Title: Beyond the Pale
Author: Henry Herz (editor)
Publisher: Birch Tree Publishing
Acquired Via: Editor
Release Date: July 7, 2014
Beyond the Pale contains eleven dark fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal short stories by award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors:
- "Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela" by Saladin Ahmed (author of Throne of the Crescent Moon)
- "The Children of the Shark God" by Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn)
- "Misery" & "Shadow Children" by Heather Brewer (author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)
- "Even Hand" by Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files)
- "Red Run" by Kami Garcia (author of Beautiful Creatures)
- "Pale Rider" & "The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones" by Nancy Holder (author of Wicked)
- "Frost Child" and "South" by Gillian Philip (author of Rebel Angels)
- "A Knot of Toads" by Jane Yolen (author of Owl Moon)
The noun “pale” refers to a stake (as in impaling vampires) or pointed piece of wood (as in a paling fence). “Pale” came to refer to an area enclosed by a paling fence. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of an enclosed and therefore safe domain. Conversely, "beyond the pale" means foreign, strange, or threatening. You are about to go Beyond the Pale.
I love love love to read short stories (the literary ones from college are my favorites!), but I don't think that I've ever reviewed an anthology. Since I was so intrigued by the authors and the premise of Beyond the Pale, I figured that I would give it a shot.
I have to be honest and say that I skipped some of the stories for various reasons. I know that Jim Butcher is everyone else's favorite here at Bibliophilia, Please, but I am yet to read The Dresden Files. (Before you string me, I bought them on Kindle and Audible, so Storm Front will be happening soon.) I also skipped Frost Child by Gillian Philip because I wasn't in the mood for fairies at the time. Jan Yolen's A Knot of Toads and Nancy & Belle Holder's The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones were both passed over, as I could get into them. That being said, these stories will not factor into my overall rating of the book.
When I took classes on Middle Eastern history, I had to read One Thousand and One Nights because a culture's fairy tales are important to their history. (If you want an in depth conversation on this, I'm down for it later.) Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela is very like the stories that Scheherazade told.
Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela was a fairy tale without a true villain, and I never felt any danger for the main character. However, I was engaged and creeped out through the end and will happily read more stories from Ahmed. 3.5/5 Stars
Peter S. Beagle
I was a die hard fan of The Last Unicorn growing up, so I had the highest expectations of this story in regard to the rest of the collection. Thankfully, The Children of the Shark God is a story that I could walk away from and return to later because I got distracted despite the story's brevity.
The Children of the Shark God a typical "god" story where no mortal can know or understand his/her ways. What struck me as funny is that the Shark God was not the character in the story that loved unconditionally. That's not really a spoiler as gods tend to act like assholes in mythology, but it was something interesting to read.
I'm impatient, so I did get a little bored because nothing really happened except the exploration of the family dynamics between the Shark God's mortal wife, children, and himself. Of course their are supernatural/paranormal elements because, hello? God? The writing was good and I persevered. 3/5 Stars
Misery was my favorite story in Beyond the Pale and resonated most strongly with me. Misery reminded me so much of depression. You can't remember life before it or how you got there, much like the characters living in the town of Misery. The eyes of the neighbors have the only colors in a world of black, white, and gray. That was pretty fucking profound. If that's not misery, nothing is. And, of course, Misery loves company.
After reading the story, I looked up the author to see what she says about the story, and I was right. I mean, there really wasn't anything else that it could've been about. 4/5 Stars
I was unable to sleep one night, so I pulled out the anthology and read Shadow Children
It's about the scary shadows that creep in the dark, and needless to say, there was no going back to sleep for me. 3.5/5 Stars
Red Run is the prefect example of what a short story should be like. I was on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what would happen next. Excellent ghost story! 4/5 Stars
Pale Rider is a bit more dystopian than paranormal at first. The world has pretty much ended, and Dana is scrambling to survive with her friends. Then Alex shows up and changes everything.
There are quite a few things that I found to be inconsistent with the story, and I was scratching my head in confusion by the end. 2.5/5 Stars
South was a bit confusing to me at first because of the narration of the story. However, I knew exactly what the story would essentially be about as soon as I read about the water, ice, and penguins. That's how you know I read far too much urban fantasy. 3.5/5 Stars
I know my reviews were very short, but so were the stories. I did the best I could to avoid spoiling your enjoyment. That being said, I liked what I did read in Beyond the Pale, and I found some new (to me) authors that I'll be reading. If an author can successfully execute a short story, then I am very interested in seeing what they can do with a novel.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance digital copy of the book from the editor in exchange for an honest review.