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George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois – Songs of Love and Death

February 11, 2011

15. Songs of Love & Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (2010)

Length: 468 pages

Genre: Short Stories, Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction, a wee bit of Historical Fiction

Started: 23 January 2011
Finished: 30 January 2011

Where did it come from? Christmas present from my parents.
Why do I have it? I first heard about it in a Simon & Schuster newsletter, and instantly wanted it. Romance, fantasy, and a new Diana Gabaldon story? Hells yeah!
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 December 2010.

True love ne’er did
run smooth, especially with
fairy folk or ghosts.

Overall Review: Love, love, love! Songs of Love & Death is an anthology of short stories of star-crossed or otherwise impossible love, stories that exist on the borderland between romance and speculative fiction. This book was so good that I am even willing to forgo the usual grumbling about how I really wish George R. R. Martin would stop editing anthologies and just buckle down and publish the rest of the damn Song of Ice and Fire books already. (Well, okay, maybe a *little* grumbling.) But as I said, if all of his recent anthologies are as good as this one was, it makes me almost willing to forgive him the time spent.

In most anthologies, there are a few stories I love, a lot of stories I like, and a few stories that do absolutely nothing for me at all. Songs of Love & Death, on the other hand, was almost shocking in how consistently great the stories were. Even my least favorite stories were still entertaining and fun to read. The stories run the gamut of speculative fiction – historical and alternate-world fantasy, space opera, ghost-story thriller, to name a few – and the love stories range from sweet to twistedly dark, from happy to bittersweet to tragic. But I enjoyed the heck out of all of them, and came away with a number of new authors I want to try.

One note: A lot of people will want to pick this collection up for Diana Gabaldon’s short story, and for Outlander fans, it’s well worth it. However, I thought it was the one story in this collection that relied too heavily on the reader’s familiarity with the author’s previous work. The other stories that are set in an established series (Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, etc.) do an excellent job of bringing an unfamiliar reader (namely, me) into their world, but Gabaldon’s so cagey about a lot of things that large parts of the story will lose their impact for people who aren’t already familiar with the characters. Not that that should deter non-Outlander fans from reading this book, since there are plenty of other fantastic stories that stand alone just fine. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Story Summaries:
Love Hurts by Jim Butcher. Wizard Harry Dresden and his police detective partner have to track down a killer who is targeting young couples in love.

The Marrying Maid by Jo Beverly. The young Viscount Loxsleigh must find and marry his destined bride before his 25th birthday, or else a terrible curse will befall him and his family. However, the chosen young lady – one who is far beneath his station in life – wants nothing to do with him. One of my favorites in the collection.

Rooftops by Carrie Vaughn. A playwright with an absentee boyfriend is rescued from a robbery attempt by a masked superhero.

Hurt Me by M. L. N. Hanover. The neighbors are worried about the woman who’s moved in next door, as her house haunted by a power that hates women, but she refuses to back down and move away.

Demon Lover by Cecelia Holland. A homely village girl flees from a stuttering suitor into a wizard’s realm of illusion, where she is the chosen consort of the wizard… but every bit of beauty has its own terrible price.

The Wayfarer’s Advice by Melinda M. Snodgrass. A mercenary ship rescues an Imperial princess from the wreckage of a terrible planetary battle – a princess who happens to be the captain’s ex-lover, and who also happens to be tired of the demands of Imperial politics.

Blue Boots by Robin Hobb. An orphan kitchen girl falls in love with a court bard, despite warnings that bards never settle down with one person, and are forever at the beck and call of their Royal Highnesses.

The Thing about Cassandra by Neil Gaiman. Stuart’s friends keep telling him that they’ve run into his high-school girlfriend Cassandra, and how the two of them should really get back together. The only problem? Stuart made Cassandra up. Very Gaiman-ish.

After the Blood by Marjorie M. Liu. In a post-apocalyptic world in which the Big Death turned the infected into zombpires, a young woman living in Amish country must face the fact that her lover’s family disapproves of their relationship – and of what their son has become.

You, and You Alone by Jacqueline Carey. A young nobleman falls in love with a prince of the realm, but can their relationship survive a lifetime of courtly schemes and plots? Another one of my favorites; just beautiful.

His Wolf by Lisa Tuttle. A college professor falls for a mysterious young man with a beautiful but equally mysterious wolf as a pet. Probably my least favorite, since I’m not crazy about romances in which people reorganize their entire lives for someone they’ve known for a few hours because they’re so deeply in love.

Courting Trouble by Linnea Sinclair. A spaceship captain’s cargo gets impounded, and she realizes she’s caught in a web of intrigue… a web that may be spun by her ex-best friend. The story was good, but was a little bit hampered by the “give everything a Weird Name so that they’ll know that it’s sci-fi” style of the writing.

The Demon Dancer by Mary Jo Putney. A young magician Guardian and his much older mentor have to track down a succubus that’s preying on New York City’s population.

Under/Above the Water by Tanith Lee. A looping, dream-like story about missing one’s true love, and the chance to try again in the next life, generations later. Ordinarily the writing style of this story would have annoyed me, but something about it held me completely spellbound.

Kaskia by Peter S. Beagle. A man buys a new computer that has some impressive features – like the ability to communicate with an alien intelligence. One of the weaker stories, I thought. Dryly funny, it but didn’t have enough of a romance angle to it for my tastes.

Man in the Mirror by Yasmine Galenorn. A woman moves into a seemingly abandoned house, only to find out that it’s not quite so abandoned after all. This one did the best with the whole “star-crossed” angle, I thought.

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon. A WWII RAF fighter pilot crashes his plane during a test flight over Northumbria, and finds himself not only miles but centuries from home, and from the woman he loves.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The earliest reference we can find for the phrase “star-crossed lovers” traces it to 1595, attributing it to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy about the doomed romance that blossoms between a young man and a young woman on the brawling streets of Verona, a romance that is destined to fail because the families they come from are locked in a deadly feud: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, / a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 39: “That lady was in alt at Loxsleigh’s high station and had spent the morning making inquiries of her friends, which also allowed her to spread the word about her interesting new acquaintance.” – high in pitch; the first octave above the treble staff.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011 11:35 am

    This looks really good and I love the cover! Off to see if I can get a copy. :)

    • February 11, 2011 12:14 pm

      Kailana – Isn’t the cover gorgeous? It’s even prettier in person. I hope you love it (the cover, and the book too!) as much as I did!

  2. February 11, 2011 1:47 pm

    Sounds like the perfect book for Valentine’s weekend!

    • February 17, 2011 9:26 am

      bermudaonion – I didn’t even think about that, but you’re right! Fortuitous bit of timing, that.

  3. February 12, 2011 8:28 pm

    I am absolutely adding this to my want list.

    • February 17, 2011 9:27 am

      Christina – I hope you’re able to lay hands on a copy, and that it helps you get over your short story aversion!

  4. February 13, 2011 11:26 am

    I’ve seen a lot of good reviews for this. It’s already on my wish list. This might be a good one for me to listen to… have to see if it’s available in audio book.

    • February 17, 2011 9:28 am

      Leslie – This would be good on audio, especially with different narrators reading each story, but I’m not sure it’s available (yet?), which is a shame.

      • February 17, 2011 11:06 am

        Nope, I checked and it’s not available in audio. I’m going to keep checking for it though.


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  2. Diana Gabaldon – Written In My Own Heart’s Blood | Fyrefly's Book Blog
  3. Neil Gaiman – Trigger Warning | Fyrefly's Book Blog

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