Myths Untold: Faery, (Anthology), Various Authors
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Genre: Queer Fiction
Tags: Fantasy – Fae, Contemporary and Alternate Universes, Trans, Gay, Romance, Anthology
Length: 79,253 Words
Reviewer: Kazza K
Faeries are part of mythology the world over, past, present, and future. Called elves, brownies, the fae, and more, they evoke a sense of wonder and a little danger. Faery has its own rules, and humans enter at their peril. In this spirit, we bring you the first book in the Myths Untold anthology series—four stories from the land of the Fae: a homeless man in Cardiff and the luck that could destroy him; the trans man in future San Francisco who falls for an elf; the village boy who has always been a little different; and a faery prince whose birthright was stolen from him. Welcome to Faery.
1)The Pwcca and the Persian Boy, August Li
Glyndwr is eighteen and has lived on the streets of Cardiff, Wales for the past six months. His companion for some of that time is Farrokh. Farrokh is the Persian of the title. He is secretive, scared, and doesn’t like leaving the woods where they sleep, but doesn’t want to leave the city when Glyn suggests getting out for winter. The homeless people they bunk down with every night seem to be disappearing, particularly the females. There isn’t much time to think about that when you’re hungry and always looking for your next meal or warm place to sleep. However, Glyn seems to get by on sheer luck and opportunistic fortune – finding money on the street, a purse left behind by a tourist, some money from someone who usually pimps others out, begging. When he comes across money, he always provides for the meek Farrokh.
As Glyn drifted to sleep, he whispered a promise into Farrokh’s hair. He said it in Welsh, so the other man wouldn’t understand, but he pledged to take care of him and keep him safe.
Farrokh needs the assistance but resents being taken care of at the same time. Soon the disappearances become a priority when Farrokh disappears and Glyn starts looking with a single mindedness for his friend.
When Glyn’s luck seems to have taken a real nosedive a helping hand appears in the form of Lleu. Lleu is unusual, with white-blonde hair and violet eyes, something he has in common with Glyn. He has a few cryptic answers for Glyn but he really leaves him with more questions than not. No matter what, no matter how odd Lleu is and how much Glyn feels trapped by him initially, whatever Glyn does he does for Farrokh. Is that always the right choice? To look after someone? To want to make things better for someone else? Lleu is rather bah-humbug about that concept.
This story straddles the contemporary world and a fantasy world that butts-up against it. Both worlds have some similarities – some beings are never happy, some have a hard go of it and never feel like they fit in, family included, some like to live with illusionary blinders on, some want absolute power, and some make the most of every opportunity.
This story has excellent world building, the alternate universe was beautifully drawn, as was contemporary Cardiff. Both were infused with depth and life – I felt the hardship, the cold, the beauty and the starkness. This is an interesting concept/premise, and I like worlds colliding or worlds within worlds. A new to me author, the writing was really quite good. The story engaging. I wanted to know how it would end so I was turning those Kindle pages keenly to get there. I liked the timeless social parallels between worlds, and there are some good ones.
My only issue was the word count didn’t allow for the real depth of complex characterisations needed in this tale, but I’m a character obsessive. The author actually created some terrific characters to play with – Glyn, Lleu, how much more depth could have been given with extra word count, Farrokh, and the Willow King.
August Li is quite the storyteller and this was a really nice way to kick off the anthology.
2)The Other Side of the Chrysalis: A Men of Myth Story – Brandon Witt.
He comes and goes from his chambers, free and the rightful heir apparent. Fairy monarchy are chosen by their beauty, and their ability to reproduce that aspect in their offspring –
I bought this anthology because of the words A Men of Myth Story. I love that series and I was prepared for anything that could bind me to that world again. But The Other Side of the Chrysalis is something different. While The Men of Myth series has moments of intensity, and it does, I felt emotionally bereft after finishing this story.
-Xenith earned his position. I did not.
The world building is wonderful. The beings you encounter so real. The parallels in a completely alternate world to ours are excellent. The underground world the fairies live in is vividly painted. The characters are three dimensional and so moving, infuriating, or cruel. There is an overriding sadness throughout that drips off the page, which I am always drawn to. How I wanted Quay to be able to be Quay, to find some peace, happiness and love. He is quite the tortured soul after a rebirthing accident in a fae world where beauty is everything. He was set upon for being partially disfigured, the people whipped up by his mother, the Queen, taking their anger out on his imperfections which continues nine years on. With the exception of a few, Quay isn’t addressed by his name. He’s nobody, he’s less than an outcast, he’s less than other, fitting in nowhere. I wanted to tell him he was loved and a beautiful soul but social conditioning and cruelty would have prevented him from believing this truth.
Quay still meets with his younger brother, Xenith, whom he loves and looks over. Meeting with his brother is punishable by death. Not for Xenith, he’s the perfect royal heir, but for Quay. Quay always treats any meeting with his brother with utter discretion. He also has clandestine sex with another outcast, Flesser, who makes Quay use his powers to create the illusion of being (facially) perfect. He loves Flesser, but does Flesser love Quay back? He says so but Quay isn’t convinced.
Flesser only loved the face I should have had. He couldn’t look at my true countenance with any less abhorrence than he would upon rotting fruit.
