Out Today The Tangleroot Palace & Other Stories by Marjorie Liu from @TitanBooks #BookReview #ShortStory #Fantasy #Fairytale

The Tangleroot Palace & Other Stories by Marjorie Liu

Titan Books, pb, £8.99

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Short story collections are a funny thing. It’s impossible to cater to all tastes, and so, sometimes, the stories can be a little hit and miss. I might love one but be underwhelmed by another. I very rarely find a collection where I enjoy every story. The Tangleroot Palace is that rare exception.

The stories selected come from all stages in Liu’s writing career and demonstrate her immense skill in crafting a story. At the end of each story, Liu explains how it came into being, what the initial prompt had been, and any insights she has gained from rereading it. For example, she notes that three tales are about a haunted forest and why that might be. These pieces are as fascinating as short stories themselves. Coming at the end, we uncover the theme without any pre-warning, which is how it should be.

There are seven stories in the collection, but no two are really the same. While it could be argued there is a fairytale theme running throughout, each falls into a slightly different subgenre. The Tangleroot Palace and The Briar and The Rose are the most obviously fairytales, while The Last Dignity of Man explores modern-day superheroes or the lack of. Where the Heart Lives and After the Blood lie at opposite ends of her core Dirk & Steele series. The Light and The Fury looks at a future where people have been altered to create super soldiers called juggernauts.

I am utterly ashamed to say this is the first time I have read Liu’s work, but it won’t be the last. I was blown away by her skill. I loved every story, the steady pacing and reveal, what is revealed or withheld. I lost myself in each story, so picking a favourite is a hard task. I think, though, if you were to force me, I would have to say Sympathy for the Bones. It is a delicate story about disrupting the cycle of toxic upbringings for something better and is uplifting; a fantastic start to an amazing collection.

If you are already a fan of Majorie Liu, you don’t need me to tell you you need this collection. And if this is your first time reading Liu’s work, you will definitely be a fan by the time you’ve finished. Highly recommended.