Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review: The Inheritance & Other Stories

My brother kindly left me The Inheritance and Other Stories by Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm at the top of the stairs today, so I gave it a shot after I finished my filing and completed chapter 2 in Dragon Quest 4. I've read most of Robin Hobb's other works and enjoyed them, so it was a safe bet.

Then I finished it a few hours later. So you get a book review. :P

First off, this is a book of... not really short stories, but novellas and novelettes. Most of them are longish, with two exceptions that are only 13 pages apiece. I am normally not a fan of short story anthologies, so this was perfectly fine by me; I tend to enjoy the slightly longer formats more (probably due to the greater opportunity to develop a memorable setting/character/plot). As with any anthology, there were some stories I liked more than others (in particular, my favorites were "Homecoming" and "Inheritance"), but I was quite pleased with the book as a whole.

Since they were all written by the same person (under two different pseudonyms) there was a certain consistency of style, even though the Megan Lindholm stories were more urban with a tinge of scifi/fantasy vs. the Robin Hobb stories which took place in settings she has used in her longer epic fantasy. I appreciated that consistency and feel it is one of the strengths of the collection. If you like Robin Hobb's other works (particularly the Farseer trilogy and the Liveship Traders trilogy) I'd recommend giving The Inheritance a try, at least for the three Robin Hobb stories it includes.

On a related note, I think that one of the greatest potential weaknesses for an anthology is that when you draw from a wide variety of authors (of varying degrees of experience), there's going to be more chance for variation in how readers respond to each story. Even in this volume there were some stories I liked more than others; in an anthology with a wide variety of authors instead of just one, I often find I am sifting through a lot of mediocre stories or stories that don't appeal to me personally to get to the few I do like. That doesn't mean that all the authors' contributions that I didn't like were bad; often they were simply not to my taste. For example, I remember reading Legends as a teenager and not appreciating some of the contributions simply because I wasn't familiar with that particular author's world or other works, whereas I would likely enjoy them more now after being exposed to more epic fantasy (and a greater variety of short fiction pieces).

Do you enjoy anthologies? Short stories or novellas and novelettes? Or do you gravitate more towards full length novels?

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