Cover Image: The Tangleroot Palace

The Tangleroot Palace

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Member Reviews

This is a collection of short stories by this author that I believe have previously been published. What makes this slightly different though is the simple fact that at the end of each one the author gives her thoughts and background about just why each story was written. I have to say this actually added greatly to my enjoyment and overall appreciation.
I will admit these are very dark stories, quite creepy and bloodthirsty too. As I write we are in the midst of a pandemic and there's a story here about the aftermath of such a cataclysmic event and it really gave me pause. Not only depressing vibes here though as there's a lot of love in these stories although perhaps sometimes you do have to think outside the usual box. Some of these characters are truly tortured souls so prepare yourself to be disgusted, sickened and yet I was very entertained so perhaps I myself am not all sweetness and light ? Whatever the case I do recommend this book with its insights and applaud the author for being unafraid to write unique fiction.
This is a voluntary take of an advanced copy and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
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I clearly didn't pay close enough attention to the description, because I didn't realize this was a collection of short stories.   Short stories aren't usually my jam, but these were really good.  I'm glad I read outside of my norm!
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Liu's prose is lush and atmospheric, without feeling excessively wordy. The styles, while generally on the dark side of fantasy, range from modern fairy tales to gothic horror to steampunk to urban fantasy. It's an eclectic combination, to be sure, but it showcases Liu's excellent range as a writer. There were stories I enjoyed more than others, but all were memorable and exceptional.

The stories in this collection explore themes of claiming personal autonomy and freedom: freedom to love as one wishes, freedom to choose one's own destiny, freedom to control one's own body, and freedom to be oneself. As is fitting for those themes, there are multiple stories with queer characters. Unsurprisingly, these stories go to some dark places along the way. One story particularly worth mentioning in this regard is "The Briar and the Rose," in which the character Rose is possessed by a sorceress who uses her body to become a courtesan, as both part of the sorceress's quest for power and the sorceress's malicious desire to use Rose's body in ways that Rose does not want. Anguish over what the sorceress is doing with her body without consent makes Rose suicidal. Even so, I thought Liu handled these subjects and themes thoughtfully. While she doesn't shy away from the full implications of the scenarios she creates in her stories, they're not graphic and I think she addresses them well. If that story might be triggering for you, I recommend skipping it, though I think it is a very good story.

These are previously published stories, but the author notes that she took the opportunity to revise them for this collection. Having not read the original versions, I can't say how much they've changed for this volume. A couple of these stories were also set in the world of Liu's Dirk and Steele series; fortunately for those of us who haven't read those books, these stories are standalone and I had no trouble following them or connecting to the characters.

I recommend this collection if you're looking for gorgeous prose, queer feminist fantasy and horror, and fascinating world building. At only eight stories (including a novella), it is a little on the short side, but it makes up for that in quality.
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Some people saw the author, the cover, and immediately thought it was another graphic novel like Monstress. While the cover was done by the same artist, this is actually a collection of short stories by Marjorie Liu, written by her at different times of her career.

As with all collections like this, some stories are going to be better than others. There are 7 total and I personally enjoyed 4 of them, all of which turned out to have similar dark fairytale vibes. Those were Sympathy for the Bones, The Briar and the Rose, Where the Heart Lives, Tangleroot Palace. These stories are creepy, atmospheric, feature reimagined old tales, hoodoo dolls, magical woods, and dangerous witches.

The other 3 stories didn't work for me for different reasons.

Call Her Savage didn't leave any impression on me and I immediately forgot about it the next day. Nothing interesting happened, and I didn't care or was interested in the characters or the world.

The Last Dignity of Man was absolutely atrocious and disgusting. The protagonist was the most unbelievable character I've ever seen. Basically he was obsessed with comics and tried to look like Lex Luthor because that made him believe that because of that a Superman should also exist and would come one day and love him. WHAT? Also the plot was so vomit inducing and full of worms, human feces, and blood. Don't eat or even drink while reading it. I would actually just advise to skip this story.

After the Blood was kind of a post-apocalyptic tale about the forest soaking up some virus and turning people into vampires, zombies and something else. I think? Honestly I'm not sure what happens here because it was painfully vague the whole time.

