Dangerous Women

Dangerous Women by George R.R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois

All new and original to this volume, the 21 stories in Dangerous Women include work by twelve New York Times bestsellers, and seven stories set in the authors’ bestselling continuities—including a new “Outlander” story by Diana Gabaldon, a  tale of Harry Dresden’s world by Jim Butcher, a story from Lev Grossman set in the world of The Magicians, and a 35,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin about the Dance of the Dragons, the vast civil war that tore Westeros apart nearly two centuries before the events of A Game of Thrones.

Also included are original stories of dangerous women--heroines and villains alike--by Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Lawrence Block, Carrie Vaughn,  S. M. Stirling, Sharon Kay Penman, and many others.

Writes Gardner Dozois in his Introduction, “Here you’ll find no hapless victims who stand by whimpering in dread while the male hero fights the monster or clashes swords with the villain, and if you want to tie these women to the railroad tracks, you’ll find you have a real fight on your hands.  Instead, you will find sword-wielding women warriors, intrepid women fighter pilots and far-ranging spacewomen, deadly female serial killers, formidable female superheroes, sly and seductive femmes fatale, female wizards, hard-living Bad Girls, female bandits and rebels, embattled survivors in Post-Apocalyptic futures, female Private Investigators, stern female hanging judges, haughty queens who rule nations and whose jealousies and ambitions send thousands to grisly deaths, daring dragonriders, and many more.” 

One of the biggest anthology releases last year was Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois, two of the biggest name in genre fiction today. As soon as I heard about the release I kindly asked Tor if I could review this anthology and they kindly provided me with a review copy, yay, yes I did a little dance! There are a great many authors that have written all new exciting short stories solely for the purpose of this anthology, it all new material which hasn't seen the light of day besides this anthology! Below you can find the list of all the story titles and authors that have written a story for Dangerous Women

1.     Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie - A Red Country story
2.     My Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott
3.     Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland
4.     The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass
5.     Bombshells by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden story
6.     Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn
7.     Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale
8.     Neighbors by Megan Lindholm
9.     I Know How to Pick ’Em by Lawrence Block
10.  Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson
11.  A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman
12.  The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman - A Magicians story
13.  Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress
14.  City Lazarus by Diana Rowland
15.  Virgins by Diana Gabaldon - An Outlander story
16.  Hell Hath No Fury by Sherilynn Kenyon
17.  Pronouncing Doom by S.M. Stirling - An Emberverse story
18.  Name the Beast by Sam Sykes
19.  Caretakers by Pat Cadigan
20.  Lies My Mother Told Me by Caroline Spector - A Wild Cards story
21.  The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire story

The title of the anthology, Dangerous Women, should give you an indication as to what the "thread" in each story is. Deadly women, women to keep your eye on, women you don't want to have working against you. I found this idea of showing how deadly women can be very cool. There are plenty of stories that feature heroines and female protagonists but they are often shown in a the brave way, with this anthology the 22 authors have a plan to turn the table 180 degrees. And it all works out for the definite better. Upfront you can read that there are many different types of stories in this anthology, each author does what he does best writing in his own genre and this produced a wide set of different stories. Ranging from the incerdible western by Joe Abercrombie that kicks of the debut to the downright dark crime thrillers back to Epic Fantasy by George R. R. Martin himself and the Urban Fantasy by Jim Butcher. I am happy to say that none of these stories are the same, they are all great material to read. Besides the wide set of different genre that are represented in this anthology its also good to see that the ratio of both female and male authors is about the same and if I have to be honest I do have to say that the female authors really have a knack for producing some pretty deadly protagonists, it seems that they do have a point working for themselves. 

With so many great stories featuring in this anthology I would have liked to tell you a bit about each one but that would make this review to long so instead I will pick the stories that for me showed both originality and creativity. (authors is your story isn't discussed below it didn't mean it was bad! but sometimes you have to make choices... :-()

1. Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is fastly becoming a major voice in fantasy, his series, First Law, took over the world by storm and since then he written numerous editions to this series.  Red Country was the latest addition in the series. With Some Desperado, Joe Abercrombie takes the reader back to the Red Country (now I still got this book to do for a review so I can't relate any events from the original story and this short story). The focus in Some Desperado is on Shy an female desperado, who is on the run for 3 man that plan to take her down. The story really kicks off with a fast pacing where shy has been hit with an arrow and is suffering and bleeding badly. Shy manages to make her way into a small town and starts to come up with a plan on how to escape, but being heavily wounded and vastly outnumbered this sounds much easier than it actually is. Joe Abercrombie is well known for easily writing books featuring 400-500 pages, going into nice detailing and showing great characterization and world building. Well, if you look at Some Desperado it is exactly what you will see. even though it's a short story, Joe Abercrombie showed just what he is all about. I think that this is mainly owed to the location, the whole story doesn't wonder from continent to continent but it's all contained in small town with events following up on each other. The narration that focuses on Shy really helped to give a great pacing to the story, her inner dialogues and planning gave a great feel to her character. As the story continues Shy is driven into very narrow corners, and you all know when you start cornering people, they often turn out to be deadly. Last resorts come to play and the "victim" Shy in the beginning is quite different from the latter version of her. Some Desperado is a very cool and sadly one of those stories that is over to soon, in these few pages Joe Abercrombie manages to create a feeling of reading a whole book. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois made a wise decision of putting this story to begin with, it really got my heart racing to read the others. 

2.  My Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott
This is the second story in Dangerous Women, and completely throws away all the desert/outback setting that Joe Abercrombie has created, and places you in a suburban setting. Now when I first started reading this story it immediately raised goosebumps on my arms, in My Heart is Either Broken Megan Abbott creates a quite disturbing yet beautifully written haunting story about a torn family. Lori, the wife of Tom, looses their baby one day when she is getting coffee, rule number one, never trust your baby in the hands of a stranger! What follows is an emotional rollercoaster… The news of the disappearance of baby Shelby hit the front page news and wherever they go Lori and Tom are confronted with this horrible fact. Megan Abbot has a great way of building up this story even considering that it’s a short story. If you look at the start of the story it seems that both Lori and Tom are doing their best coping with this loss and trying to find Shelby back, but soon there are several hints dropped that it might seem that Lori is perhaps hiding a bit more information. Halfway through the story you learn much more about Lori's past and that it's quite dark and sinister and this part really gave me the creeps, especially when you read the ending of this story. Megan Abbott creates a hauntingly, creepy and quite disturbing story that will stick with you for more than a while. Can you trust your spouse?

3. Bombshells by Jim Butcher - A Harry Dresden story
Bestselling author Jim Butcher is best known by many fantasy fans by his popular Urban Fantasy series The Dresden Files. This series has been running for quite some time now, and it's still going strong I think I saw that a new book will be released later this year. I haven't had the time to read any of these books, but I can tell you that with reading this short story, I have gotten eager to pick it up asap. Anyway onto Bombshells. This story takes place after Ghost Story, the 13th book in the series. I was expecting to find a story regarding Harry Dresden, the protagonist of the story but instead the focus is on Molly, Ok so I know that Harry dies. This didn't take away any of the reading experience though, yes it was all quite new to me, but with using the apprentice of Harry, Molly, actually makes Bombshells much more approachable for the broader audience who aren't familiar, like me, with his universe. Molly is tasked with rescuing a dear friend. What I liked most about Bombshells is that is a perfect display of Jim Butcher's catchy and addictive writing style, if he writes his Dresden Files this way it sure is a winner. Bombshells is written in the first person perspective of Molly and you really get to see and feel her story. As she makes decisions, deciding which way to go and second guessing herself whether it is the right way too, but also the dialogues and action that follow up are great to read. They on one hand show a hard struggle that Molly is going through without her master but they are also very funny to read and Molly clearly has a lot of wit and doesn't take no for an answer. Oh and yes, the action when it takes place, it the kind you want to reading urban fantasy I felt the full force of this urban magic. I really need to get to reading The Dresden Files!

4. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson's story, Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell,  marks the halfway of Dangerous. I have been a long time fan of Brandon Sanderson's works and only haven't read his Stormlight archive yet. Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell takes place in an post-apocalyptic world, and it truly feels destroyed. It centers around an inn run by Silence Malone the protagonist of the story. From the first pages Brandon Sanderson creates a grim and dark setting mainly by giving the location of where the story takes place, a darker than dark forest where it's far from safe to venture outside after dark. The forest is taken over by a force simply know as the Evil. The only thing that keeps the shades at bay is silver. As the story progresses you learn that Silence Malone is more than just a simple barkeep, she knows how to make some extra coin in a much more adventurous way. Silence is once again forced to pick up her second job, just to make sure that her inn stays open. She has found her bait that will help her pay the bills, but her plan soon turns out to be much more precarious and things start to go sour... The first part of the story was a great build-up of the world itself and added a lot of flavor to the story, the second part when it starts to go bad... really was one intense story in which Brandon Sanderson showed not only action but also things that limit the world and you come to see that even if you have the muscle and brawn you need to have you wits about you as well. Several themes that I liked that Brandon Sanderson included besides the tight action was how people makes descisions, like I mentioned above, only silver could ward of shades, but what if silver is limited? how do you decide who you want to save and who you are letting to die? Shadows for Silence in the Forest of Hell is a true hidden gem within this big anthology, it's not all about the action and how lethal Silence Malone can be but it showed for me a women who wants to be left alone doing her own business, a harsh and destroyed world where living isn't easy and difficult choices... Perfect.

