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  • A Wonderful Mix of Fantasy

    The Toll of Another Bell is a bit of a fantasy mash-up, if an entertaining one, its magic and mayhem swirled with a bit of sci-fi and a dash of historical imaginings. It veers through a wide speculative spectrum, casting forth myths, enchantments, magic, strange creatures, and mad science in its wake. Here are some quick thoughts on each of the stories. Breath: This story is soft and subtle, with a seamless blend of character and parable. The setting and fantasy world is rich and creative, a delicate fabric that perfectly suits the story. Awareness: The beginning of this story was a bit tangled for me as I tried to decipher my way through the opening puzzle motif, but once my brain clued in, I found the story captivating. The narrative had a tense precision to it without losing its mystical undertone of fantasy and surrealism. And I loved the ending. Phoenix: An excellent modern re-imaging of the Orpheus myth. The tragic quest, the juxtaposition of the contemporary world against mythology was all woven together in an well-crafted tapestry. Life Under Research Conditions: This story leans more heavily into the sci-fi realm than fantasy, but it was a kick-ass story regardless. The first-person narration, from the point of view of the traditional “monster”, lent the story a different, sympathetic intimacy I enjoyed. The Year of No Foals: This tale is the star of the book, with a charming, cozy allure that draws you in and never lets you go until the end. It has a sense of wonder and hope, built atop an undercurrent of heartbreak, and melds the fantasy seamlessly into the story. Naoki No Yokai: This story was light on the fantasy elements, but I enjoyed its historical, slightly off-kilter world, and the mystery that unravelled. I did have a minor quibble, however. There were a few clever, modern in-jokes that peppered the story. While amusing and witty, they pulled me out of the narrative and marred the flow of the story for me. Jilted River: Another quiet story, but one with much clout. It was a lovely blending of folktale, superstition, and family ties to create a beguiling narrative. Tower Gods: This one reminded me a bit of an old fashioned boy’s adventure story, complete with giant robots and mystical mentors. Reality As We Know It: This story was a very entertaining tale that twists the fantasy element a bit, turning the fantasy creatures into regular people, instead of the other way around. It has a spectacular voice and set of characters, and a sweet tone. 60 Seconds to Midnight: I found this one a engaging yarn with sci-fi and Lovecraftian overtones. The ending was a bit open-ended, though. I love to see a sequel to the story, or to have the tale expanded into a book. Overall though, the book is a great read and I recommend it.

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