to make themselves smaller and wait to be saved. 

Briar and Rose

This sapphic retelling of The Sleeping Beauty might have been my absolute favourite out of all of them. 

Albeit one of the simpler and shortest tales, the characters in it felt as real and complex as if I had spent an entire novel with them. In fact, I wish I could have.
The ending was beautiful and all I could have wanted and I would love to see this adapted in any form from a graphic novel to an animation. 

Call her savage

I would read an entire series in this universe and then binge-watch the movies. Think Star Wars meet The Man in the High Castle meets The Mortal Engines.

This was one of the most complex and longer stories, following a war hero going on one last suicide mission to kill her former lover.
It touches on themes such as colonialism, race, war, revenge and jealousy as two people that could have had a love story in a better world meet to kill each other after years apart.
When the ending came, I was not ready for it.

The last dignity of man

This felt like an Ao3 fever dream and I loved every moment it hurt me.

In this story, a lonely young billionaire is obsessed with Superman so he models himself after Lex Luthor. After striking up a conversation with a homeless man, he gives him a job in his company and slowly falls in love with him, looking forward to any interactions or attention from his crush.
This was a story about loneliness and pain and I spent the entire time rooting if not for these two characters to be together then for them to find some peace and love through their friendship.
I finished it knowing only one thing: I need more.

Where the heart lives

This was the first story set in the Dirk & Steele universe but you don't need to have read it beforehand as this is a prelude to those.

This felt like a dark academia setting: we have the huge gothic mansion, the found family, and magic that is never explained (although that might be because I haven't read Dirk & Steele). We also have women standing up for themselves in a sexist world, mention of abusive families and a slow burn romance.

After the blood

The second tale in the Dirk & Steele universe is set in the future, in a post-pandemic world where all technology failed and magic and vampires exist.

Our heroine lives close to an Amish town and deals with both the good and the bad of their culture.
Once again, I didn't understand the magic system and world enough for this story to become one of my favourites but I loved the themes it dealt with from discrimination to community and most importantly it was a tale about different kinds of love and I adored how romantic love was not seen as the best or more important just one type.
Something else I truly loved was our heroine and how the other characters interacted with her. She was always the person with the gun, the defender, the physical threat against those that would hurt her and those she held dear and I really liked seeing a woman portrayed in such a way.

The  Tangleroot Palace

A princess rejects the responsibility others put on her to marry a monstrous man and decides instead to run away to a magical forest to find a solution to her kingdom's problems or at the very least to avoid them.
This reminded me a lot of A court of Thornes and Roses series, particularly when it came to flawed, human parents, the importance placed on friendship and the stories we tell about ourselves to the world in order to protect what we love.
Once again I didn't really connect with the magic system but I liked the feminist spin on marriage and the heroine's quick wit.

Conclusions

I had never read anything from Marjorie Liu before apart from her Monstress series so I went into this book with high expectations but afraid I would be disappointed.
What I found were seven wonderful short stories, six of them headed by heroines, most of them following queer characters. No matter where or when, what these stories also had in common were that they were about love: unrequited, vengeful, romantic, familial or between friends and community and how that makes a difference in the world.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for this DRC.
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This book is Dark. Most short stories are pretty dark but these are just. Beyond dark. I should have guessed after Monstress, but this is somehow darker. Maybe because I understand what’s going on more than in the graphic novels? Some of the darkness gets lost in translation to pictures I think. These stories are quite good just. Need to read in small doses. And the images - often disturbing - stick with you no matter how you might wish to forget.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for providing an e-arc for review.
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4.5 fuck-yeah stars! (published June 15th!!!)

**Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
#TheTanglerootPalace #NetGalley

Pros
+ 6 of the 7 short stories are FREAKING AWESOME (4-4.5 stars)
+ features all different types of MC women who show strength and courage in different ways
+ lots of dark themes, body horror, malevolent magic, gore, and haunting atmosphere
+ so many great fairytale elements but done in a really creepy way
+ 1. Sympathy for the Bones: dark magic, grave digging, sweet sweet revenge (4 stars)
+ 2. The Briar and the Rose*: f/f feminist Sleeping Beauty retelling, body-snatching, swordswoman (4 stars)
+ 3. Call Her Savage: steampunk historical reshifting, mutations, submarines & divers (4.5 stars)
+ 5. Where the Heart Lives: ghostly sidhe woods, old and new love, mute love interest (4.5 stars)
+ 6. After the Blood: Amish vampires, gun-slinging MC, body horror, gore (4.5 stars)
+ 7. Tangleroot Palace: arranged marriage, ancient dangerous woods, subversive rescue (4 stars)

Cons
- 1 of the 7 short stories (4. The Last Dignity of Man) doesn't really fit and the collection probably would have been stronger without it (tonally different, less atmospheric, the only story featuring a male MC)
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This was a delight. I've only ever read the Monstress graphic novels by Liu, so it was a different experience to just read her words without any illustrations. The writing was great, as expected, and the stories were in turn horrifying and delightful. The one story based around Superman didn't appeal to me because I've just never liked anything to do with Superman. My favorite was the retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I adore fairy tales, and never, ever would've imagined a story like hers, and especially one with so much of the same themes as the original tale. A great collection of stories for fantasy fans.
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I am familiar with Marjorie Liu from the Monstress Graphic Novels (which is an incredible steampunk dark fantasy).  I was thrilled to be able to request The Tangleroot Palace.  This anthology is one of the best I've read.  It's dark, lush,.and magical.  I loved the little notes that Liu included at the end of each short story. These stories feature queer characters and person of color moving through love, grief, and identity.
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I received a free e-ARC from the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

[This review will be posted on my blog on 16 June 2021]

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

I had just finished volume five of Monstress when this collection of short stories became available to request on NetGalley, and I hit that request button faster than lightning. And I was not disappointed. 

