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Fight Like A Girl Anthology: Launch, Review, and Readalong!

Fight Like A Girl Anthology: Launch, Review, and Readalong!
4.25
Book Name: Fight Like A Girl
Author: Edited by Joanne Hall and Roz Clarke. With stories by: Juliet McKenna, Nadine Andie, Fran Terminiello, Joanne Hall, Kim Lakin-Smith, K. R. Green, K. T. Davies, Sophie E. Tallis, Danie Ware, Julia Knight, Kelda Crich, Roz Clarke, Lou Morgan, Dolly Garland, and Gaie Sebold.
Publisher(s): Kristell Ink, Grimbold Books
Formatt: Paperback
Genre(s): Anthology
Release Date: March 7, 2016

On the first Saturday in April, I learned something very important: if you’re going to get involved in a tavern brawl, always make sure you have Juliet McKenna on your side.

This pearl of wisdom was imparted by the launch of Kristell Ink’s new anthology, Fight Like A Girl, which brings together new and established female authors in a swashbuckling collection of SFF stories. (And thanks to awesome swordswoman Fran Terminiello, I now know where the term swashbuckling comes from.) The launch itself was great fun: an afternoon of readings, discussion, and kick-ass women demonstrating how to fight like a girl and win. I picked up a copy of the anthology, of course; and as your official Fantasy-Faction small press correspondent, I thought it would be appropriate to bring you a review.

It seems unfair to rate the individual stories, because that’s bound to be a matter of personal preference as much as anything, but it’s fair to say that none of the stories rated below a 7 and some gained a full 10/10 from me. So overall, I’d give this anthology a very creditable 8.5 and I definitely recommend picking up a copy. Not everyone will enjoy all the stories, but the quality of the writing is excellent and there’s enough variety that you’re bound to find something you like – and a new author or two to follow.

Not only that, but if you grab a copy of the book before Saturday (April 16th) then you can join in the Fight Like A Girl readalong! Every day between 16th and 30th of April, we’ll be discussing a new story from the anthology on the Fantasy-Faction Facebook page. I always find chatting about short stories fascinating, because everyone gets something slightly different out of them, so there’s always something new to discover. And some of the anthology authors may well be there too. So join us!

To entice you, here’s a brief review of all the stories in the anthology.

“Coins, Fights and Stories Always Have Two Sides” by Juliet McKenna

I’ve been reading Juliet McKenna since I was a teenager (which isn’t that long ago, shut up) and I’ve always been a fan of her female characters (if you haven’t read her Tales of Einarinn series, starting with The Thief’s Gamble, you totally should). So I was really excited to see her demonstrating aikido at the book launch and proving that it’s absolutely possible for a small woman to take down a much bigger opponent (or, indeed, throw him across the room). As for her story, it has all the realistic action and engaging characters I’ve come to expect from her writing. For McKenna, ‘fighting like a girl’ is about using your head as much as your body, and that came through in both her highly enjoyable story and her demonstration.

“The Women’s Song” by Nadine Andie

This was possibly my favourite story of the entire anthology. Like McKenna’s, the viewpoint character is actually a man, but that doesn’t stop the story being a powerful demonstration of female strength. Andie’s writing is absolutely beautiful (reminding me in places of Ursula Le Guin, which is a big damn compliment as far as I’m concerned) and the story itself does a great job of flipping expectations on their head.

“The Turn of a Wheel” by Fran Terminiello

The book launch really spoiled its audience, because as well as McKenna’s demonstration of unarmed combat we were also treated to a fabulous display of sword-fighting through the ages by Terminiello. She clearly knows her stuff, and it shows even in this very short story (which also won the prize for making me wince the most, with its description of a dangling flap of skin being ripped from someone’s face). My only complaint was that I wanted it to be longer.

“Arrested Development” by Joanne Hall

At the launch, various members of the panel described the serious inspirations behind their stories … until the mic got to Jo Hall, who claimed her story was simply about a woman cage-fighting giant lizards. Which, to be fair, it is. And that would be enough in itself, but Hall’s story is also a bleak picture of a future humanity oppressed by an alien race who consider us lesser beings, and delivers a punch of quite a different sort at the end when you realise what, or who, Cay is fighting for.

“Asenath” by Kim Lakin-Smith

An impressively detailed, fully realised world brings this story to life. Lakin-Smith is clearly a writer who knows her invented world inside out, so you really get the sense that it lives and breathes beyond the written words. Asenath herself is a compelling character, and there’s plenty of blood, sex and death to keep you turning the pages. I’d say this is a tale that feels like part of something bigger – Asenath’s story definitely continues beyond the end of what’s written here, and I would read on.

