Monstrous Little Voices, a short story collection edited by Jonathan Barnes

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! 🙂



I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

10 thoughts on “Monstrous Little Voices, a short story collection edited by Jonathan Barnes

  1. This sounds like a great idea for a collection. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of another book that features stories based on the works of Shakespeare. But I agree, there will probably be more meaning for the reader if they are familiar with his plays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes the concept of it is very cool 🙂 I first heard of it from Lynn’s blog, she did an amazing review of it and that’s why I requested it. I am very glad that I did even though I knew next to nothing about Shakespeare because now I really want to read his plays! 😀


  2. Sounds wonderful! I’ve had this book in my pile for a while now (as I’m a big Adrian Tchaikovsky fan and have studied Shakespeare quite a lot) but still haven’t gotten around to reading it. Your review is a great reminder!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such an interesting idea! I have very mixed feelings about Shakespeare because of school here in the States. I know on one hand he must be brilliant, but on the other, I also feel repelled for life (the tedious, incomprehensible English lessons on Shakespeare are still coded in my brain and anytime I type or say his name now I still feel strong aversion). But maybe something like this would make his work fun and interesting again… I’m quite intrigued.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks awesome! When I first heard of it I was a bit worried because there was the double whammy of me being really bad with anthologies and the fact I don’t really know my Shakespeare. But seems like it can be enjoyed despite that!


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