Title: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Author: Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (Editors)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: June 26th 2018
Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.
Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.
Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.
A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.
From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
When I saw the blurb for A Thousand Beginnings and Endings I knew I just had to read it; fifteen authors retellings myths and fairytales from East and South Asia this book practically had my name written all over it. Anthologies have always been a little hit or miss for me, and the last one I picked up was a major disappointment but luckily this one was another hit.
Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi
Roshani Chokshi is a favourite author of mine so when I saw her name attached to this anthology I couldn’t wait to read her contribution and I knew I’d love her short story. Forbidden Fruit is a retelling of the myth of Maria Makiling and it read like a classic fairytale, something I would have grown up with as a child. Like everything Roshani Chokshi has written it was a beautiful story.
Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong
I haven’t read anything else by Alyssa Wong before but after Olivia’s Table I will definitely be checking out more of her work. While Olivia works tirelessly cooking for the Hungry Ghost Festival she is also dealing with her own ghosts; thinking back to her past years at the festival and dealing with her grief over her mother’s recent death. For such a short story it packs a lot of emotion.
Steel Skin by Lori M. Lee
It took me a little while to get into this story. I love that Lori M. Lee chose to write a sci-fi piece, The Lunar Chronicles is a favourite series of mine and it’s a sci-fi fairytale retelling, but after two stories more based in the fantasy genre it was a little disjointing going into Steel Skin. This felt very much like a prologue to another piece, not in a bad way just in that I’d love to read more of Yer’s story.
Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra
This story confused me a little, and I feel like I could have benefitted from it being a little longer, but I still quite enjoyed it mainly because of the twist at the ending. That being said I found one of the characters a little creepy, when the twist was revealed it made sense but beforehand he struck me as a little stalker-y, boarding on possible one-sided insta-love.
The Counting of Vermillion Beads by Aliette De Bodard
Like Roshani Chokshi’s short story The Counting of Vermillion Beads read like a classic fairytale, it was almost like a magical realism read in the way the world was developed and written. This was a powerful story about the bond between two sisters, and as a major lover of strong family relationships in YA books this was a major plus for me.
The Land of the Morning Calm by E. C. Myers
I loved this story, and I think The Land of the Morning Calm is my favourite in the anthology. Sunny is still dealing with the sudden death of her mother, and hearing the game that shaped her’s and her parents lives is due to be shut down draws her into playing again only she quickly discovers it’s much more than a game. This was a well-paced read, the perfect length, and it was really moving.
The Smile by Aisha Saeed
The inspiration behind this story, the original tale Aisha Saeed based The Smile on, is one I vaguely remember hearing about. This is a very introspective read, with the main character thinking back on everything that led to her being locked away by the prince she serves. For such a short story we get some great character development as she comes to some powerful revelations about love.
Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers by Preeti Chhibber
I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand I loved the detailed way the author wrote about the Hindu holiday of Navaratri – flashing back to the battle of Durga and Mahishasura, explaining its importance and how it’s celebrated today – but I wasn’t a major fan of the main plot. The revenge the characters plan for a rude boy in their community struck me as petty and childish.
Nothing into All by Renée Ahdieh
The last story Renée Ahdieh had in an anthology (Because You Love to Hate Me) was a little bit of a disappointment for me, but luckily Nothing into All was much better. It’s a wonderfully written tale full of magic and fae, and with a complex but well written sibling relationship. The ending is left open, but the pacing and the way Nothing into All is told means it doesn’t feel unfinished.
Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanakia
This is another addition I have mixed feelings about. It was an interesting concept, and reading more about the Rahul Kanakia’s inspiration and the original tale Spear Carrier was based on I could see what the story was trying to do, but it could have benefitted from being longer. It felt like there was too much crammed into too few pages and I was just left confused.
Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz
No anthology can be filled with all hits and no misses, and for me Code of Honor was the one miss A Thousand Beginnings and Endings had. It’s possible I would have enjoyed this one more if I’d read Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Blood series, the world this short story is set in, but I’m not willing to read a whole series to understand one short story in an anthology.
Bullet, Butterfly by Elsie Chapman
Alongside The Land of the Morning Calm Bullet, Butterfly is my favourite story in this collection. It focuses on the impact war has on the people involved when their lives don’t belong to them but to their country. Bullet, Butterfly was beautiful but bittersweet, it’s about love and desire battling against honour and duty, and I plan to check out the original tale this story was based on soon.
Daughter of the Sun by Shveta Thakrar
This was a mixed read for me. I enjoyed the story, and reading more about Shveta Thakrar’s inspiration made me want to learn more about the original tales Daughter of the Sun was based on, but there was a spark missing. I never really felt connected to the characters, and while there was a lot of potential and this story was beautifully told I feel it could have benefitted from being longer.
The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon
Like Roshani Chokshi’s story Cindy Pon has taken the original tale The Crimson Cloak is based on and retold it, only this time it has a more feminist spin. It is first person POV so the weaver girl is telling us her story, and she claims despite what all the other tales say she saw Cowherd first. From a character who in the original tale didn’t say much at all Cindy Pon has given her a strong voice.
Eyes like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa
As much as I enjoyed Eyes like Candlelight I think there were stronger stories this anthology could have ended on. That being said Julie Kagawa has written a great piece; she’s developed the background of the kitsune folklore to create a moving story with a bittersweet ending. Based on the way Eyes like Candlelight ended I’d actually be interested in reading more from this world.
Granted there were one or two stories in this anthology I didn’t enjoy, but overall A Thousand Beginnings and Endings had more hits than misses and I thought it was a brilliant read. It taught me more about the myths and legends of all the different cultures the authors drew inspiration from, and some even left me wanting more, wanting to search out the original tales so I could read them as well.
What did you think of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.