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This is an excellent anthology of erotic fantasy. I had high expectations going in, having taken a couple of nibbles at Shanna Germain’s writing in the past. I’m pleased to say that my expectations were exceeded.
Throughout the six stories, Ms. Germain maintains an impelling pace, teamed with a verbal agility that is a delight to read. There’s a beautiful current to this book, a sensory flow of gentle humour amongst the sometimes brutal delights. For what is a fairy tale without brutality? I could imagine a sardonically-kinked eyebrow and a slightly skewed leer on the author’s face as she harnessed, and sometimes harrassed, her characters.
Ms. Germain has infused several of her players with a piquant duality that never fails to enhance their value to the story and the reader. This is never more apparent than the tales which bookend this anthology. Beauty in “Skin Deep” and Lily in “The Princess of Silk and Pain” both rail against their popular image. Each of them is intimately acquainted with their desire for an existence rich in sensation. An existence which their nearest and dearest would deny them. For their own good, of course.
There is a darker undercurrent throughout the anthology, too. From fairy tales to Hollywood, from the school yard to the corporate world, we learn early on to accept that beauty equals goodness. With only a few deft perceptional tweaks, Ms. Germain slices away the shell of that concept. It’s the black wells of blind need inside those beautiful characters that makes them so desirable.
My personal favourites within this collection were the title tale, “Beneath Sea and Sky” and the brilliant “Heatsong”.
“Beneath Sea and Sky” captured me instantly. The dynamic between the two men is at times irascible, and it’s compelling reading. The character of Skye was crafted superbly. With few words, all of them incisive, we get deep flashes of the young man’s history, which pinpoint the flaws that make him the man he is. And allow us to see the man he thinks he should aspire to be.
There is a strong consistency to Shanna Germain’s voice throughout this anthology. All except one story, my favourite. It’s a spicy departure that bolsters the entire collection.
“Heatsong” is a hickory-smoked sonnet, a sour mash ballad. It’s dirty and sticky and sweet in all the right places. If Blind Lemon Jefferson had written Romeo and Juliet, I feel it would have come out in a voice something like this. There’s such a potent lyricism to the telling of this story that I felt it should be sung rather than read. And again, a strong duality, though this time it’s situational. The warring desires of the two main characters, this time both women. For if one gets all she’s ever desired, she will relinquish all that makes her desirable.
I simply loved this book and all who sailed in her.