Marjorie Liu is a phenomenal story teller. In this collection, featuring six short stories and a novella, she delivers her trademark horror/fantasy blend. Most, if not all, of these stories have been published previously in other anthologies, but they all share a chilling, eerie atmosphere, and a sense of grand worldbulding. These worlds she creates in these stories could easily be expanded on. I feel like, while we are only focusing on a single story, it is only one of many that could have been told. 
What I particularly love is that many of these are stories are about queer characters living their lives, albeit in strange and sometimes macabre circumstances. But they are the heroes (and sometimes the villains) of their own stories. 
I also really liked the addition of author's notes at the end of each story, tracing the themes and inspirations for each, along with other background information. 

I was so absorbed in reading that I didn't note content/trigger warnings for each story, so I'm just going to include some general ones: death, blood, violence, murder, immolation, war, animal death, slavery. I'd urge you to check out other reviews for more specific details if you need them. 

Sympathy for Bones: 5 stars
This was a brilliant story to start off the collection. It took a while to work out what was happening, but it was everything I love about Liu's writing: creepy, and a bit macabre. It's about a hoodoo apprentice and her mistress, who use bones of the dead to do magic. 

The Briar and the Rose: 5 stars
rep: Lesbian MC
This is a queer retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and it is something to behold. The guard of a body-stealing witch falls in love with the woman whose body has been stolen. 

Call Her Savage: 5 stars
In this story, a biracial Scottish-Chinese super soldier returns to China to save it from her ex-girlfriend. It also features magical crystal skulls that seem to like being sung to. 

The Last Dignity of Man: 2 stars
This was the only science-fiction story in the collection, and my least favourite. It's about a man called Lex Luther, who takes on the persona of his namesake, while also being the head of a company that is bioengineering giant worms. 

Where the Heart Lives: 5 stars
A family lives on the edge of a magical forest that is ruled by an immortal woman. But there are secrets and loss surrounding them all. 

After the Blood: 4 stars
In a post pandemic world, luddites have inherited the earth, so to speak. But they are intolerant of anything or anyone who is different, and the pandemic has changed some people in uncanny ways. 

The Tangleroot Palace: 4 stars
A princess runs away from an arranged marriage to go in search of her mother, who disappeared into the Tangleroot Forest many years ago. On the way she befriends a troupe of travelling actors with many interesting skills. 

On the whole, this was a wonderful collection, and I recommend it to fans of dark fantasy, with elements of horror.
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I know of Marjorie Liu from the Monstress graphic novel series. I love that series but it is very dark and intense. It’s really good though. I just pre-ordered volume 6! yay! haha. Anyways, I saw this one Netgalley and immediately requested it. I didn’t even know what it was about but I knew I wanted to read it. Look at the cover! This is an anthology with seven short stories told by Liu.

Knowing what I know about her Monstress series, I was not expecting a light and fluffy read. It gets dark and intense but she keeps you captivated with the fairytales and magic. These are very unique stories, where some are more intriguing than others, but she tells them so fluidly. She captures the world and makes you fall in love with the characters. I love how she ends most of her stories but you will be wanting more.

Sympathy for Bones – 4 stars

A great story about the lengths you would take for freedom. It was a great story to start with because it let me know how dark and haunting to expect some of these stories to be!

The Briar and the Rose– 5 stars

This is a sapphic Sleeping Beauty retelling. I loved how she twisted this and the whole story was just so beautifully done. This one pulled at the heartstrings!

Call Her Savage– 3.5 stars

I needed much more context. I think this would have been an amazing full novel. There were many things that I wanted to know more about and I think it would have helped me connect more to the ending. It was still interesting and I enjoyed it but I would have loved more.

The Last Dignity of Man– 2.5 stars

This was my least favorite of them all. It’s really gross. There are engineered worms that eat waste and it’s all around gross. We have Lex, who is trying to be like Lex Luthor, to find the hero that will love him. It just didn’t hit well for me. I was glad when this one was over.

Where the Heart Lives– 3 stars

This one was just “meh” for me. A women who is forced to leave her home and work for a witch in the woods. Liu did a great job with the fairytale atmosphere but the plot kind of left me wanting more.

After the Blood– 4 stars

Ahhhh.. a virus that wipes out humanity and now we have vampires and zombie-type creatures. WHAT! Too close to home. haha. She mentions that it was a bit weird to publish right now. Anyways, I did like this one. I love how the three stood up for each other. I like that we got a bit of a romance too!

The Tangleroot Palace– 4.5 stars

I loved all the fairytale/magical stories that Liu wrote in this series. This one I did feel like followed your typical runaway princess and some other things that I don’t want to give away. There isn’t anything wrong with that because I love that stuff. haha! I enjoyed this one but was surprised by how tame it felt compared to some of her other stories.

This is such a great anthology because I enjoyed almost all of these stories! It is my favorite one to date. So many of these stories are just so rich in detail and her beautiful prose. Some of these stories will stay with me. One of the things that I loved was that after each story, she would write a paragraph or so about what influenced it. It was a great addition and I wish more people would do that for their anthology short stories.

Overall, this was a great read and I highly recommend it. I will warn you that they can get dark and intense so just be aware of that. It’s not a light and fluffy read but you get a lot of the stories. Women are awesome. That is all. 🙂

** Receiving this e-ARC has in no way influenced my opinions! **
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