And yet, I was in love.
And that, more than a fairy arrow piercing a harmless deer, was what consumed my every waking moment.
There are animal deaths in their land and Quay believes the deaths are linked to their own kind, that there is something foreboding about to occur, but no one wants to hear him. The deer, the owl – which ripped me a new one as I love birds – all speak to Quay of more than a human indentured to the Queen being rebellious or causing problems.
He searched my eyes. “What were you hoping she’d do, Quay?”
What was I hoping? “I don’t know. Send out a patrol. Station more guards. Alert her subjects to the possibility of danger. Cast protection around the animals. Something!”
I loved this story and lamented it wasn’t longer. Would I love more of this, an extension in the Men of Myth series? You bet. If I had one niggle it was that Quay’s outlook regarding his looks and his lot in life can get a little repetitive – I’m being picky. Overall, this is beautiful and visceral fantasy/spec fic writing which was perfectly placed after story #1. Oh, and that ending. Goddam!
Choosing the largest feather, I grasped and gave a singular yank. With a shot of pain and dash of blood, I held the perfect plume to my lips, whispering magic. “My brother, I know not when or how, but I will return. I love you.”
3)Changeling – Skye Hegyes
When Tyler asks his mother why she never married the answer is not something someone might expect to hear, even if that someone has a tail, extremely thin frame topped off by longer ears. When his mother explains that she asked the faeries for a babe to ease her loneliness, and still pays a boon every month on the full moon for the granted wish, Tyler can’t help but follow her on the next full moon to see what the faeries are like. To perhaps see where he came from. Here he meets the impish, but incredibly sweet, Marsh. Marsh is a brownie. He also tells Tyler exactly what he is – a changeling, hence the name of the story. It’s the start of change for Tyler and the beginning of a very cute romance between Tyler and Marsh. In a town where both Tyler and his mother have always been treated as outcasts – the local priest thinks they’re ‘of the devil’, people all gossip, Tyler has no friends – change is welcome, even if it’s not easy.
I wouldn’t call the setting for this story contemporary, it always felt like depression era, but having said that, the timeframe is never actually mentioned. The main characters, Tyler and Marsh, are sweet. They have the innocent beginnings of an exuberantly youthful, loving relationship – stirring of emotions, annoyance, and kissing included.
As if they had some unspoken agreement, the two faeries began sharing their sleeping pallet, curling up with one another, their tails entwining together as they slept through the night.
Changeling has a message about (in)tolerance and difference. It also carries a message about being who you are. For me, the best scene was when Marsh, who doesn’t understand why people on this side aren’t flocking to the good looking Tyler, kisses Tyler in front of the whole gobsmacked, gossipy town, followed by his thoughts about the simplicity of same-sex attraction. Marsh was my hero right then and there.
I rarely read YA these days but this was an enjoyable, sweet story, probably a bit convenient toward the latter stages but it is a short fairy tale, and an endearing, lighter inclusion to the anthology. It would make for a nice longer novella aimed at the YA market.
4)Through the Veil – J. Scott Coatsworth.
Colton lives in The Canals of a dystopian San Francisco. The world has suffered from the ravages of climate change. Districts are divided by the Wall which acts as a barrier between the haves and have-nots. Colton is transgender FTM and binds breasts and takes testosterone. He lives in a small, small apartment and steers gondolas, takes a bit of cash from rich spoilt kids, and gives services here and there to pay for his place, his gondola, and the testosterone he needs. I have to add one cryptic point, if you hit a part, as I did, where it seems… convenient re: someone being (not) trans, just stick with it. If that sounds weird, well, it could just be me and I can’t say anymore without it being a spoiler. However, the author brought my faith right back into the story.
Tris lives in Gleann Sidh, aka Faery, and is off to look for his older brother, the heir to the throne, who has been missing for two (faery) years. Tris misses Laris and is determined to find him and bring him home. He doesn’t want to be the ruler, he just wants his older brother back.
Colton and Tris meet through unusual circumstances. Colton is asked by the Pharmacist to perform a task involving a sword and Alcatraz in return for the hormones he has been supplied. In faery, Tris has conjured up the Veil, a magical portal to this world – or Saoleile as the fae call it.
Through the Veil has very nice world building in both San Francisco – although it got a bit San Fran heavy in the descriptions – and in Faery. The way Colton is up high looking over the City – the water, buildings, lights and sounds with an appraising yet sadly resigned eye is juxtaposed against Tris’ world beautifully. Tris climbs the hill to leave Glenn Sidh and looks over the home he knows so well – the trees, ivy, the wild feel of nature with its clean air. The fact that there are two POV helps the characters develop more in the smaller word count in this side-by-side worlds collide story.
Whilst reading Through the Veil I just kept thinking (LGBT) Escape From LA + Stargate meets fairy tale. It’s an UF/fairy tale hybrid. It definitely makes for an interesting mix to this story and a nice way to bring the anthology home.
I know how hard it is to find anthologies that contain stories that are on par, but it happens here. Four strong, complimentary stories are contained within Myths Untold: Faery and if you like fairy tales, fantasy, a bit of YA and urban fantasy, just shorter stories that are well written, then I highly recommend this book. I’ve found three new authors to look out for in the future. 4 Stars!