George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have collected a nice batch of all-new stories from an all-star cast in Songs of Love and Death. The theme is “star-crossed lovers,” and as you might guess from the title, each tale is a love story, and many are death stories, too. Some are sad, some are sexy, and one or two are slightly sappy. Overall, I enjoyed the collection. Here’s what you’ll find in Songs of Love and Death:
- “Love Hurts” by Jim Butcher may be the story Harry Dresden’s fans have been waiting for because it looks like Harry and Murphy will finally get together… or will they?
- In “The Marrying Maid,” historical romance author Jo Beverley provides a Regency romance in which a court fop tries to seduce a practical spinster, but this time there’s a fairy legend that’s spurring him on.
- In “Rooftops” by Carrie Vaughn, a young playwright who’s nervous about her opening night is rescued by a mysterious masked superhero. She has a boyfriend, but she just can’t get that masked stranger off her mind.
- “Hurt Me” by M.L.N. Hanover is an excellently eerie haunted house story. One of the best in this collection.
- “Demon Lover” by historical fiction writer Cecelia Holland is an erotic fairy tale. Though it was obvious where this one was going, it was still entertaining.
- In “The Wayfarer’s Advice” by Melinda M. Snodgrass, the captain of an illicit spaceship rescues the heiress of an empire.
- I’m always a fan of Robin Hobb, so it’s not surprising that “Blue Boots” was one of my favorites in this collection. It takes place in Buck Town and tells the story of a kitchen maid who falls in love with a wandering minstrel.
- “The Thing About Cassandra” by Neil Gaiman is a strange story about a man who meets his imaginary girlfriend. This one was kind of mind-blowing, which means I liked it.
- “After the Blood” by Marjorie M. Liu involves a vampire trying to survive in a zombie-infested backwater Amish farm community. I couldn’t finish it.
- Jacqueline Carey fans will not want to miss “You, and You Alone” which takes place during that tragic scene in Kushiel’s Dart when Anafiel Delaunay is assassinated. As he lies dying, he reminisces about Edmée, Rolande, Isabel, and Alcuin and gives us a lot of backstory that has only been hinted at until now.
- In “His Wolf” by Lisa Tuttle, a new college professor falls in love with a drug dealer and his pet wolf. I had a hard time believing in that romance.
- Linnea Sinclair’s “Courting Trouble” is a fun space romp. The sweet romance in this story particularly touched me, but if I told you why, I’d be spoiling the plot.
- “The Demon Dancer” by Mary Jo Putney is about a Guardian who needs to stop a succubus who’s running wild in New York City. I didn’t like this one. The romance was icky, and some parts of the plot required a degree of suspension of disbelief that I couldn’t muster.
- “Under/Above the Water” by Tanith Lee is a beautiful mysterious legend about an ancient king’s unfaithful wife and their underwater kingdom.
- In “Kaskia” by Peter S. Beagle, an unhappy middle-aged man makes first contact with a beautiful alien on his new laptop computer. This story was fascinating and excellently written and reminds me why I keep thinking “I must read more Peter S. Beagle!”
- “Man in the Mirror” by Yasmine Galenorn is another haunted house story. I liked the premise, but the romance was hard to swallow.
- “A Leaf in the Wind of All Hallows” by Diana Gabaldon is a heart-wrenching story that her fans are sure to love since it’s linked to her popular OUTLANDER series. I really can’t wait to read that.
Brilliance Audio has a very good production of Songs of Love and Death which is read by a small cast of narrators. My only complaint is that Phil Gigante has only one female voice and it’s not suitable for the wide variety of women he portrays. He does a great job with male voices, though.
There were a few weak stories in Songs of Love and Death, but some excellent ones, too. Don’t miss the stories by M.L.N. Hanover, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, Jacqueline Carey, Tanith Lee, Peter S. Beagle, and Diana Gabaldon. Fans of the DRESDEN FILES should not miss Butcher’s story.