Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GoodReads Review: Familiars

FamiliarsFamiliars by Denise Little

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This anthology offers stories about the mage's faithful companion, the familiar, and promises to depart from the usual cliches with new and different interpretations. Unfortunately, it fails on this account. Most of the stories do involve cats or dogs - which seems to be to be the obvious anti-cliche of the familiar world - and the familiars generally play an expected role in the story. (There is one tale where the familiar is particularly clever, which I won't identify because it spoils the ending ... but it's the only story where I felt the familiar was an intriguing, different sort of beast.)

I initially was going to give this anthology three stars, because most of the stories are passable and entertaining enough, and a couple shine: the riotous (if somewhat loosely plotted) "First Familiars," by Laura Resnick, which manages to take on the Clinton's pets and still marvelously avoids partisan commentary; and "This Dog Watched," by Von Jocks, where magic, love and the power of words blend together into a poetry of their own. However, many of the stories seemed uneven, bland or incomplete, and the final story is a bewildering eighty-nine page epic where I still couldn't tell you exactly what happened and why.

I also found the description of this anthology somewhat misleading, because a large majority of the stories are contemporary, with only a few set in secondary worlds. With so many options for familiars in different societies, I was a bit disappointed by this. Not that I mind modern stories, but I feel the description of an anthology should be more upfront about the contents.

In the end, most of the stories were a decent read, but predictable or forgettable.

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