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Playthings of the Gods A Drollerie Press YA Anthology

February 26, 2011

Playthings of the Gods

Full Disclosure: Many thanks to Selena from Drollerie Press for the review copy!

Forget what you think you know about Greek Mythology. The Gods are back–if they ever left–and this time they’re using our modern world as their playground. Enjoy fourteen stories that take you from deity inhabited skyscrapers to cobwebbed, gated manors atop a hill, and everywhere in between.

Playthings of the Gods is one of Drollerie Press’ strongest anthologies to date, filled with tales both heart wrenching, and empowering.  One thing that really ties the anthology together, aside from the theme, is the very lyrical prose. While each author has a style of their own, some stories compliment each other so beautifully you would swear it was intentional. Below I give brief descriptions of the stories within and my thoughts on them.

Frayed Tapestry by Imogen Howson

I already know Imogen Howson has a wonderful talent for lush descriptions and beautiful word-smithery. I saw that when I read Falling awhile back.

But I loved this story beyond that.

I think, were I to reveal the myth being retold it would be a spoiler, so I will try to avoid doing so. The draw to this story for me was that the heroine does not start out as being typically strong. She is a victim, but her journey, this story, is about her survival and her transformation into a survivor. And she has to go to really dark places to come out ok on the other side, and she does. And I loved that Ms. Howson “went there” without apology. Candy’s defiance and rebellion, while small by “normal” standards, spoke volumes to me and by the end, when she gains her freedom, she is truly powerful.

Naiad by Erin Fanning

This one is no secret since the title pretty much gives it away but it’s a very interesting retelling involving a water nymph. I like how dark the writers are taking these YA stories, although, considering the subject matter, I’m not sure why I thought I’d get anything but dark. Gosh, but the way Fanning writes is pretty. It flows like poetry, reads like it. I don’t want to give away too too much but I really liked the way Fanning worked cultural and status divides into this story.

AUTUMN EQUINOX by Jennifer Rachel Baumer

Wow. Ok. This one’s a bit trippy in an entirely intended (and very cool) way. I hate that in order to explain some of the really neat nuances of it, I’d have to spoil you. But I’m going to try: Honor student gets caught in a drug bust and recieves a sentence beyond her wildest dreams and nightmares. Baumer also played with culture a bit in a way that just had me cackling. Penny, our “heroine”, is your typical blue-eyed blond all American girl, and she thinks she can use this to her advantage…

The ending gave me the chills. This isn’t a complaint.

NAXOS by Megan Arkenberg

I know I keep saying this? But I’m just all sorts of impressed with the styles of the authors in this anthology. There are just some wonderful lines here and I’m actually having a really hard time discerning which story I’ve liked the most so far.

Naxos is a modernized retelling of the Ariadne myth-only with the three main players all as women. I don’t consider this a spoiler because it’s pretty much spelled out in the first page. I love it when authors incorporate minorities and GLBT characters. I loved the dry humor Arkenberg plucks from her character’s subconscious minds.

SKYLIGHT by Amanda Sun

For all you post-apocalyptic lovers, you’re in for a real treat with this one. The Labyrinth is an underground city home to misfits, outcasts, and reject lab experiments. When they aren’t raiding old food stores and fighting for their lives against the Taurian, they’re mostly trying to keep out of each others way. But  in the heart of the Labyrinth lies dark secrets that will change the way they see their makeshift sanctuary forever.

The characters were a huge draw here as well as the fantastic world building. Sun twists the old myths in so many neat interesting ways and I was completely drawn into the story from line one.

CURSED by Lisa Gail Green

After the “incident”, Cassandra’s developed a bit of a gift, but she’d tell you she’s Cursed. Cassandra gets visions of impending doom…only this time, it hits a little too close to home.

And I thought I had good reasons to be Angsty as a teenager. *shudder* What I’m liking about a lot of these stories is that some of them are left open to interpretation. Your imagination may vary but for once, I pictured ….while not quite a “happier” ending, one that maybe the heroine could overcome. Breaking the cycle of tragedy surrounding her helplessness.

There was one part of the story that made me feel iffy surrounding the “incident” but I’m willing to suspend by disbelief since, depending on when it happened, may not effect the character the way I thought it would. Still a very entertaining read.

