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I'm engaged in an ongoing battle with Kate Elliott's backlist. Currently, her backlist is winning. I've knocked out the Spiritwalker trilogy, Jaran, Spirit Gate, and now part of The Very Best of Kate Elliott for a total of 5 (and a half). Only 17 more to go (19 if we count the upcoming Court of Fives and The Black Wolves). Is there anyone out there who has finished everything? Did they ever return from their quest? I feel like everyone who does should get a celebratory ribbon or certificate of some kind. I may print myself one when I finish. She's written nineteen fucking books not to mention ancillary content and short fiction. Why is she not a guest of honor at every single convention in the United States? Get it together, SF convention culture, geez.

cover of The Very Best of Kate Elliott featuring a dragon made of black bone and fire


Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott. Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott's shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends. (source)


The cover is by Julie Dillon, who is amazing and turned a great scene from the Spiritwalker books into a fantastic piece of art. The publishing industry should do like comics and have variant covers and hire Julie Dillon for all of them. That would be great for me. That fucking dragon. What an AWESOME dragon.

The Very Best of Kate Elliott is a pretty great collection of short fiction, with a disclaimer that I skipped multiple stories set inside her various series because I was terrified of spoilers. I'm sure most of them are benign, but the one I tried to read spoiled the next book in the Crossroads series for me. After that, I grew judgmental and suspicious and decided it was best to shun and return later, once I've reached the coveted heights of "19". What a great day that will be. I'll be buying myself some congratulatory sushi on that day, that's for sure. All this to say the stories are labeled if they're part of a series so there's no risk to those of you who actually process the words on the page before flinging yourself into the narrative with no consideration for what might be waiting around the next page to spoil your day. I just can't read, apparently. Or pay attention to subtitles. I want my money back, Hooked on Phonics.

For the pieces I read, as with most short fiction, there were hits, misses, and stories that only grew on me as time passed. On Fangirl Happy Hour, Ana and I discussed our favorites from the collection. While Ana flouted the rules and kept piling up stories she liked, I stuck to three favorites, which are still my favorites of the pieces I read. I'm still really confused about one of the pieces I didn't get, though. There's a magical card with some paintings that portals you into a forest? And the card can make it so you can open magical portals to other lands? And the war the people are fighting ends because the Nature is like, "oh, good, some Human twigged the Magical Portal Card with their Hopes and Dreams for Peace!" and then took over? Is this like reverse FernGully? I can't tell if Nature is the good guy here. I mean, I guess it's better than the guys with the guns shooting at innocent civilians! I hope there's some fruit trees in there somewhere, though. Feed your human hostages, Nature!

I promise this is not a plant horror anthology.

Anyway, me and short fiction. A constant toss-up over whether or not I'll be like "THIS WAS AWESOME!" and "WTF just happened?"

Three of the stories I really liked, "The Queen's Garden", "Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine", and "The Gates of Joriun", all have the delightful theme of women waiting and plotting patiently to get out of horrible and/or potentially damaging situations caused by men who think they know better how to do things. "Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine" was an especially excellent mini-quest narrative, where getting around becomes as easy as letting people underestimate and dismiss the woman who eventually comes to save everyone's ass while the general she's attempting to keep from being iced (who would have been the hero in any other story) lays up in bed and bleeds. Highly recommended.

The great thing about this anthology is the way it works together as a whole. It starts with an essay introduction about erasure and how hard it can be finding yourself in your favorite type of literature. It folds many stories with women and girls as complicated people: leaders, adventurers, mothers, and politicians, into its pages. It ends with some practical writing advice directly into your face, i.e. Pay Attention Writers who Regurgitate Shitty Tropes and Bad History, You're on Notice. The Very Best of Kate Elliott tells you amazing stories about women and then shares with you how to make these stories exist; how to forge ahead and create worlds where women aren't absent or diminished, but wholly present and important to the stories being told. And friends, I only read half of this, so think about how awesome the rest must be.

Supplemental Material

Read Jodie and Renay's co-review of Cold Magic
Read KJ and Renay's co-review of Cold Steel
Read KJ's guest review of The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal
Read Jodie and Renay's co-review of Spirit Gate
Read Renay's review of Jaran

Other Reviews
The Book Smugglers, A Fantastical Librarian, Snowflakes and Spider Silk, Gnome Reviews, Paul Weimer (SF Signal), yours?

Date: 2015-02-10 06:41 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Want. Also thanks for explaining that the cover is to do with the dragons from the Spiritwalker books :)

Date: 2015-02-10 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] susanhatedliterature.net
I was going to order the ebook version and then Carl posted the cover on his monthly cover round up post and so I had to get the hard copy. I love that cover.

I'm not sure how many stories I'll read, like you I live in fear of the spoiler and am also working my way through her back catalogue. I've the Jaran series on the kindle waiting. Am mostly through with Crown of Stars but its been years & I want to reread (as soon as I find my books hiding somewhere in the attic in my parents house, I hope) and am 2/3 done with Crossroads and I have the third book, Traitor's Gate out from the library at the moment so I hope to get to that soon.

But there is still so much more to read. And I have Seanan McGuire mounting up too.
In one way its awesome, because great books, but at the same time I want to read it all! now!

Date: 2015-02-18 05:08 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Yes we are - I just want to know when you want to start the next one :)

Date: 2015-02-22 02:10 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I've finished most of the backlist.. Everything that was published originally under Kate Elliott, anyways. Even The Golden Key, which was great. I didn't know about the Alis Rasmussen books until recently, so I still need to read those last four, then the backlist will be complete. But I have had the advantage of starting her stuff back in 2000 when there was a lot less of it. ;)
--@lyssabits

Kate Elliott drew me in!

Date: 2015-03-13 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Kate Elliott first drew me into the world of Sci-Fi/Fantasy when I was in 6th grade. I saw the cover of The Burning Stone, third book in Crown of Stars, and I knew I had to have it. From then, I waited patiently and not so patiently, for each of the subsequent novels in the series. I have not read are the Golden Key (but I own it, yay $.50 book sales!), The Labyrinth Gate, and the Highroad Trilogy. Her books are definitely worth a read! I love how she gives so much detail without making it seem too mundane. Then again, I majored in History so I love details. :)

Still working on finishing this Best of Kate Elliott. The continuation of some stories from previous novels, and the side stories from others, makes it a wonderful addition to her previous novels.

I hope you all can get through the other books and enjoy the Best of!

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