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StereoOpticon- A review

April 5, 2009

StereoOpticon: Stories in Split Vision

Isn’t that tag line just to die for?

I knew when I saw StereoOpticon mentioned on the Drollerie Press news page that it would eventually be mine. I just never thought it would be quite this soon that I would have it in my hot little hands.

Or rather, on my hot little processor. *wryg*

Allow me to quote the lovely Ms.Deena Fisher’s Intro for the Anthology to serve as a sufficient Blurb:

The stories in this volume are fairy tales in split vision because they’re not quite the fairy tales of childhood, but they evoke that same sense of wonder. A handful are re-imaginings of old favorites, such as David Sklar’s Little Red Riding Hood, “Red ’Hood”, which could have happened—be happening—in any major city today; C. S. Inman’s lyrical Beauty and the Beast, “The Castle of Masks”; Cindy Lynn Speer’s regency-flavored Bluebeard, “A Necklace of Rubies”; and Imogen Howson’s futuristic “Falling”, a retelling of Rapunzel.

Some of these stories are entirely new but still tell us tales we know in our heart of hearts. In “Dream-Drinker,” Heather Ingemar’s Isabele must rise to a frightening occasion and be the heroine she never dreamed she could be. In “Flame in the Night Regions,” J. A. Howe’s heroine fights to give the woman she loves exactly what she wants. Which, you know, in fairy tales never ends as well as one might like. Bree Donovan takes us to a thoroughly modern Ireland for a tale of a kind of green knight, a man who uncovers the best in everyone he meets.

Trulie Peterson’s story, “Spellbound”, is a quest tale and the fairy tale of my youth. It’s the most traditional in style, made new and utterly beautiful, and then Francesca Forrest takes us back to the fairy tale before the Grimm brothers made it pretty in “The Gallows Maiden”. G. L. Simmons’ is a Jack story. In “The Orb of Enori,” an innocent Jac makes the right decisions for all the right reasons, despite what people might think. Joselle Vanderhooft’s lyrical prose marries grace and myth to make the villain real in “The Chess-Girl and the Sorcerer-King”. Finally, Mureall Hebert finishes the collection with a novella that takes us to another world, a once upon a time where Gods and Monsters touch the earth and are touched by it with “In the Light of the World There is a Tree”.

The anthology was edited by Cindy Lynn Speer, who did a tremendous job bringing all of these stories by a bunch of talented and wonderful authors together into one cohesive whole.

I finished this baby in one day. My overall analysis?: Enchanting. Simply, positively enchanting. I couldn’t put it down and every time I tried, the stories called me back, saying, ‘just one more‘.

Note: These were either written directly after I read the story that goes with each title, or while I was reading it (because I had to either make note of something I fear I might have forgotten otherwise). I didn’t think it was possible, but I enjoyed them all. Though I admit whole heartedly that I enjoyed some more than others.

I’ve tried to give a clear view here though, giving each story its due without curry-favoring. I hope that I accomplished this.

The Dream-Drinker by Heather Ingemar

I loved the concept behind The Dream Drinker and its execution. My inner-kid was clapping its little hands in glee as I read. Was totally rooting for Isabele (always a good sign of a well-crafted character)yet I also found myself oddly fascinated with the Antagonist-its concept being the most intriguing.

I think it helped that I felt that I could “hear” him-which brings me to another point. Ms. Ingemar’s dialogue is never out of place, it never felt forced. Forced dialogue bugs the heck out of me. Its one of my very few pet peeves when it comes to reading (and writing, as it’s something I also have a hard time with and have to work very hard at).

I’m still left wondering if it’s because she used it subtly and sparingly or if she just has such a good grasp on her characters that dialogue comes naturally to her.

And the ending-which I’m fighting so hard not to give away any spoilers on-was reminiscent of the Old School Fairy Tales. I remember getting to that last line and having this wicked grin on my face. It was both fitting and satisfying in my humble opinion. And I have a feeling I will be going to read that story again very soon.

Spellbound by Trulie Peterson

Ms. Fisher mentions Spellbound in the introduction as being “the most traditional in style” and I can only nod dumbly at that assessment.  It reads just like the fairy tales of old. Jumping right into the thick of the trouble, sparing no unimportant details or exposition and giving you just enough to leave you wanting more.

Hala, the heroine, had no idea of the rough adventure that would lie ahead of her when she meets a little bird on her travels. And yes, the little bird tells her many a secret. (Which I only just caught. You know, that old saying when someone asks you “How did you know that? and then you reply with “A little bird told me.” Yes, I’m a dork. Leave me be.)

