Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – Compiled by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Magic, secret identities, mythological creatures, and more are within the realms of this anthology of stories from some of the brightest stars in the literary world.

This collection features authors that I love (Renée Ahdieh, Lori M. Lee, Sona Charaipotra) as well as others that were new to me, all writing stories from East and South Asia. These retellings, whether set in the past, modern day, or another realm altogether, had enduring qualities that reach out and find homes in new readers today.

 

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Published: 26 June 2018

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Category: Fantasy/Anthologies/Retellings

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries. 

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.

From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

Rating: 4 Stars

For the most part I loved A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. A lot of fairy tales or myths do not end well or have what we would now consider questionable situations, particularly for female characters. There were many instances in this collections that gave these women new opportunities for the future, such as in Aisha Saeed’s The Smile, a South Asian retelling of Anarkali.

Lori M. Lee’s sci-fi retelling of a Hmong story (The Woman and the Tiger), Steel Skin, was another one that I found really interesting. I’ve been more intrigued by androids and artificial intelligence of late, so this story seemed to come at the perfect time. Yer’s challenges in a post android uprising world, with a father who is an android, posed such an interesting dynamic. There were some questions that arose and an ending that I didn’t anticipate. I almost wondered if this could’ve been a full-length story at another time, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Like many anthologies, not all of the stories were going to be satisfying. Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanaki, while it had some intriguing points, didn’t really connect with me. Code of Honor by Melissa de la Cruz was another, though that was a conflicting one. It is technically a part of Cruz’s Blue Bloods world, which I’ve never read before, and I felt after having finished Code of Honor that I’d missed something that would’ve given me a better understanding of this short story (though I didn’t realize I’d needed to read anything previous to it beforehand).

My favorite story of the entire anthology was Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong, in which a girl continues her late mother’s work in preparing a feast for the ghosts in a small desert town. It was one that I could read repeatedly and still enjoy. Olivia’s story had so many facets, whether reminiscing about learning to prepare the ghost feast with her mother or growing up with her father, who didn’t always understand his daughter’s maternal heritage (including her grandmother given Chinese name, which he believed would get Olivia teased at school).

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings is a beautiful collection with more than enough tales from East and South Asian to make it worth picking up no matter where you’re from.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

 

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