Prickle Moon, Juliet Marillier, Ticonderoga Press, 2013.
RRP: $25 Australian.
I never used to enjoy reading short stories- I’m not quite sure if it was a maturity thing. These days, pressed for time like I often am, I can’t get enough of them. I love being able to dive in anywhere in a collection knowing that I’ll get something different every time. I love the surprise of each short story; some good, some less interesting, some world changing. Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier is a book I’ve been excited about reading for awhile now. Juliet wrote what I consider to be one of the greatest debut historical fantasy novels out, Daughter of the Forest, and I’ve loved her writing style since the teenage years. However, somehow I missed that she wrote shorter fiction too. Luckily for me and for others in the same boat, Ticonderoga Press have put together a collection of sixteen short stories; some written specifically for the Prickle Moon collection and some published previously in magazines to show us a bit of a different side to Juliet and her work.
I found myself dividing the collection into three thematic parts. The first section dealt with the celtic and fairy tale worlds that those familar with Juliet’s work will know she often inhabits in her novels. Indeed, ‘Otherling’ felt like it could have been set in the same world as her The Light Isles Nordic series and ‘Twixt Firelight and Water’ is a novella that fills in a gap about Ciaran in the Sevenwaters trilogy. The second section moves into the romance genre with some of the stories originally published in Woman’s Day. Finally, the last section moves into urban fantasy with tales of modern ghosts, the fey living in today and magic leading up to and beyond death. This approach means that we get to see a wide array of writing and genre style from Ms Marillier. However, it also means that story mileage will vary. On the whole, and this is down to personal preference, I enjoyed the first section more than the second two as the folklore and fairy story genre are two of my favourites. However, I did enjoy most of the stories on some level.
Now to my favourites. The first story in the collection, ‘Prickle Moon,’ took me quite awhile to get in to, mainly because of the narrative voice but once I got used to it, it was one of my top picks; pitching wisdom and nature against power and dominance. ‘Let down your hair’ revists Rapunzel but adds a new slant on an old tale by adding in a boiling pot of stories and ‘In Coedd Celyddon’ sees Juliet reimagine King Arthur’s childhood. I’m a sucker for Arthurian legend so I also really enjoyed this particular story first published in The Road to Camelot edited by Sophie Masson (who also provides the introduction to this collection). Out of the straight romance stories, I enjoyed ‘Far Horizons’ best mainly because I love tales of journey and travel and because my Mum is a divorced baby boomer who left for Istanbul last Wednesday. ‘Tough Love 3001’ seems to have been a bit divisive judging by other reviewers reactions to the tale but as an emerging writer, I found this story humerous and entertaining, gently lampooning many of the genre fiction stereotypes that abound about the place whilst also highlighting the hubris mixed in with the talent of many young writers (as someone who has been guilty at various points of what the characters spout in this story, I found this element particularly amusing and recognisable). Finally, ‘By Bone Light’ really caught my attention, retelling the folk tale of Baba Yaga in a modern day setting and dealing at the same time with child abuse. In fact, this last tale was probably the best in the whole collection.
People who enjoy Juliet’s novels are sure to love this collection. Though the collection isn’t perfect, I also think that its audience is a great deal wider than the usual speculative fiction releases thanks to Juliet’s wonderful writing ability and her experimentation with different genres within the collection. There are stories within Prickle Moon’s pages for anyone who picks up a copy. So dear reader, what are you waiting for?
Prickle Moon: 3/5 inky stars
Prickle Moon can be purchased from Ticonderoga Press