The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings by Angela Slatter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Always clear and hauntingly beautiful, Angela Slatter can be realistically called one of the masters of the short fiction form, balancing earthy and detailed characters and settings that suck you in against chillingly dreadful stories of degradation, revenge, and magic.
Each story is poetry, but what really gets to me is the fact that each story in this collection, as with Sourdough, are connected.
Not all of them are obviously connected, and in fact, between these two books, they range over great spans of time and different towns and cities, not to mention so many different characters who sometimes show up as old people in other's tales or towns whose fates have gone the way of the dodo... usually because of the envents in the previous story.
Can I recommend this even more, and gloriously so? Absolutely! I'm a huge fan of world building in all its formats, but this stuff is the thing of cathedral stained glass and carefully tended trellises of roses.... with a very, very, dark bent.
I know people keep saying that she's been retelling old myths and fairy tales, but I want to say that she's gone one or two steps further. She's created brand new myths to enrich and enhance the old, even writing with such heart and passion as to put all other similar attempts to shame.
I can see myself reading and rereading these books for a very long time to come. They're so rich and wild and vibrant and deep. Because there's so much going on beneath the surface and in the wild world in general, and we're stuck within a very limited PoV locked within her own extremely interesting story, it's often hard to figure out exactly *when* we are in the wider tales, save for key events that show up in brief conversations or expositions, but one thing is certain: careful reading and perahps a rather large diagram or two can probably lay it all out for us.
Angela Slatter is a very clear and beautiful writer. That bears repeating. She's also telling some of the most haunting tales I've ever read.
But here's the best part: she never assumes we're stupid. She leaves the lion's share of the undercroft for us to explore for ourselves while the main characters dance above the graves of this old church.
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