Overall I would recommend checking out this collection just for the 4 aforementioned fairytale stories.
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The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu is a collection of six short stories and a novella. Each story is magical, fascinating, deeply engaging, and beautifully written. 

1.Sympathy for the Bones:

It is a creepy and haunting story about witches, hoodoo and dark magic. 

2.The Briar and the Rose:

It is a sapphic retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Briar, a duelist and personal guard of a mysterious woman Carmela, finds herself falling in love with Rose, whose body is possessed by a witch.

3.Call Her Savage:

This one is about a woman named Xing MacNamara, who has superhuman powers. Xing comes back from her solitary life to help fight a war between China and England. I didn't like this one very much. It was a bit confusing.

4.The Last Dignity of Man:

This one is about a wealthy biotech genius Alexander Lutheran, who is obsessed over Superman and Lex Luthor. This story gives superhero movie vibes; a mad scientist and an experiment went wrong. 

5.Where The Heart Lives:

It is about a young woman forced to work in a mysterious house. Something wicked lurks in the forest near the house, and everything is not what it seems. It is a sweet and magical story.

6.After The Blood:

After the Blood is a post-apocalyptic/pandemic story. It has monsters, vampires, and mysterious characters. This one is my favorite of all. I wish it was a novel and not a short story. I need more of this one!

7.Tangleroot Palace:

Tangleroot Palace is a novella about a princess named Sally who runs away prior to her marriage to a notorious warlord. To find help, Sally decides to enter the Tangleroot forest, a cursed and dangerous wood ruled by an evil queen. It has romance, magic, and witches.  This one is my second favorite.

Overall, The Tangleroot Palace will take the readers on an enchanting, haunting, and magical adventure. It has fascinating storylines, strong female characters,and  magical elements. I very much enjoyed all the stories. I am definitely going to reread them. 

 Highly recommend!! 

Thank you, NetGalley  and  Tachyon publication for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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4.5 stars rounded up

The Tangleroot Palace was just as good as I hoped it would be. It is a lush, darkly magical collection of short fiction from the creator of Monstress, including the titular Tangleroot Palace as a full-length novella. I loved all of them and was completely swept away. It was also cool because Liu includes brief notes at the end of each tale discussing what it was originally written for and when, which I found to be fascinating.

Sympathy for the Bones features a young woman forced to learn dark magic from the woman who took her in decides she has had enough and will use that dark magic to her own advantage.

In The Briar and the Rose we get a sapphic reimagining of Sleeping Beauty that draws on the fact that the original story involved sexual assault while the young woman was sleeping. In this version, it becomes a story of possession where a witch has taken over the body of a beautiful young woman and the only person who notices is a female bodyguard.

Call Her Savage is like steampunk meets monstrous bioengineering in East Asia.

The Last Dignity of Man is about a wealthy, young, gay biotech genius who fantasizes about being Lex Luthor while carrying out disturbing projects on behalf of the government. It's an interesting reimagining that carries a surprising amount of emotional weight.

Where the Heart Lives is the first of three stories about dark secrets living deep in the woods. This one is about a young woman forced to leave home and live with a woman everyone thinks is a witch in the middle of a haunted forest.

After the Blood is a post-apocalyptic survival story with vampires and zombies where Amish people now hold power because they know how to survive without modernity.

Lastly, The Tangleroot Palace is about a down to earth princess resisting an arranged marriage by running away to the dark and dangerous woods in search of help.

I very much enjoyed all of the stories and would recommend checking out the collection if it sounds up your alley. They often feature queer characters, or characters of color, or women who are not satisfied with the lives they are supposed to live. They are stories about love, death, grief, violence, and identity. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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I requested this ARC from Netgalley because I am such a huge fan of Marjorie Liu's Monstress series and I had never picked up any of her prose writing before. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it was exactly what I was looking for from this little collection of stories. Even though I definitely preferred certain stories to others, I think there was only one of these stories that I wasn't super enamored with. Which is saying something!