Oh, and for once? I’m not familiar with the myth that inspired this story. Which means I get to research it. I love this “job”. *g*

THE RESISTANCE by Margaret Buck

Ooo, Hackers. Hackers are always sexy. Um, to read about anyway.  And for some reason, I’m totally getting warm fuzzies over the male lead, whose, of all things, are bartender. I don’t even like the name ‘Jason’. What The Hell, me? This one isn’t so much based off a myth it’s self (I think?) more so than it is borrowing elements and characters from said myths. Which, actually, was what I thought I’d see more of but so far not the case. I’m not sure if this counts as a Cyberpunk, because I’ve never read on before, but if it does-YAY my first Cyberpunk!

Either the narrator isn’t reliable or there’s a slight plot hole.  Our hacker heroine claims to be anonymous, that she wasn’t on anybody’s radar before the squick hits the fan. Except, the Antagonist had tried to “recruit” her to their side before. So she’s obviously more well known than she thinks. And why wouldn’t the Antagonist have “kept tabs” on her? Since it’s written in first person, I’m going to chalk it up to naivete on the character’s part. I mean, she is only 20 after all (said the only-older-by-a-year reviewer). I liked her anyway, she’s spunky and self-deprecatingly witty.

AHAHAHA oh God, I think I love this author. Have to share a line-it’s ambiguous enough to not be a spoiler.

“And for the love of summer, don’t trust that man you’ve got your eye on.”

“Jason?”

“It’s a self-serving name.”

That’s what I’m sayin’!

I’m actually kind of sad, cause I’m enjoying this story. But I know it’s going to end soon. But I want more. But-woah. Did not see that ending coming. I’m both sympathetic to the character and sadistically oddly pleased at the brilliance of it. What The Hell, me?!

SPEAR AMONG SPINDLES by S.Q. Eries

I was so enjoying this one until I got to the “twist” and then suddenly felt very stabby. I’d love to wax on and on about it for hours but it’s a spoiler and those aren’t allowed here. So says me.

Right, so time to pull up my big girl stockings and be objective. This isn’t a bad story by any stretch of the imagination. I have very mixed feelings about it though. One hand, very entertaining (because I’m violent that way) but… I do feel a little betrayed. Which isn’t entirely fair because  the author didn’t cheat and if I hadn’t been so engrossed in the story and was paying attention, I would have put it together. Well played, S.Q. Eries.

All I can say is Keelie must be REAL pretty.

ROAD TO MAGDALENA by Kevin Singer

A man thinks that the world will end and seeks his salvation in Magdalena. I found this one awfully cute even if the way two characters were dropped nagged me. I’m nitpicking but I wanted to know how they went on with their lives. That wasn’t the focal point of the story though and probably wouldn’t have added to the overall effect so I’m willing to look past it.

HYLAS by Elizabeth Zuckerman

Carl’s son Harry ran away after a misunderstanding and has been missing for sometime. At least, that’s far more likely than him getting kidnapped by a mermaid…right?

Another ending that gave me the chills. In a good way. But I think it’s Carl that gets the short end of the stick.

THE LONG SUMMER by Phoebe North

Another Persephone re-telling, but….with all the tragedy of a lifetime movie.  Although much better written, in my humble opinion. Without giving too much away, I never thought I’d ever feel bad for Hades. Pheobe North definitely proved it can be done.

AWAKE, SHE DREAMS by Isabelle Santiago

Color me surprised. I never knew Endymion was anything more than a fictional character from Sailor Moon. Shame on me. Hypnos is the guardian of Lethe, a stream where dreamers come to forget. But her latest visitor isn’t so keen on forgetting and leaves her questioning something she never thought she would- which is better: reality, or the dream?

HOW THERE CAME TO BE SEASONS by Natalie Wendt

Another Persephone retelling. A woman seeks a better life for herself in a foreign country through a marriage of convenience.

And Ms. Wendt gets kudos for being the only one to make me tear up so far. Never would I ever have thought I could relate to someone who enters into a convenient marriage because I’m a sap , apparently really judgmental , a hopeless romantic but our heroine, who isn’t given a name, is relate able and wonderfully, tragically human. The way Ms. Wendt describes her home sickness is especially poignant. For anyone who has lived near water their whole lives, it’s lack can be devastating in a way that I just couldn’t even begin to describe but that Ms. Wendt manages beautifully.

And the story is terribly sweet…and why didn’t I stock up on Kleenex?

BLISS by Caroline Schmeing

When the water came, and the Twelve took over, they impose birth regulations for population control. One family’s closely guarded-a daughter born against Regs-goes undiscovered, until now…

You can purchase Playthings of the Gods at Drollerie Press.

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