Technically? This is a WCOB - one of those wicked cool, overlooked books. The technicality surfaces when you realize this anthology is made up of previously-published pieces by author Ruth Nestvold. Asimov’s Science Fiction mag, Realms of Fantasy, Sci Fiction, Strange Horizons -- the list goes on. She's kind of everywhere, and is a two-time contributor to the Year's Best Science Fiction collections. And writing isn't even her day job.
I just happened upon her book of shorts because it was a one-day Amazon special. I was gobamacked when I zipped through the stories and found one which included the famous Aphra Behn. Being a Mills-girl studying the English Restoration in grad school and being a reader on some restoration thesis projects, I got to learn all about this fascinating woman - the first professional female writer in the English language - and it was fun to see someone else celebrating Behn's awesome creativity with a bit of her own.
Each story bears a little bit of history - fictionalized, of course - but these little nibbles of fact and realism create lovely settings for the cast of unique, complex characters. Nestvold has a deft hand with even such limited word counts - I would love to see some longer pieces by this author (ooh - a short Google, and I found some). While this book isn't marketed specifically to young adults, any SFF loving teen will appreciate them. I'd love to see what she'd write specifically for YA; there's shades of Tamora Pierce here, people.
But - I digress. On with the stories!
Reader Gut Reaction: If you were asking basic questions, I guess you could say that Dragon Time and Other Stories is a 30,000 word short fiction collection, made up of four quirky, creative stories that are intentionally side-stepping tradition. They're supposed to be, kinda-sorta a touch on the romantic side. They're all about strong female characters, and ...they're about staying strong. Sometimes that means hanging onto who they are with all they've got. Other times it can mean holding their horses -- no, all of them. And everyone else's...
Concerning Character: Katja, grand-daughter of the finest clockmaker in Unterdrachenberg, would love to practice that craft. She knows that she knows how - her grandfather has let her have a little set of tools, and a workroom all her own, even if he won't let her actually do anything to fix time - not for real. But, then, her opportunity comes - the dragons, who gave Unterdrachenberg its time, have suddenly taken it back. Does life stop, if time stops? And, is it worth putting aside your fears to make sure that nothing ever stays the same?
Ai Kyarem is bold as brass - all tough sinew and tanned strength and a long horsetail braid. The Great Mare is her goddess, and she bows to no man. However, her days of freedom might soon be over... This story reminded me of the steppes of Russia, and the Cossacks. Great fun.
Brilliana sets the stage on fire - and has the eye of Bonnie Prince Charlie. She has everything to lose if she admits that she's a witch, but someone is plotting to kill The Age of Magic.
Priscilla is perfectly able to run the kingdom by herself - God knows she's been doing that just fine for most of her life, since her father, the King, is a well-meaning but perfect dolt. However, fairy godmothers are around to make sure that princesses marry - even when they don't want to. Epic battle of wills, film at eleven.
Sound intriguing, don't they?
Recommended for Fans Of...: Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, and Kristin Cashore.
Cover Chatter: Covers for self-pubbed books can go a variety of different ways. Heck, any covers can be a train wreck, thanks to the overuse of Photoshop, but there are times when self-published writers really do themselves no favors, and I wish they'd had some better advice. This cover I like, because it shows an appropriately immense and terrifying dragon, contrasted with the teeeeensy tiny silhouette of a person in a doorway far, far away. It makes one feel reasonably frightened for poor Katja. ☺
Authorial Asides: From her website: Her novella “Looking Through Lace” made the short list for the Tiptree award and was nominated for the Sturgeon award. In 2007, the Italian translation won the “Premio Italia” for best international SF novel. Her “Big Fat Arthurian Fantasy” Flamme und Harfe (“Flame and Harp”) appeared with Random House Germany in 2009, and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian as well. Ruth Nestvold, international woman of mystery... or something like that. I'm happy to find a new author short fiction appeals to me, and I think Tech Boy will like them, too.
FTC: This is an unsolicited review; all opinions are my own.