Monday, June 09, 2008

Book Review: Saffron and Brimstone: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

This collection of short stories from Hand can be divided into two parts. The first is comprised of four unrelated and quite lengthy short stories, three of which are derived from her earlier short story collection, Bibliomancy. The second part is simply titled The Lost Domain: Four Story Variations and while all four stories stand stand well on its own, they do share common themes and motifs. Overall, I enjoyed every single story and they showcase Hand's astounding writing ability. She can be as technical and detailed as the story needs to be yet remain lyrical and mesmerizing all throughout. She has also mastered the craft of characterization and knows when to use subtlety. The first three stories in the collection are easily my favorites. "Cleopatra Brimstone" is a combination of magic-realism and horror and exhibits all of Hand's strengths and what makes her stories work. "Pavane for the Prince of the Air" is both heart-wrenching and subtle while "The Least Trumps" embodies terrific characterization. While these are my favorite three, any of the stories in this book is easily a match for any other author's short fiction. Saffron and Brimstone is easily a must-have in any critical reader's collection.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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