Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

Pub date: March 22, 2011.

Poisonous girls whose kisses will kill. A fateful eating contest with the devil. Faeries who return to Ironside, searching for love. A junior prom turned bacchanalia. In twelve short stories, eerie and brimming with suspense and unexpected humor, Holly Black twists thefantastical creatures you thought you knew in ways you’ll never expect. (bn.com)

I always get myself into a bit of a conundrum trying to review short story collections. Do I review each story separately or collectively? Well, each story would pose for a heinously long review and I think with this particular book, Black's voice stands out enough that I could review one lump sum without losing sight of the book as each story individually whole.

Black has a very distinct voice that I think permeates through all of her stories, regardless of context or plot. And that's not a bad thing in this case. It's poignant and telling, hitting you with each word so as to drill the story in deeper. Each story, despite its shortness, carries a weight that sits atop your shoulders for the entire book, each word hanging on you, forcing you to never forget them.

All of the stories were demented and somewhat sinister, each carrying an edge of nastiness that hung out right at the edge of black humor, poking at the line between insanely clever and just a little bit sick. 'In Vodka Veritas' is a good example of perhaps crossing that line, where with an ancient spell cast by a little club at school, all of the students at prom end up in orgiastic ecstasy before the end of it. Depending on my mood, that could broach the 'little bit sick' line more than the others.

'The Coldest Girl in Coldtown' was exquisite. I'm all for dementing vampire lore in order to make something new but there's a difference between knowing what you're doing and raping the ever-loving fuck out of it *coughsmeyercough*. Black knew what she was doing, twisted the lore just so and ripped the romanticism right out of its back, leaving it in a half-alive state in a tub filled with ice cubes and its hand taped to a phone receiver. God, I loved it so. That's not to say I don't like my romantic vampires but every once in a while the vampire fans need to be reminded of just what vampires are like. And Black was filming it all.

'The Poison Eaters,' the book's namesake, pulls no punches and does what few authors are willing to do with their darlings: kill them. Black shows no mercy, serves no plots. There is this story that no one's safe from. Everyone's at risk, everyone's a murderer and everyone's a victim and in the end everyone gets theirs. Love. Truly. Fearless writing is what I call it.

Really it's an excellent compilation of stories that'll have you salivating for more. I've never read any of Black's work outside of this book but you can damn well believe I'm going to. If the rest of her stuff is this fantastic, I'm right there hounding for it. If you're looking for fluffy and fun tinged with a hint of pink, this book isn't it. It's dark, dastardly and at times gruesome. It'll rock you right out of your comfort zone and into Black's world where nothing is sacred and everything's up for grabs. It's damn good writing is what it is and I couldn't ask for anything more. Read this. Read it now. And love it.


BooksforCompany said...

l loved the first few but l couldn't get into two of these and gave up! =( Gutted as this book has a lot of positive reviews.

The Sanction Chronicles said...

I have not read this one, but I loved, loved, loved White Cat by Holly Black. One of my two/three recommended reads in 2010.

Thanks for the review,
Terry Kate

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