Songs of Love and Death: Stories of star-crossed lovers

Songs of Love and Death Martin Dozoisfantasy anthology review George R.R. Martin Gardner Dozois Songs of Love and DeathSongs of Love and Death edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Songs of Love and Death is the third anthology that George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited together. Like Warriors and Songs of the Dying EarthSongs of Love and Death brings together some of the biggest names that SFF has to offer and they set these authors to work on a common theme.

Martin and Dozois offer a cross-genre anthology that ranges from Robin Hobb’s epic fantasy “Blue Boots,” which tells the story of a romance between a young serving girl and a silver-tongued minstrel, to Melinda M. Snodgrass’sspace opera “The Wayfarer’s Advice,” set in an intergalactic empire fully stocked with alien creatures and political strife. There’s a bit of everything here, which is perhaps why Jim Butcher’s hard-boiled urban fantasy detective Harry Dresden offers such a fitting start with “Love Hurts.”

However varied these entries may be, each of them can be loosely tied to “star-crossed lovers,” a theme that Martin and Dozois suggest can be found throughout world literature. If all love stories are somewhat recycled, the best entries here tweak the archetypes just enough to feel new. Here’s a challenge that Neil Gaiman excels at, and his submission, “The Thing About Cassandra,” is a standout tale of love and death. Cassandra is supposedly Stuart’s first love. She’s recently been contacting Stuart’s friends, perhaps trying to get in touch again. The thing is, Stuart made Cassandra up. “The Thing About Cassandra” is a testament to Gaiman’s cleverness, but others — like Cecelia Holland and Jacqueline Carey — take a more explicit approach to love.

Unfortunately, the price for these explicit details may be that many of these stories are surprisingly straightforward, particularly the many paranormal romances that are included. Of the paranormal stories, my favorite was M.L.N. Hanover’s “Hurt Me,” an unusual take on the single woman trapped in a haunted house. However, more stories seem to follow in the footsteps of Lisa Tuttle’s “His Wolf.” Tuttle’s contribution is a story about a man, nicknamed Wolfman, with a mystical connection to his wolf. Wolfman returns from the dead thanks to — well, how many guesses do we need?

Martin and Dozois have once again organized an impressive collection of authors around a compelling theme. These anthologies are rapidly becoming the “who’s who” of those authors writing under the SFF umbrella. If Songs of Love and Death strays a little too often into genre exercises and the realm of paranormal romance for my taste, it doesn’t change the fact that fantasy readers looking to branch out could hardly do better than to check out a Martin and Dozois anthology.

(2010) Publisher: In this star-studded cross-genre anthology, seventeen of the greatest modern authors of fantasy, science fiction, and romance explore the borderlands of their genres with brand-new tales of ill-fated love. From zombie-infested woods in a postapocalyptic America to faery-haunted rural fields in eighteenth-century England, from the kingdoms of high fantasy to the alien world of a galaxy-spanning empire, these are stories of lovers who must struggle against the forces of magic and fate. Award-winning, bestselling author Neil Gaiman demonstrates why he’s one of the hottest stars in literature today with “The Thing About Cassandra,” a subtle but chilling story of a man who meets an old girlfriend he had never expected to see. International blockbuster bestselling author Diana Gabaldon sends a World War II RAF pilot through a stone circle to the time of her Outlander series in “A Leaf on the Winds of All Hallows.” Torn from all he knows, Jerry MacKenzie determinedly survives hardship and danger, intent on his goal of returning home to his wife and baby — no matter the cost. New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher presents “Love Hurts,” in which Harry Dresden takes on one of his deadliest adversaries and in the process is forced to confront the secret desires of his own heart. Just the smallest sampling promises unearthly delights, but look also for stories by New York Times bestselling romance authors Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, and by such legends of the fantasy genre as Peter S. Beagle and Tanith Lee, as well as many other popular and beloved writers, including Marjorie M. Liu, Jacqueline Carey, Carrie Vaughn, and Robin Hobb. This exquisite anthology, crafted by the peerless editing team of George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is sure to leave you under its spell. Discover the many realms of the heart with this extraordinary cast of acclaimed authors: PETER S. BEAGLE, JO BEVERLEY, JIM BUTCHER, JACQUELINE CAREY, DIANA GABALDON, NEIL GAIMAN, YASMINE GALENORN, M.L.N. HANOVER, ROBIN HOBB, CECELIA HOLLAND, TANITH LEE, MARJORIE M. LIU, MARY JO PUTNEY, LINNEA SINCLAIR, MELINDA SNODGRASS, LISA TUTTLE, CARRIE VAUGHN.

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RYAN SKARDAL, with us since September 2010, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

View all posts by Ryan Skardal


  1. Ooo, I was hoping for high marks on this one. I’ll still give it a shot though. :) I do like many of the authors in here. Thanks for the review.

  2. I’m still chomping at the bit for it myself. I love a lot of the authors in here, and I have a higher paranormal romance tolerance than some. ;)

  3. lol. Great Kelly. Glad to hear you’re looking forward to the book still too. :) But the one nice thing with anthologies is if the romance gets to deep, you can always set the book down and come back later to a new story. You don’t have to read it straight through. :)

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