But I loved the overall voice and style of this collection and I really fell in love with the author's writing style. Monstress is such a wonderful series, but I'll admit part of why I love it so much is the illustrations...this collection proved to me that Marjorie's writing is strong enough to stand on its own. She has such a way with prose and I loved how she built these worlds in such a short amount of words. As someone who's trying to write their own novel, I found a whole new appreciation for that sort of thing. 

This collection was queer and magical and strange, and I found myself wishing more of these stories were full books! It was really cool hearing the short commentary after each story to know where the author's head was when she was writing these. I think a lot of people underestimate the power of a good short story, and this will definitely stand as one of my favorite collections.
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3.25 stars

This short story anthology is one of the most interesting books I have read. I do not know if I have ever read one that made me experience such a range of emotions. There were a few that I absolutely loved and some that didn't really capture my interest as much. That being said, a few of these are an absolute must read!

Sympathy for the Bones: 3.5 stars
This was the perfect story with which to start this anthology. Liu's whimsical writing sets the tone and the morbid twists are wonderful glimpses of what is to come. In fact, the moment I read the imagery found on page one, I thought I would absolutely love this because I absolutely love pretty but purposeful language. Although I did enjoy this (a lot) it wasn't my favorite mostly because of the confusing ending. Despite this, I have to give points for the voodoo themed story. I do not think I have ever read one. The parallelism that is utilised to move along morals was subtle but showed the influence of environment on our lives! I also love myself a good revenge story :)

The Briar and the Rose: 4 stars
A fairytale exactly like I like it (I wish the titular story was more like this one). One of my favorite genres(?) is retellings: I eat them up. Luckily for me, this was a Sleeping Beauty sapphic retelling. Liu creates a magical atmosphere where The Duelist and Carmela and Rose live. It works as a short story because it utilises time jumps, repetition, a character focus, and an ethereal fantasy element to move the story along. Once again I was a bit confused by the ending, but this time I didn't mind it as much because I already understood the ethereal nature of the story and it didn't pull me out of the text. Also the sprinkle of commentary was great.

Call Her Savage: 2.75 stars
This is a steampunk alternate history story about a woman named Xing. I thought this story was just below "good". The reason for this is because, unlike The Briar and the Rose, I do not think it worked well as a short story. This should have been a full length novel. There is much more that was needed to be elaborated on and wasn't. The ending also required an emotional connection and deeper understanding that just wasn't there because of the lack of context and word count. If the author ever makes this into a feature length novel, I'll gladly read it though!

The Last Dignity of Man: 4.75 stars
This is my FAVORITE short story I have ever read. I love superheroes. Though I do consider myself more of a Marvel fan than DC, I absolutely loved the relation between escapism and mental health and self-projecting onto heroes and villains. It is a masterful story. Fits perfectly into the constraints because we get context from setting clues and the way that Alexander Lutheran thinks. It has a bittersweet ending that will stay with me for a long time. Cannot recommend this enough. (Be sure to push through the first page or so, the beginning is a bit weird).

Where the Heart Lives: 3 stars
This is apparently a prequel to a series called Dirk & Steele, maybe I'll check it out now because this story definitely made me intrigued. Unfortunately, I kind of wished that this would have been a bit longer just like Call Her Savage because there was some fleshing out of characters that should have happened and the Fae aspect was a bit rushed. Personally, I don't think this would have been enough for a novel, per se, but rather a novella. Majorie Liu really shows her mastery of creating a haunting tone in this short story, even though I already praised this. The haunting forest shone here and Lucy was a heart-warming protagonist.

After the Blood: 2 stars
The weakest short story in this collection. Amish vampires in a post-plague world where people live in small enclaves does sound very interesting, but I felt like it was a bit too long. Seriously, we could have given these pages to some of the other stories! The themes about morality were being point-blank fed to you and I just didn't really care. Maybe I would if I read Dirk & Steele, but alas I haven't. It was fine, I didn't exactly dislike it. ... and it had cats.

