Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Anamythical Tales by Sarah Totton

Have you heard of Sarah Totton? If the answer is no, perhaps it's time you have. I was sent this lovely book for review, not knowing much about it aside from that it was a collection of short, fantastical stories centered around animals. And it is, though it is much more than that, really. Personally, all I needed to hear was the title to want to read this one. Animythical Tales.....yep, that sounds like my cup of tea. What's inside of this short collection of stories is just wonderful. Yes, each story has some type of animal aspect to it, and a good amount of the stories focus on animals in a fantastical way, but many of them focus more on the human characters with an animal character acting as an agent for some revelation or as a vessel for transformation in some form. What Totton gives us in these ten stories is a gift that every reader cherishes. And that is time to curl up with a book, enjoy a fascinating story that's written with gorgeous prose that entertains, provokes, and turns the gears in our brains. That's all I can ask for. I can't tell you how much I loved her writing. Each story is uniquely hers, yet they're reminiscent of voices like Susanna Clarke and Peter Beagle. I was also reminded of the art of artists like Anne Julie Aubrie and Lisa Snellings-Clark while reading these stories....particularly, Lisa's new birds that she's made. Her stories have this somewhat Victorian feel to them even though none of them are set during Victorian times. It's just delightful prose all throughout even when the stories aren't delightful. I pictured her writing these in an English cottage. She tells tales of a man who is half seahorse who longs to save his children, tales of an eccentric who dreams of taming lions and being a booker prize winning author, tales of man who leads a solitary existence on an island watching birds until his past revisits him, tales a woman so desperate for a child that she magics them into being. And they're all so beautiful. They're beautiful in their own way, each of them. Some are beautiful in their desperation, some beautiful because of the melancholy portrayed, some because they leave a tear in your eye in the end and take your breath away in the last few sentences. I really just enjoyed this book so much and wish it were longer than a mere 124 pages. Most of these stories have been published before in magazines like Realms of Fantasy or Fantasy Magazine and many have appeared in the Years Best Fantasy collections but there are several that have not been published. There was something that I experienced while reading this book that I noticed I have never experienced before with a book and that was anger. Anger at the fact that she is not better known or that she has not been picked up by a bigger publisher. Now, this may be a personal decision of the author's, I do not know. I absolutely love the cover of her book, but the picture is very grainy and it looks like the book may be published by a publish on demand publisher or something...I'm not really sure. But I felt angered by this because this book is SUCH a gem! It just makes me want to open my own publishing house so bad and give this book the attention it deserves because it's fantastic. So glad to have read this one, and if even one other person reads this because of this review, I'm happy :)

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