“You’ll want to stop and savor each and every one. This is unique fantasy, fresh, gripping and brilliantly realized.” — Jack Ketchum
A ballet dancer can’t escape an unwanted suitor—even after death. Three sisters live by a strict etiquette book in an abandoned house, until one of them starts to question why. Two children venture into the treacherous forest to find their missing bird-guardian. A magician struggles to find a cure for the plague descending on her city before it’s too late.
Emily B. Cataneo’s debut fiction collection is rife with the decayed grandeur of old Europe, girls who love and loathe ghosts, and magic that comes with a price. These stories, many of which have appeared on year’s best longlists, span the gamut from soft science fiction to noir, to high fantasy and everything in between. They unfold in settings rendered both beautiful and sinister: a wintry post-Revolution Russia, a gossipy New England town, a lonely bathhouse where robots go to die.
As the characters in these tales live out their lives, from childhood to death and beyond, they search for meaning, connection, and safety, struggling to transcend their circumstances and ultimately grappling with the question: how far will they go to escape?
Sui generous—that’s Latin for “in a class of its own.” If I had to say it in a sentence, that’s it.
Tonally, the author weds the whimsical sophisticated to the moody macabre in a light rain on the outer edge of dark. Vocally, she’s conscientious and anxious but doesn’t linger long enough to be overtaken by dread or regret. Topically, she touches a range of timely issues through the abstract lens of the subtle supernatural: the societal role and expectations of women, etiquette as both elevating and confining, and a world where we futiley assert control just as so many things seek it over us.
Cataneo stares into the abyss and, when it stares back, invites it for tea and conversation while a dusty attic music box plays a nocturne for a twirling ballerina figurine.