Tangleroot Palace: 2.5 stars
The titular short story of this anthology did disappoint me a little bit, I can't lie. It was written as a fairytale, but in the way that I do not like. Liu plays with the runaway princess trope where the main character Sally refuses to marry the malignant Warlord. To escape her fate, she tries to enter the Tangleroot Forest, but things do not go exactly as planned. First off, the magic was interpolated with the story in a peculiar way: >the author didn't seem to be able to make up her mind if she wants to go all in with the fantasy aspects or if she wants to focus more on the plot. In my opinion it should have been either focus on the realism, but make it magical, or go all in with the fantasy. The twist is obvious from the moment Sally encounters a certain other character so I wasn't exaclty shocked by the ending. Again, I'm not saying this is a bad short story, it is fine, but I kind of hoped it would be something more. Maybe I just didn't understand this.

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories has been a ride with enormous highs and decent lows. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this collection overall. If anything, you truly must read The Last Dignity of Man!
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Marjorie Liu is one of my favorites. Her characters and worlds are beautiful and dark, sensual and mysterious. This is nothing short of gorgeous.
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When I saw there was a new book by Marjorie Liu, I KNEW I had to get my hands on it! I'm a HUGE fan of her Monstress comic series, so I'm definitely in the target audience for her kind of storytelling. I was a little surprised to realize that The Tangleroot Palace was a collection of short stories and not a single story, but that just meant I got to sample more of her stories. What a wonderful collection of explorations here - from the expected fantasy fairytales to apocalyptic sci-fi adventures. As with any short story anthology, I liked some stories more than others. The titular piece was a longer chunk -- and saved for the very end -- and it was one of my favorites for sure. Although I almost wish it had gotten more attention, because I would have enjoyed reading this as a full-length novel (or novella). I think my favorite story in the whole book was The Briar and The Rose, because it was so full of the intrigue, secrets, and deep relationships I love to experience in books. One thing I really appreciate about this whole volume was the bit of commentary about each story from the author, giving you insight into the prompt for the story and how she approached that to create a very unique interpretation that was all her own. This was a really fun collection of stories I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy short stories!
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This is a solid collection of short stories that range from post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, dark fairy tales, and near-future science fiction. As a fan of Monstress, I knew I had to pick this collection up, and wow I am so glad I did. Each story feels unique and gripping, and I quickly was immersed in each different setting. Definitely recommended if you enjoy short story collections, the eldritch artistry of Monstress, or you're in the mood for some darker SFF stories.
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Summary:
This is a collection of short stories spanning 8 years by one of the creators of the hit Image comic “Monstress”. If you have read ‘Monstress’, you will be familiar with the overall darker tone of this book. There are 7 short stories in total: ‘Sympathy for the Bones’, ‘The Briar and the Rose’, ‘Call her Savage’, ‘The Last Dignity of Man’, ‘Where the Heart Lives’, ’After the Blood’, and ‘Tangleroot Palace’.

Positives:
+ I really enjoyed the intro at the beginning of the book and the subsequent explanations after each short story. The ones after the stories were particularly informative; telling you where they were anthologized and what the story meant to the author. It was also nice to read what the stories were based off of as well; it means I could try and see if i picked up on that inspiration, or the story was giving me the same feeling. 
+ The stories all had wonderfully distinct voices and tones. I really enjoyed that they were all over the place in terms of time periods and genre. Each and every one felt very individual. 

Negatives:
- I was sad that there wasn’t more to “Tangleroot Palace”.

Final Thoughts:
Post-apocalyptic beasties, enchanted forests, traveling troupes, and Hoodoo magic - so many neat and varied themes and ideas all under the cover of one book! This collection of short stories puts me in mind of the original ‘Grimm Fairy Tales’ or Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories - kinda dark, definitely twisty, not exactly happy endings but certainly leaves you pondering. Being a fan of the ‘Monstress’ comic series, I was not disappointed. My favorite short stories in the book had to probably be the fairy tale reimagining's (or the ones that seemed most like fairy tales); “Tangleroot Palace” and “The Briar and the Rose”. I am not the biggest fan of collected short  stories, but I am interested in seeing if Marjorie Liu writes any other full length novels; many of the stories in the book would be an amazing snippet into a larger story/world.
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I've never read anything by Marjorie Liu before but now I'm kind of a fan of her writing. This short story collection, featuring a novella that's the titular story of this book, was stellar. Simply stunning. All of them in their own way. The writing was often lyrically crafted, with poetic prose that'll take your breath away. The characters are memorable and each story become more page-turner than the next. My top three favorites were SYMPATHY FOR BONES, THE BRIAR AND THE ROSE, and WHERE THE HEART LIVES. Would heartily recommend this collection.

