The Poison Eaters and Other Stories: Dark, gorgeous, emotional

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews YA Holly Black The Poison Eaters and Other StoriesThe Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

The first collection of short stories by author Holly Black, The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is dark, gorgeous, and emotionally compelling. Ranging from longer stories to short little character sketches, Black has created a handful of settings and characters that will live on in memory long after you close this slim volume. Holly Black manages to evoke an incredibly detailed world with a spare prose that conveys the static crackle of a remote video feed, the smell of a city bus in the summer, and the bitter taste of poison with equal clarity.

While there are no bad stories here, there are a few stand outs. “Coat of Stars” reads like a modern take on a Keats poem, with a bereaved young man encountering a fairy queen. “Ironside” is a chilling glimpse into the life of an elf who has to stay in the human lands because of her addiction to heroin. And “The Dog King,” a gripping story about shapeshifters, considers the animal nature that lies within all of us.

I highly recommend this collection for older young adults and adult readers. The subject matter here is not light, and neither is the prose, but Black manages to balance the depravity of modern society with small flashes of humor and the absurd which keeps The Poison Eaters from slipping into melancholy or the macabre. Highly recommended.

A note about the Advanced Review Copy that I recieved — it has a story listed in the table of contents that was supposed to be original to this volume, rather than collected from a different source. That story was not in my ARC. I hope it will be included in your copy of The Poison Eaters and Other Stories.


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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