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Winter’s Edge

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Having been involved myself in a number of multi-author collections, I am always fascinated to see how such things are handled by other writers. Winter’s Edge is a collection of 7 historical tales penned by 7 different writers, some who I know and some who I don’t, each story set in a different period and location but linked through with a common thread – knives with wolf-head handles. In order we have:

WOLF OF SATURNALIA is a Roman tale by Paul Murphy that kicks off the collection. Set in the early empire it is a tale of a former Roman general and his extended familia, including a perilous journey through bandit infested lands on the way from Rome to Campania. This tale is slotted between two books of a series and there is minute amount of reader expectation in terms of character and setting. Towards the tale’s conclusion there is a feeling that the reader would gain more having read the characters in their original novel but, that being said, the tale is still engaging and exciting, with vivid description and a good range of characters. There is a good exploration and understanding of the nature of the Roman familia woven into the tale.

VIELLE by Prue Batten takes place in the 12th century and involves what seems to be Prue’s subject of choice: troubadours. With good reason, I suspect, since she clearly knows her stuff and has a feel for the subject and era. Like all Batten’s work, the tale flows like silk over marble with stunning prose. Immerse yourself in the world of Richard Coeur de Lion and his love of music in this wonderful and only slightly heartbreaking tale. This story is entirely a standalone tale, and feels fully rounded as a one off.

DA VINCI AND DI PAOLO is the third tale, set in 16th century Italy and France and from the pen of Teddy Hester. I had not come across Hester before and it seems she is generally a writer of erotic romance, but this tale shows a clear talent also for historical fiction. Her tale is as smoothly penned as Batten’s, her prose flowing and her subject wonderful, from a flight from Sicily under Turkish threat to the glories of the Renaissance Loire. This story spoke to me personally, as I know the locations well and am familiar with the staircase mentioned in the tale. Though this tale also has hooks into the author’s main works, they are peripheral enough that it feels like a rounded stand-alone tale.

SWEET NIGHTINGALE by David Neilson takes place in 18th century Austria. I have to admit to initially being rather confused with this tale, which throws names and details at the reader rapidly from square one, especially with the era being unfamiliar to me. Once more, I feel that there is a certain level of expectation of reader familiarity with Neilson’s characters. Soon, however, the story settled into a well-written little smuggler/conspiracy tale with some vivid character and detail, so I’m glad I stuck with it. Atmospheric.

BINGLEY AND DARCY by Martin Rinehart I’m afraid was not for me. Not for the quality of the writing, mind, which seemed to be fine, but I have an almost pathological dislike of that period literature (Austen, Brontes etc) and I simply cannot find any engagement with such stories. That being said, this is probably someone else’s perfect cup of tea. It did seem very Austen-esque, after all.

ONCE WAS LOST by Lena Maye came as a surprise for me. A complete bolt out of the blue. Set in the Dust bowl in the depression of 30s America it is so far out of my comfort zone that had it not been part of this collection I would never have read it. What I began by dreading became probably my second favourite story in the book. Written with sympathy and skill and unbearably emotional prose, it tells the tale of a young mute girl trying to manage a farm in the most impossible conditions and how a random occurrence began a chain of events that changed her world. It was beautiful and haunting and will stay with me.

WARM ME SOFTLY by D. M. Davis is quite simply the best possible conclusion to the collection. In addition to being a self-contained tale that encapsulates the spirit of Christmas and the affairs of the heart, and with a style and grace of its own, Davis manages also to tie up the thread – the daggers – that binds all these stories together with aplomb, making them an integral part of a tale that is yet not truly about the knives at all. Masterful. This is one of those When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail types of story and is a superb example. All in all an excellent conclusion.

The upshot? This is an engaging collection of tales with something for everyone. The stories are of so many different subjects and styles, that there is bound to be a tale for you, or more. And for the price, you can’t ask for more. Grab yourself a winter heart-warmer. Read this collection.

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Written by SJAT

November 21, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Private

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