Thank you, NetGalley and Tachyon Publication, for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Atmospheric, inventive, and very creepy, these short stories are great for anyone who enjoys fairy tales, but even more so, enjoys deconstructions of fairy tales. While the specific settings and stories are all unique, there is a clear writing style and in most, a strong and well-developed heroine. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this set of stories!
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This is my first foray into Liu’s work (Saga sits, frowningly, on my shelf unread) and while I can’t say I liked all the stories in this collection, the ideas presented and the worlds created were so incredibly unique and bizarre that I’m now very interested in her other works. I usually review anthologies as a whole because individually reviewing 10+ stories, some merely a couple pages, is difficult. The Tangleroot Palace only has seven stories, all of which nicely fleshed out and ‘full’, so I’ll review these independently.

Sympathy for the Bones – 4/5

A creepy, Appalachian(?) inspired story about a young girl trained by her grandmother to kill people through voodoo dolls. I enjoyed the overall vibe and MC’s determination to free herself from this vicious cycle of grandmother indoctrinating granddaughter

The Briar and the Rose – 5/5

A sapphic sleeping beauty retelling, told from the perspective of the beefy sapphic duelist. Big sword lesbian/book lesbian vibes and overall very cute

Call Her Savage – 2.5/5

A ragged old superhero called to duty one last time, set in an alt-history backdrop where China has colonized the West Coast of America and losing a war to the Brits. There’s a lot of moving parts here and I can see what Liu is trying to do, but this is one of those, would work better as a novella or full length novel stories

The Last Dignity of Man – 5/5

SadGay™ wannabe Lex Luthor slowly learns to let go of his childhood comic book ideals and learn that he doesn’t need a Clark Kent to be happy. My favorite of the entire collection. CW for graphic descriptions of worms

Where the Heart Lives – 3/5

A Forest with a Secret story. The concept was interesting but I wasn’t really engaged with any of the characters

After the Blood – 2.5/5

There were a lot of moving parts and I didn’t understand what Liu was trying to do. Post-apocalyptic, people with superpowers hiding from those without, the Amish are involved in some form? Apparently this is a prequel to one of Liu’s other stories, which is probably why I didn’t understand it.

The Tangleroot Palace – 2/5

I think this is a very loose interpretation of a Beauty and the Beast retelling, where a young princess, forced to marry a feared Warlord runs away to a forest to do….stuff? Just didn’t like this story in general.

Overall, I rate this collection a 3.5/5. A lot of interesting concepts and I adored The Briar and the Rose and Where the Heart Lives but the rest of the collection was a miss for me.

Review to be posted on my blog 31 May 2021
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A stunning collection of weird, fantastical, uplifting and thought-provoking short fiction from the author of Monstress. Not a graphic novel, please note, but absolutely worth a read if you like the authors work or short SFF fic in general.
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Inventive and transportive, magical and haunting, The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of seven unique short stories written with Liu’s beautifully flowing prose. Each story is the perfect length to let you revel in the intriguing worlds she creates, yet leaves you wanting more as well. From hoodoo dolls to supervillains to vampires, every story is unique and captivating, many reading like fairy tales or twisting regular tropes into new shapes. Honestly, I think this is one of the strongest anthologies I’ve read yet, my overall rating for it sitting at 3.64 stars.

Sympathy for the Bones: I absolutely loved this one, so perfectly creepy and dark as it is. It’s written well, mystery sown in its words—not revealing too much yet affecting all the same. The story slowly unraveled around me as I took in the circumstances of the protagonist’s stolen life and the work she did. In essence, this is about freedom and taking your life into your own hands when it was destined for something else, and both the literal and metaphorical depictions of this through the use of hoodoo dolls was brilliant.

The Briar and the Rose: A twist on the tale of Sleeping Beauty, this was darker than I expected it to be, but I loved it. I adored the (sapphic) romance that formed, where the sheer power of hope and love they had for each other was so wonderful to see. The villain of the story, a body-stealing witch hungering for power, was absolutely terrifying but well-crafted. As the author wrote, this is a “tale about women, and the power of women, and how women save each other and themselves through sisterhood and love.” 

