I was very intimidated by this book because I never read (or seen) any Shakespeare’s plays. It’s not because I’m a lousy student or anything, it’s just that in France, we don’t study English playwriters that much since we have a good number of excellent ones, like Molière, Racine and Corneille (for example) to study.
Of course, I wasn’t completly ignorant, I knew about Romeo & Juliet and I had heard about Macbeth, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing but I didn’t really knew those stories.
However, you don’t really need to know Shakespeare to enjoy this book. All the storie are both understandable and enjoyable without knowing the plays they’re referencing. I do think that you’ll get more out of them if you know some of his plays, the ones that are the most important in this short story collection are The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing. I’m pretty sure other stories were referenced but I think that I just didn’t recognise them.
Before reading this book, I read some synopses of some of his plays and I think that it was a good idea. So if like me, you know next to nothing about Shakespeare and you want to get the most out of those story, and I would highly recommend Wikipedia or that you watch some videos of Overly Sarcastic Production because her Shakespeare Summarized playlist is awesome!
Now let’s talk about the actual stories! Monstrous Little Voices was overall a great collection of stories, they all are very magical and really intriguing. I really loved two of the novellas and I really disliked only one. As for the other two, I liked them.
Coral Bones by Foz Meadows 5*
This story was terribly clever. It’s definitely my favorite of the whole collection. You could buy the book only for this novella and it would completely be worth it. It’s a mix of The Tempest (it follow Miranda, Prospero’s daughter) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and it’s full of magic and fairies and it had a great reflexion on genders and representation. The pacing, the writing and the plot were perfect. I have no other words really.
I can sometimes struggle with novellas because I usually find that they are too long short story and they don’t have enough elements to be a novel. Because of that I tend to find them boring.
However, This story wasn’t boring, this story was genius.
It’s almost unfair that Monstrous Little Voices began with it because I expected to love all the other stories as much and I didn’t.
The Course of True Love by Kate Heartfield 4.5*
It was again, an amazing story. It was mainly inspired by A Midsummer Night’s dream. It follows a witch and her quest to find an emprisonned fairy ambassador to prevent a war. It’s a story about love, tolerance, magic and growing old. Heratfield’s prose was lush and flowed very well. Not quite as good as Meadows’ story, but still great.
The Unkindest Cut by Emma Newman 3.5*
This story has a very interesting structure, because, unlike the other stories of this collection, it’s not divided into acts or days. It’s told in one go and I think that it was a great choice. Indeed, I think that it helped keeping “a just” pacing during the whole story.
It follows a girl who learns a prophecy and her actions to prevent it. And you surely know that in Shakespeare’s plays, it doesn’t usually turn well.
I especially like the ending that I didn’t see coming at all! It had elements from The Tempest, Macbeth and probably other plays that I just didn’t get.
Even in the Cannon’s Mouth by Adrian Tchaikovski 1*
I don’t have much to say about this one. It was very confusing, a lot of things felt rushed, it had too many references to too many plays and it turned it, in my opinion at least, in a giant mess towards the end… It’s the only story in this collection that I wouldn’t recommend.
On The Twelth Night by Jonathan Barnes 3*
This story a good way to finish this collection. I didn’t mention this before but all the stories in this are linked and it’s better to read them in order. I don’t want to say much about this story other that it’s told in a second person narrative and the main point of view is from Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare wife). It’s set in an alternate universe where Shakespeare never was a famoust dramaturge and it was very interesting. I struggled a bit with the second person narrative but except that, I think that it was an intriguing story.
Overall, I would highly recommend that you give this short story collection a try! 🙂