Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Shards & Ashes edited by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong

Release Date: February 19, 2013
(Thank you to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: HarperCollins

Shards & Ashes edited by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong

Gripping original stories of dystopian worlds from nine New York Times bestselling authors, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong

The world is gone, destroyed by human, ecological, or supernatural causes. Survivors dodge chemical warfare and cruel gods; they travel the reaches of space and inhabit underground caverns. Their enemies are disease, corrupt corporations, and one another; their resources are few, and their courage is tested.

Powerful original dystopian tales from nine bestselling authors offer bleak insight, prophetic visions, and precious glimmers of light among the shards and ashes of a ruined world.

Stories from:
Kelley Armstrong
Rachel Caine
Kami Garcia
Nancy Holder
Melissa Marr
Beth Revis
Veronica Roth
Carrie Ryan
Margaret Stohl

This review will be broken into 3 parts: one, brief summaries of the stories; two, my personal favorites; three, an overview of the anthology.


1. Brief summaries of the stories 

"Hearken" by Veronica Roth - Darya has perfect pitch, which makes her eligible to train and become a Hearkener, a government employee who hears songs of either death or life and potentially records them. Which songs will Darya choose to hear, and how will that impact her life?

"Branded" by Kelley Armstrong - To what lengths will a human and a werewolf go to preserve their love in an overpopulated dystopic world that separates supernaturals (who have formed tribes Outside the fortress) from humans?

"Necklace of Raindrops" by Margaret Stohl - If you had a necklace with raindrops that played a part in how long you got to live your life, would you keep it safe, or would you spend your raindrops to travel, to love, to live, knowing that you would drop from the sky the moment your time was spent?

"Dogsbody" by Rachel Caine - Xavier Gray's world is dominated by corporations, specifically Corporate (and its enemies). When he's thirteen, he along with the other residents of Level K are allowed to board a train to the Cup Game hosted by Corporate. What happens afterward, and how Zay rises in the ranks fuel this plot. (This one was really hard for me to summarize.)

"Pale Rider" by Nancy Holder - When Delaney breaks into a house to steal batteries, she meets a German stranger who knows something about the Collapse of the world and Delaney's role in repairing the damage. Magic and familial secrets abound.

"Corpse Eaters" by Melissa Marr - Nidhogg, a god, has descended to destroy the world, and every human corpse (brought by his followers) that he eats makes him stronger. Harmony and Chris fight, along with others, to prevent the god's advancement by hunting Nidos and freeing cisterns of the corpses. In a life so filled with death, where do you find meaning?

"Burn 3" by Kami Garcia - The sky has turned red from the sun's heat that burned through the holes in the Ozone layer, and now Phoenix and Sky live in a Dome made of material that shelters them from burning beneath those caustic rays. Phoenix and Sky are sisters who have only each other, so when Sky goes missing, Phoenix searches for her throughout this destroyed world.

"Love is a Choice" by Beth Revis - A prequel of sorts to Across the Universe. If you've read it, you might have wondered what Orion did all those years. This story answers it for you.

"Miasma" by Carrie Ryan - In Portlay, beaked doctors use plague eaters to detect those who are infected and take them away to prevent the plague's spread. Frankie is trying to take care of her older sister Cathy, who's infected, without anyone finding out.


2. Personal Favorites:
(Most are because of the character relationships.)

1. "Hearken" by Veronica Roth - Why? Because of all the stories, I think this one had the most character development and meaning. Its world--the postapocalyptic part of it, at least--was less developed than those in the others, but the character relationships are excellent. It feels very much like a story Veronica Roth would tell--something that delves deeper into what music (and family) can mean to us. The things we may not understand about people if we view the world in shades of black and white. The life lessons we can learn if we're willing to open ourselves.

2. "Corpse Eaters" by Melissa Marr - Again, this very much felt like a story Melissa Marr would tell. There's clear backstory for the characters (and their motivations), and there is more focus on them than on rebellion against this harsh world. I liked that, and the character development, and the little plot twist Marr threw in that I didn't see coming. Plus a god that eats human corpses? Oh, Melissa Marr.

3. "Miasma" by Carrie Ryan - Again, I loved how developed the world and character relationships were. Of the protagonists in this anthology, Frankie was definitely either my favorite or second favorite. Even if I didn't learn much about her sister, I could empathize with Frankie and her struggles to save what she had left in the world, and to savor what little she could gain. Plus, I love how scents were so integral to the world. Beautiful writing for a destroyed world. Would love to read more of this!

4. "Branded" by Kelley Armstrong - I definitely didn't predict where this story was headed. The plot twists were fantastic, and I loved that bit of tension of well, what exactly did Rayne plan? Though the romance was central to the story, it wasn't there to clog down the plot; rather, the romance enhanced it.


3. Anthology in General:

  • Not continuations of authors' series - You don't need to have read any of the authors' previous work to understand what's going on. Even Beth Revis' story, which is set in the world of Across the Universe, is made understandable for those who haven't read her books.
  • Diversity - Not just in the stories and their worlds, but also in the characters. Veronica Roth, Margaret Stohl, and Nancy Holder included characters of color in their stories. Several authors drew on class tension as well.
  • The brokenness of the worlds - There are some very unexpected elements to these stories. Definitely wasn't expecting cannabalism, haha, but yes, that's there along with the more usual questions of meaning, familial relationships, love, etc. etc.
  • Variety in plots - Some of the stories focused more on the worlds themselves (i.e. "Dogsbodies," "Pale Rider"), some were more character based (i.e. "Hearken," "Miasma"), and some were more romance oriented (i.e. "Necklace of Raindrops," "Branded"). That's not to say that those, and the others that I didn't mention, didn't include elements of all three... Basically, there's something for everyone here.
  • Challenges traditional notion of dystopic worlds - For me, at least, whenever I think of dystopian novels nowadays, they always include some society or corporation that needs to be overthrown, but it's a lot harder to explore all the nuances of the society and still rebel against it in a short story. Instead, a lot of these stories seemed to focus less on the rebellion/fixing the world, and more on how these characters survived within their worlds, worlds they already knew were dystopic. There is a definite element of "brokenness" in each world, but it's not what I'd have expected of "dystopic worlds." It's actually quite refreshing.
  • How does this compare to the last anthology Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong edited together? Good question-- here are what I perceive to be the differences. Firstly, this anthology is a lot more universal, with a lot fewer stories set in the authors' previous worlds. Secondly, I think that this anthology offers more diversity in combinations -- "dystopic worlds" can also include the paranormal, but I think that the dystopia that is included in "paranormal worlds" often gets downplayed, if that makes sense. So you have a bit of both in this anthology. Thirdly, I think there was less humor in this anthology. The dystopic worlds here are harsh, so it's hard to find lightness. 
  • What's not different: there's an author whose stories I liked much less than the others. I think that just means I don't mesh with her writing style, so I wonder if the same will happen for other readers of both anthologies. Most stories also hint at romance, if not include it. And this anthology includes a variety of destroyed worlds (environmental, paranormal, religious, etc.), just as Enthralled includes a variety of paranormal creatures.

If you're interested, there's a Goodreads giveaway going on for this book. Let me know if you have any questions! Reviewing an anthology is really hard...


  1. Reviewing anthologies is seriously difficult. I don't think there's a perfect way to do it. Sigh.

    Also, I'm not reading in detail, because I have this in my review pile, however I am annoyed that Beth Revis wrote ANOTHER story in the AtU universe. Don't get me wrong; I like those books. I would really like to see her branch out, though.

  2. @ Christina - I don't think you're the only one who felt that way. If I'm not mistaken, I saw a Goodreads reviewer say the exact same thing.


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