Daphne du Bois, writing as Emily de Courcy, (pename) asked me to read her book "From Fairies and Creatures of the Night, Guard Me". It's an anthology of seventeen fairy tale style stories. I will examine plot, character and polish and then assign a grade. I will not examine each one because that would make this review too long.
This anthology is like a Shared Universe in one volume. All the stories take place in the same verse, either explicitly by sharing characters or implicitly, by sharing setting or mechanics. (The exception is the Beowulf Prequel, but I'll get to that in a minute). It's interesting to compare and contrast.
Many stories have this low energy humor. She refers to it as "witty repartee". In the story, "Something Rich and Strange", for instance, there's a human woman bantering with the Erlking (I.e. King of the Fairy Realm) over coffee in a café. "The Bridge" has this same woman talking with a traditionalist troll. The narration has him ranting about troll politeness and how rude humans have become over the ages, while she responds to him like he's her human classmate.
These stories revel in a lack of awe and wonder at the supernatural. "Of Ice Pixies and Wine Casks" sees the Erlking dealing with a infestation of Ice Pixies in his castle. Penny snarks at him and is roped into helping. Despite the fantasy setting, characters, and magic, it's quite mundane. That's where all the humor comes from. I would call it "Comical Low Fantasy".
Even "The Barely Seen World" where a wizard describes at length the many marvels of the Hinterland Market, the physical location (more accurately, what it appears to be) is a flea market. This same story also mocks the grandiose; the real thing doesn't have to make noise. In fact, the flashier a thing is, the more likely it is to be fake.
There's a running theme of Living Forever Is Awesome. The long lived races of the Hinterland go about business as usual for centuries on end. The humans who become immortal generally don't mind. It's just day-to-day life. When a vampire starts Wangsting about eternity, Death herself tells him to cheer up. I find this refreshing. It also adds to the humor. Wulf (the troll from the Bridge) dislikes how impolite the modern era is because he was in the previous eras. It sounds like someone's grandfather reminiscing about the Good Old Ways.
Because this is an anthology of short stories, there is no "ending" so to speak. Some stories are self-contained, some look like the beginnings of larger tales, and some are a mixture of both.
I have two complaints about this anthology
1. Odd Friendship template
Many stories have as their basis an Odd Friendship between a human and a supernatural creature (or as in "Pumpkins", an earthly supernatural creature and a deity) that engage in witty banter and mundane activities. Near the end of the volume, it gets stale.
2. Beowulf Prequel
This story claims to take place in Heorot before Beowulf arrives. The time period is the same but everyone has been replaced with immature teenagers from the late 20th century. The silly humor becomes stupid, there's not the slightest sense of supernatural at all (mundane or not), and the wit from other stories is replaced with whining. It's so distinct that I feel like someone else wrote it.
Being an anthology, there are few consistent characters. Some of them have more meat on them than others, fully fleshed out, engaging etc. Others are more like walking plot props that enable the story to function.
An example of the former is Penny. She is a human college student and is present in three stories. What I like about her is her wit combined with her sense of "do not care". She's what you call an Unfazed Everyman. She's more impressed with the Erlking's (otherwise mundane) violin than the Erlking himself, a being of magic that rules the supernatural Hinterland. When a troll (living under a campus bridge) tries to steal her lunch, she smacks his clawed hand and goes back to reading. She's always interacting in this nonchalant style that's fun to read.
An example of the later is the wizard in "Market". One can only assume things about his personality because little time is spent developing it. He's just there to explain how the Hinterland Market works to Olympia. Ironically, she has more of a personality than him despite being a soul-less automata whose individuality her creators deliberately hobbled to make a bigger profit.
I caught perhaps 2 or 3 spelling/grammar errors. Nothing major.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "From Fairies and Creatures of the Night, Guard Me" a B+
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