Mischief, Magic, Love and War.
It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.
Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.
These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.
Including an afterword by Dr. John Lavagnino, The London Shakespeare Centre, King's College London.
Most of my Shakespeare knowledge comes exclusively from piecing together references in everything else I read (or watch, or listen to). Like the titles in James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, or Seanan McGuire's October Daye, and the whole fae setup in the Dresden files, too. Films like 10 things I hate about you.
It's a bit awkward that I've never really read Shakespeare. (It can happen that way when you don't do your schooling in an English-speaking location! I did a huge amount of extracurricular reading, but my emphasis was with Russians, and though I always had it in mind, I never really found a good time or place to enter into the Shakespeare-thing.)
So, that out of the way, let me assure you that Monstrous little voices is a thoroughly enjoyable collection of stories, even to someone who isn't intimate with the material it plays around with.
There are five stories collected here, different but interconnected, pulling together. Foz Meadows' Coral bones is an unexpectedly happy escape-story featuring Miranda and Puck, and leaves me awkward describing it that way, because an important point in the story is to do with choosing new names for oneself.
My favourite in the collection is Kate Heartfield's The course of true love, featuring Vertumnus, Pomona, Mab, Hecate and Oberon, and probably several other known characters I didn't notice. I always love a female character who's too old to waffle about, like, you know, Granny Weatherwax, or, in this case, Pomona.
The collection's last story, Jonathan Barnes' On the twelfth night, is different from the others - its protagonist is Anne Hathaway, her son Hamnet, and her husband, Will, who never went to London, and never wrote a play.
Now that this collection has stirred my interest again, maybe it's time for me to go looking for some audio drama productions of a few plays - I just don't quite know which one to start with...