But it was an engaging journey filled with much peril, hardship, and another satisfying end. I may not be  a romance reader by habit, (which is not to say that I hate and/or won’t read and enjoy them. I’m just more of a dark fantasy kind of girl) but even my heart melted at the chewy subtle HEA here.

Castle Of Masks by C.S. Inman.

Wow, a story that appealed to my love of Dark Fantasy and fascination with really unconventional-ah-lifestyles. Who’da’ thought?? Another great call by Ms. Fisher, I would certainly describe Inman’s style as “Lyrical”.

This is a Beauty and The Beast Tale turned on it’s head and I just LOVED what the author did with it! Another great Dialogue writer-I had quite a few chuckles over the Banter between the two leads. (I’m being vague as to not give away the dreaded spoilers! But oh, this story is so chewy and delectable with it’s little twists and turns.)

The title strikes just the right cord of mystique. It was one of the titles that instantly had my attention when I skimmed the Table of Contents. The story more than lived up to my excited expectations.

A Necklace of Rubies by Cindy Lynn Speer

Hmm, I’m getting an odd sense of Deja V-

Oh, hey. I already reviewed this one. *sheepish grin* To read what I had to say, you can go here.

A Necklace of Rubies is no longer available on its own, but rather is only offered as a part of this collection. Sufficed to say, it well deserves to be in such a fascinating collection along side these other fine tales. Also, I whole-heartedly agree with the intro- as it mentions Ms. Speer’s noteworthy editing on the collection. I could not think of more capable hands. From what I’ve come to read of her work, her love of fairy tales is evident and it shines through in this Anthology.

Brava Ms. Speer!

Red’Hood by David Sklar

I tried hard to love this one. Because I love Little Red Riding Hood, because I love re-invisionings, and because the premise of it intrigued and appealed to me. What put me off is a matter of slight bias, and I’ll try to explain what I mean as clearly as possible so there’s no misunderstandings.

I strongly dislike when slang is written in a way that makes it hard to read and understand what is being said. No disrespect. I’m from the Bahamas, have had my fair share of time in both the public and private school systems. I use slang myself, have nothing against it, whether in the spoken or written form.

But when it is written? I’d prefer the words themselves not be butchered in the process. It’s entirely possible to get the “feel” of hardened street slang without the unnecessary need to change the spelling of the words-which makes it painful to read especially since the story is written in First Person POV.

Of course, this is just my own personal pet peeve.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me say that apart from this one little nagging thing, the story was solid. More than solid, it was entertainning. Little Red Riding Hood in the hood, I could see it. Cecily’s street smarts and cynicism were fine tuned. I love me some gritty realism. I found her an engaging heroine to the bitter end, enough so that I went on despite my initial miff over the slang issue, which speaks to Mr. Sklar’s storytelling.

Flame in the Night Regions by J. A. Howe

I’m at odds with this one, only because I’m having trouble describing it. The story of a heroine (A Bard, at that) who seeks to give her love, The Baron, everything she desires. (Yep, you heard that right. Unconventional relationships, yay!)  I loved Lady Fay’s  poetic voice and the banter between the unlikely alliances.

Both cacklingly funny in some parts, plain odd (in the good way) and heartbreaking in others, but with a twist. That’s all I can say without giving away spoilers.

Before The Fountain by Bree Donovan

This reads like a Literary Novel. Polished, clipped, philosophical and I was so enthralled by the protagonist’s voice and the sheer passions of one Dylan Byrne that I hardly noticed it. I was bawling by the end of Before The Fountain which has nothing and everything to do with the ending. I liked the underlining message, and it got me thinking which is never a bad thing.

I think we all had a Dylan in high school (or work place, or college). It could have been just one person or scattered in many. If I’m making any sense at all… But that’s what makes this such a relateable story.

The Gallows Maiden by Francesca Forrest

Oh. My. Goodness- I knew that title was familiar!

It was one of my favorites in school, as we had to read it for a class. But it was, of course, the watered down “pretty” version Deena mentions earlier.

I find I like this version much better! Poetic and Dark and one of the shorter ones in the Anthology, but just as enthralling as its companion stories. As always, I really don’t want to give away spoilers but Forrest’s “The Crow Girl” is one of my favorite Heroines yet, if only because of how tragic her story is.

The Orb of Enori by G.L. Simmons

Another that I’m fighting for words on.