Call Her Savage: First of all, I want a full novel set in this world immediately, because the alternate China-Britain politics of it are so fascinating and I so badly want to see them explored more. Second, this story was just so cool. It stars a soldier who was accidentally born superhuman and raised as a weapon her whole life, following her life after war brings her trauma and changes the way she views herself and morality. I don’t want to say much, but the way this explored betrayal really appealed to me and had me going a little feral.

The Last Dignity of Man: This story is kind of hilarious because this man is literally trying to be Lex Luthor while bioengineering giant worms. And honestly… that’s kind of why it didn’t fully work for me, because it’s absolutely wild and not all the parts clicked together. I really love the idea, someone who attempts to emulate a villain in hopes that a countering hero exists—and loves him—but it wasn’t executed as well as I wanted, especially with the giant waste-eating worms. But I think what is most compelling about this story is the feeling of loneliness that permeates it; it feels so real and tangible.

Where the Heart Lives: I loved so much of what was going on in this story—particularly the setting (an immortal woman in the form of a forest who takes people) and the themes (finding love and family when you have never been familiar with what those are). This truly reads like a fairy tale, with that whimsical whirlwind adventure feel to it. However, something about it was a bit eh for me and the story didn’t hit me as hard as the others did.

After the Blood: I don’t have much to say about this one, because I didn’t really care about anything that happened. This story is about humans who became vampires after a virus took out 80% of the world’s population. I honestly was confused throughout the story, and the only part that interested me was what happened at the end.

The Tangleroot Palace: The titular novella of this collection, and my favorite, this takes the typical tale of a princess running away from home and an unwanted arranged marriage, and transforms it into a fascinating, magical story about illusions and agency. This was a story that slowly grew on me more and more as I kept reading, not fully invested at first but completely in love by the end. In the beginning, I was a little off-put by the romance and how insta-lovey it was, but then the end came and I became absolutely enamored by it, particularly with how I thought it subverted a typical trope. The setting, a magical forest ruled by an imprisoned woman, also grew in its intrigue over the course of the story. This story just has such a fascinating exploration of illusions and truth and how the lines can be blurred to work for or against someone, as well as a feminist twist to the usual choiceless princess who cannot save herself, and it was the perfect choice to end the anthology.

If it wasn’t already clear, it was truly a joy to read this collection of short stories. Liu’s lush settings allows her to play with so many interesting themes and tropes, and I think that is why this is the first collection where I’ve loved almost every single story. If you want fresh, fairytale-like takes on fantasy with powerful magic and women, told through gorgeous writing and set in enthralling worlds, you will find everything you’re looking for within these pages.
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Hints of McKillip in this often feminist, character-focused collection of stories. I'd read the first Monstress book some time ago and it wasn't really my cup of tea, so I'm glad to find that this was much more type of thing. Highlight was definitely the title novella, The Tangleroot Palace, but none of the stories really disappointed me.

They have lots of strong female characters, beautiful prose (not flowery or anything, just... imaginative, I suppose). The stories are often inspired by fairytales and, for some reason, frequently set near or around forests.

Most of them are bite-sized explorations of love, storytelling, magic and independence. Solid debut!
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I'm only familiar with Monstress in passing, but Black Widow: The Name of the Rose is one of my favorite comic runs, so I jumped on the chance to read this anthology by Marjorie Liu. This is a wonderful collection of stories ranging the gamut of speculative fiction genres - it includes everything from alternative history to fairy tale retellings to post-apocalyptic zombie vampires. My personal favorite stories were "Sympathy for the Bones", a story set in Appalachia involving folk magic and slow revenge in a bid for freedom, and "The Last Dignity of Man", about a socially awkward billionaire involved in biological engineering gone wrong. Liu's prose shines when she writes about the otherworldly, especially in her fae-based/inspired stories; her sense of setting is impeccable. Highly recommended.
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A highly intriguing and gorgeously rendered collection of short fiction, all themed around concepts of owning oneself and claiming one's place in the world, particularly as a woman.
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