Mini-Reviews: Dark Fantasy & Urban Fantasy Short Story Collections – Songs of Love & Death ed. by Geroge R.R. Martin + Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror ed. by Kevin J. Anderson

Songs of Love and Death is an adult fantasy anthology of short stories by various authors and it was edited by George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) and Gardner Dozois (Martin did not contribute his own works to the collection). I initially picked it up because the idea of an anthology of mostly dark and somewhat tragic tales of death and romance appealed to me quite a lot. However, after having read through a lot of these stories, I ended up being disappointed all around.

My anticipation was for new, fresh, and original stories by these authors; tales that weren’t connected to any pre-existing universes or serials, at least not in a spoilery way. However, most of the short stories provided are exactly that. They involve characters from some of the biggest and longest fantasy serials within the genre, and they don’t hold back in revealing major overarching narrative information for those respective franchises. One example of this is the very first tale, which is from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series. Within the first two pages, big events from the series are referenced. For someone who’s making their way through the books at the moment (for the first time after book four), reading these spoilers made me want to throw the damn thing against the wall (which I did after the second or third story).

Because of this, it’s difficult to recommend the book to others, especially if they aren’t familiar with the lengthy, pre-existing casts and things. It can leave the reader feeling somewhat lost with a lot of the contributing works shared. So, overall, I’d say that I felt INDIFFERENT about it as a whole, but in actuality, I’d probably NOT RECOMMEND this to readers specifically wanting original, one-shot type stories to check out. Nonetheless, if you don’t care about spoilers, then you may enjoy this much more than I did. Please note that a lot of the stories are on the darker and more depressing/tragic side of the spectrum.

Publication Date: December 2020
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (978-1982156053)
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Anthology
Page Count: 480
Content Warnings: Violence and action. Death. Some strong language. Sexual content. Non-consensual sexual advances. Alcohol consumption. Preparation and consumptions of food. Kidnapping.

Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror Stories is another adult fantasy anthology of short tales that was edited by Kevin J. Anderson (Saga of the Seven Suns and The Legends of Dune Trilogy). This was an awesome treat, especially after Songs of Love and Death. Most of the tales were original and unique with very minor (non-spoiler) to no associations to pre-existing content. Combine that with a great sense of the morbid in the humour exercised, I had a fucking ball.

A lot of the comedy is definitely more on the darker side and it does not shy away from cheesy puns, as well as some fucked-up satirical elements. One definitely has to have a special taste for this sort of mirth, including an appreciation for dry humour, in order to fully enjoy a lot of the short tales shared herein. (I have both a very dark and fucked-up sense of humour as well as a love for dry, British humour.)

Even in the midst of all the laughs and chuckles, the tales tackle some serious situations and circumstances that would otherwise be incredibly evocative or emotionally intense to read. The comedic senses helps to alleviate that tension somewhat so that each story is compelling, entertaining, yet also a bit thoughtful. Many are also gloriously atmospheric, which helped me to feel the great sense of escapism that I was looking for. It was really neat to close my eyes and imagine all the wondrous and at-times exceedingly strange places the characters ended up. A lot of the stories are urban fantasy and that can provide a very distinctive sense of atmosphere on its own.

Overall, I’d definitely RECOMMEND Blood Lite to folx that enjoy reading classic and urban fantasies, as well as satirical horror. It’s a fun and amusing ride; pure entertainment! It can be gory, twisted, and out right weird, but it’s also quite imaginative and makes me want to check out a lot of these authors’ other works.

Publication Date: October 2008
Publisher: Gallery Books (978-1416567837)
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Anthology
Page Count: 400
Content Warnings: Action, violence, blood, and death. Some body horror. Some strong language. Some sexuality. Depicts eating, drinking alcohol, and smoking.

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