Jac,a Journeyman craft-worker, who, through a series of observations and tragic events, is led to take over the duty of caring for the Orb of Enori. All the while learning what that truly means and entails. Which comes in the form of a very heart-warming message.

The Chess-Girl and The Sorcerer King by JoSelle Vanderhooft

Chess, Astrology, Dark Fantasy. Seriously, there was no way I wasn’t going to like this one.

A tale of corruption, strategy, sacrifice, and revenge. Vanderhooft’s words sing like poetry even if it was a little hard to follow at some points. And this is only because it jumps forward, spanning many many years yet sticking to one real “scene”.

Falling by Imogen Howson

This was one of the Novella’s at DP that I had been eying for awhile previous to StereoOpticon’s release. Yay for me!

A futuristic take on Rapunzel. A YA Futuristic take on Rapunzel at that.

Ah, YA, with all your pent up teenage angst and trials of peer pressure, conformity, and hormones. No, I’m not being snarky, I love YA! Possibly because I am still in the age-range for the term to apply, and I still find I can relate to them.

Did I mention I love all things unconventional? Ms. Howson delivers just that in the Heroine of Linnet, one of the perfect few that get to live in the Tower Blocks away from the Smog, but who’s birth defects make her anything but perfect and compromise her desire to confirm with such a life. At least, that is until she meets Gecko.

Ah, Gecko.  He made me squeal in utter school-girl delight. Oddly, as I was reading, I kept picturing it like a movie in Miyazaki’s wonderful style (reference: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke).  It reminded me of his flair, so to speak.

And sweet YA HEA’s make me ever so giddy. Really enjoyed this one!

In The Light of The World There is a Tree by Mureall Hebert

Wow, epic long title!

And it starts with Soldiers coming to town? Hoorah, I’m hooked!

Ah, gritty fantasy. Gritty as in War seen through the eyes of a child. Fantasy as in-well, fantasy.

As previously mentioned, I loves me some Grit.

The symbolism and magestry of this story sucked me in immediately and shook me up. War is a favorite subject of mine-throw kids into the mix and you might as well have ripped my heart open. Everything seems so magical and wondrous through the eyes of children, as it is through Elke’s eyes. Also scarier, darker, and a hell of a lot more overwhelming. More enchanting too.

It’s a curious thing and I had many a curious sensation reading In The Light Of The World There Is A Tree. And yet-and yet, in more ways than one, Elke is thinking too much like an adult- a casualty of war- and it is Mamman who is teaching Elke to be childlike.

Mureall’s voice is spell-binding, thoroughly wondrous and magical. I think this was the perfect story to conclude StereoOpticon. It certainly gives the collection a strong note to go out on.

*Phew* As you can see, you’re getting quite a bang for your buck here!  Twelve great reads.

If you liked and/or are intrigued by what I’ve had to say, I urge you to head on over to Drollerie Press and pick yourself up a copy. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed; I stayed up way past my bed time, and I sure wasn’t. So worth it, but then, Drollerie Press stories always are. 😉

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2009 9:01 am

    Thank you so much for reviewing Stereoopticon! And a thousand thanks for your kind words about my contribution, “The Gallows Maiden.”

  2. Soleil Noir permalink*
    April 15, 2009 10:03 am

    Asakiyume- Delighted to make your acquaintance and thank you kindly for stopping by. Your story was a joy to read. 😀

  3. April 25, 2009 10:03 am

    Thanks for such a wonderful review and such kind words about “Spellbound”. I also have to agree with you, the stories in this anthology are gooood. The day I received my copy I couldn’t stop reading until the last page.

    • Soleil Noir permalink*
      April 26, 2009 12:24 pm

      Trulie Peterson- I’m glad you enjoyed StereoOpticon as I did, as well as my review. 😀 Thank you kindly for stopping by. It’s always a pleasure to hear from the authors.

  4. May 7, 2009 8:30 pm

    Thank you so much for the glowing review of “Dream-Drinker”! It really made my day. 🙂

    As for your question in regards to my dialogue, first let me say that I am glad it sounded “right.” Bad dialogue bothers me too, and maybe I’ve developed an ear for it that helps me in the editing. Secondly, I’ve always “heard” my characters like another voice in my head, and I think hearing them talk — and writing down exactly what they’re saying — probably helps. So it’s probably a combination of it coming naturally, and then “listening” during the editing process to makes sure it all sounds right.

    Again, thank you for the lovely review!

    All the best,
    Heather S. Ingemar


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