5. Lies My Mother Told Me by Caroline Spector - A Wild Cards story
Lies My Mother Told Me was one of the stories I was really looking forward to when I read the line of Dangerous Women. This story is set in the Wild Card universe, another author project that George R.R. Martin has been running since 1987 I think. It features a world where a virus, known as the wild card virus has infected the world and when people get their cards turned they can gain superpowers. By becoming Aces, Jokers, Deuces, Nats and Suicide Kings. I haven't read the original ones but I started with Inside Straight and I knew that Caroline Spector wrote the Amazing Bubble story, one of the better superheroes that I have come to read about in the Wild Cards series. Lies My Mother Told Me takes you to the Mardi Grass in New Orleans and focuses on Michelle who is better known as the Ace Bubbles, her power lie with absorbing damage and storing it as "fat" which she is able to utilize by shooting bubbles, as hard and fast as bullets. She get this fat by jumping off buildings, she is virutally indestructable and makes her a target for more darker practices. During the Mardi Grass festival an zombie attack arises and MIchelle fends this deftly off by using her superpowers. However Michelle also knows that there is only one person that is able to conjure or summon zombies, a good friend of hers. After the confrontation it soon becomes clear that some weird stuff is going on, at the hands of a unknown Ace. One of the strengths of Lies My Mother Told Me was that Caroline Spector managed to create a strong character cast with each a different personality in just these few words. Perhaps this was stronger for me since I already knew several characters but the latest addition, Adesina the daughter of Michelle adds her own flair to the story, her powers are pretty cool. Besides the characters this story is just one big treat to read and what I have come to understand from the Wild Card stories, it own action packed roller-coaster ride from start to finish, with a lot of cool superhero stuff all troughout!

6.The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin - A Song of Ice and Fire story
A story definitly not to be missed in this review and written by none other than George R.R. Martin, I already read that several people got this book solely on his novella set in the popular Song of Ice and Fire series, and I have to concur, even if you don't care about the other stories, but if you are following A Game of Thrones on TV or reading the books. You. Have. To. Read. The Princess and the Queen. It's a heretofore show of pure force and DRAGONS!! The Princess and the Queen takes place before the events of the A Song of Ice and Fire series and is set in the Targaryen Civil War, which is better known as a Dance of Dragons, and boy it is! The story is told from the point of view of several historic recounts. It depicts the fight between Queen Rhaenrya and Aegon II, after the fest of Viserys I. 

From the first pages you are introduced and are being kept introduced to a lot of different characters. The Princess and the Queen is another great example of George R.R. Martin's relentless story writing. Yes. People die, a quite many actually. When you heard the name "Dance of Dragons" you might have guessed it to be a graceful political game but you have to throw away that pretense. This fight is taken to new soaring heights on the back of dragons. Since The Princess and the Queen takes place before the original story, there were dragons a plenty, I know just this aspect will please a many readers. I already knew that George R.R. Martin was a craftsmen with his A Song of Ice and Fire, but I haven't seen this display of action before. When you see the full force unleashed by these dragons, it will take your breath away, it's a very, very powerful display of these magnificent creatures, and in the backdrop of the Westeros universe just perfect. But also don't think that this is just it battling dragons. You can also expect the usual backstabbing, blackmailing and mudthrowing at the court side when the action of the dragon ebbs away a bit. Combining this makes The Princess and the Queens live up to it's full potential. I for one hope to see much more short stories in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, as it also helps with clearing up questions that you might have... because now I know what happened to these majestic creatures...sadly though... 

These are just six of the twenty-one powerful stories that feature in the amazing anthology. I think I will be repeating myself again and again when I say that you really really have to have read this book and the sooner the better. Both George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have picked up some mighty fine stories to feature in this femme fatale anthology and lets not forget the authors of those stories as well, they have written completely new and original short stories just for the sake of this anthology. The stories features are cross genre from urban fantasy down to epic fantasy and back to contemporary again. Don't miss this one. Will we see another whole original anthology at the end of this year? Dangerous Women deserves a spot at the top of my bookshelves, it really is that good.


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