“The Coyote” by KR Green

There are some stories that feel complete in themselves, and some that feel like a snippet of a much larger picture. Like the previous story, this is one of the latter. It paints a quirky picture of an alternate present where Buddhist sects are striving against each other in sometimes violent clashes over what should be the priority focus for doing good in a suffering world. It draws on the Native American legend of Coyote, who stole fire from the gods; but the fire here is something far stranger than mere fire, and Coyote is a girl.

“The Quality of Light” by K. T. Davies

I liked this one a lot. There is little complexity to it in the way of plot, but as a beautifully written vignette that captures a good deal of what it would have been like to take part in a pre-firearm-era battle – the cold fear beforehand, the flashes of memory concerning a similar but also very different day in childhood, the desperate, bloody scrum of the battle itself, in which the only important thing becomes the basic drive to survive – it works really well.

“Silent Running” by Sophie E Tallis

From medieval warfare to space battle! Adii was one of my favourite protagonists in the collection: battle-hardened, carrying an enormous weight of pain, making tough decisions every day without ever getting thanked for it. There’s a lot in this story about the price of doing the right thing, about loyalty and treachery, but there’s also some gruesomely bloody action for those who are so inclined.

“Unnatural History” by Danie Ware

I do love a good London-based spec fic, and this near-future dystopian tale certainly was that. With a really unique monster and a bit of a sting in the tail, this is a compactly written, fascinating story that brings to life a vision of civilisation’s downfall and aftermath that might have taken another author an entire novel to portray so effectively.

“Vocho’s Night Out” by Julia Knight

This story wins the prize for best swagger, and also most fun. It’s perhaps more of an introduction to Knight’s world than a tightly plotted story – the actual events it narrates are straightforward – but I absolutely loved the characters and the fascinating hints of a clockwork city. I’ve seen Knight’s novel Swords and Scoundrels here and there, and this story made me want to check it out.

“The Cold Wind Oozes” by Kelda Crich

What a fascinating piece of alternate history, populated by strange, half-human races and told from the perspective of a centuries-old woman who is given glimpses of the future and stays alive by taking handfuls of years from other people’s lives. I loved how the flash-forwards were handled. The writing is excellent – another living, breathing world I’d certainly read more about.

“Sword-Dancer of Azmai” by Roz Clarke

Yet another world I’d happily spend more time in! So much worldbuilding went into this one story that I really hope the author has written other pieces set in the same world, or the lost potential is huge. With blood-mages, dragon-gods and a narrative spanning generations, I can imagine this story being turned into an entire novel. And I’d read it, too.

“ARCHER 57” by Lou Morgan

The beginning of this story hit me pretty hard when I heard the author read it at the book launch; Morgan’s delivery carried a great deal of emotion. And the second half doesn’t disappoint – this may be one of the shorter stories, but it’s a powerful one, capturing both sheer human determination and the terrible cost of war.

“The Runaway Warrior” by Dolly Garland

I really enjoyed reading a fantasy story based around Indian mythology (something the author mentioned at the launch that she initially resisted, for fear of being pigeonholed). The Hindu goddess Kali, of course, is well known for fighting demons like a girl, and Garland’s story has plenty of great demon-slaying action. But there’s also a strong emotional core that makes it stand out.

“Fire and Ash” by Gaie Sebold

This was an excellent way to round off the anthology, focusing as it does on the aftermath of battle. Riven is the sole survivor of her company, suffering terrible nightmares every night and drinking to forget. If you’re looking for a story that brings home the real impact of war on those who go through it, while managing to incorporate a good twist and an element of hope, this is it. Another of my favourites.

– – –

So there you have it: 15 stories about kick-ass women, by kick-ass women. I hope you’ll all check it out, and that you’ll come over to the Facebook page to share your thoughts. 🙂

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Rating: 9.3/10 (10 votes cast)
Fight Like A Girl Anthology: Launch, Review, and Readalong!, 9.3 out of 10 based on 10 ratings
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7 Comments

  1. ScarletBea says:

    I don’t read ebooks so unfortunately this one is beyond me, but can I just say I absolutely *love* the cover? 😀
    The girl’s expression is super, hehe

  2. Steven Poore says:

    Hey ScarletBea, FLAG is also available as a paperback – check your local Amazon for details – though you may not receive it in time for the readalong. On which note, I hope to see you all on Saturday! 🙂

  3. […] Meanwhile, over on Fantasy Faction, AFE Smith (who I was lucky enough to meet at the launch) has written a generous and comprehensive review of Fight Like A Girl – read it here. […]

  4. […] You can find a review of the book, and full contents list, here. […]

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