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Catherine Asaro, ed.

2004, February, NAL
Buy from Amazon.com (trade paperback)

Who recommends: Preeti, JW
Who discommends:

Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Alchemical Marriage by Mary Jo Putney
Stained Glass Heart by Catherine Asaro
Skin Deep by Deb Stover
The Trouble with Heroes by Jo Beverley
Shadows in the Wood by Jennifer Roberson

I had thought, approaching reading this anthology, that I'd immediately dive into Lois McMaster Bujold's "Winterfair Gifts." But my mood veered towards wanting to read Jo Beverley instead, which ended up being a good choice. Her gripping story, "The Trouble with Heroes, was about fairly recent colonists on a hospitable world being terrorized by deadly unseen entities. I've seen someone else point out that she seemed to be writing a metaphor for a war on terror. I wasn't as taken by the ending as the rest of the story, and didn't really find the stolid heroine (not unusual for a work by Beverley) all that appealing, but was hooked nonetheless. I liked the worldbuilding, the quietly heroic male lead, and the evocation of the difficult sacrifices of WWII.

Next up was Jennifer Roberson's Robin and Marian tale, "Shadows in the Wood, where the couple meet Merlin and manage to finish a job left undone in Merlin's time. It was nice seeing a married couple in love. I've said before that I'd love to see romance authors write "after they were married" stories of their couples for anthologies. Maybe it'll take fantasy authors to show the way. This was good although not memorable.

I was finally ready for Miles! Except it turns out the story was told from Armsman Roic's point of view. We see Miles' wedding preparation through the eyes of a household guard who is still a bit unsure of his place there. Many familiar characters from previous Vorkosigan books arrive as wedding guests. Roic becomes drawn to one of them and together they're instrumental in foiling a plot against Miles. "Winterfair Gifts" was my favorite story. I was completely engaged. It was terrific, with heart, wit, and insight.

Then on to Mary Jo Putney's "The Alchemical Marriage, which had an intriguing beginning--a weather mage is imprisoned in the Tower of London of a fantasy Elizabethan England--but made me wince at the obviousness of the romance. I figure MJP hasn't read the glut of fantasy and futuristic romances where characters having to mate or bond or whatever is crucial to saving someone's life or even the world. The story idea was promising, though, and I look forward to seeing more in this world.

Catherine Asaro's story, "Stained Glass Heart, was about young love and coming of age. The ages of the characters was a little freaky in light of the epilogue to the story, when Vyrl says he's nineteen and has had three kids, one of them a four-year-old. Maybe this is slightly better than pairings of 100 year olds with the young-uns found in other Asaros.

Stover's inclusion in the anthology was puzzling--she's a lightweight among the heavies--and I found her story unreadable. It didn't work for me as a romance, fantasy, or comedy. It's a variation on the familiar story of an angel who has to help his ex on earth move on before he can advance in heaven.

Bujold and Beverley were the standouts for me, but I thought the anthology as a whole well worth the time. Those of you who don't have inherent objections to reading short stories or novellas may agree.--Preeti (9 Feb 04)

I've read most of the stories in IRRESISTIBLE FORCES. The Stover one didn't interest me (didn't read it), and the Jennifer Roberson one didn't do much for me either. I loved the Bujold story (but would someone who wasn't a fan/reader get much out of it?), and quite enjoyed the Putney and Beverley stories (although would've preferred more relationship and less world-building). Also enjoyed the Asaro, but two sweet teenagers simply lack the sparks of her more memorable pairings.--JW (15 Jan 04)

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