Haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday list in a while, but I’m actually really excited by this one. It’s now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
In no particular order:
The Jonathan Healy and Francis Brown stories by Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Historical Fantasy
Length: vary in length from 15-60 pages each
Available: Here (most are available for free, but some are collected into anthologies)
I could have filled the entire list with this series of short stories–there are over a dozen of them. In a world where cryptids (folkloric animals) are real and in hiding from the rest of the world, the Healys are a family of battle cryptozoologists who both protect humans from dangerous cryptids and cryptids from extremist humans.
Jonathan Healy first meets Francis Brown—the Flower of Arizona, a knife-wielding trick rider at a traveling circus, and his future wife—when he’s far from home, investigating a suspicious series of deaths. Their journey together spans from 1928-1945, as they battle danger from both humans and cryptids, through their triumphs and their tragedies. Reaching towards the bitter end.
Of course, after their story is over, their daughter’s begins. And that too, is documented through another series of shorts.
Though all of these short stories tie into a series of novels, which focus on Jonathan and Francis’ great-grandchildren, I weirdly prefer these shorts. There’s something about seeing the lives of these people in snippets, forgoing the immediacy of a longer work. It really gives the series a feeling of scope, and the melancholy of their entire lives laid out before us—but always with the promise of future adventures, as we keep moving forward in time.
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson
Length: 18,000 words / 89 pages
The protagonist, Silence, is a total badass. She’s an innkeeper in a land both remote and dangerous, supplementing her income by secretly acting as a bounty hunter. Rather than being a more traditional warrior-type, she relies on anonymity and cleverness to get the job done. I’ve written a little bit more about this story before, here.
The Storms in Arisbat by Therese Arkenberg
Length: 7,000 words
Even some five years after I’d first read it, I still remember the feel of this short story. A tower with a curse, a pervasive fear that emanates from it. A wizard who sacrifices his memories to fuel his magic. His traveling partner, left out in the cold by those sacrifices, still soldiering on. It’s a story about priorities and companionship.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/ YA Fantasy
Length: 38,000 words / 174 pages
I adore this story, and it hit me somewhere really personal. Every Heart a Doorway is about being different and acknowledging the challenges that come with that territory. It’s about knowing yourself and knowing what’s right for you, even as the people around you insist that you’re wrong.
Our protagonist Nancy once found a portal to another world, to somewhere she belonged more than she belonged anywhere else, but now she’s back in her original world longing for her real home. Her parents bring her to a school they think should fix her—but unbeknownst to them, it is actually a safe haven for people like Nancy. For people who have traveled back.
Or it’s supposed to be a safe haven, until students start dying.
The novella features a varied and interesting cast, in an absolutely beautiful story. Filled with powerful quotes, like “a family that wanted to love you, wanted to keep you safe and sound, but didn’t know you well enough to do anything but hurt you.” My full review is here.
Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 94 pages
Dali is a half-blind vegetarian weretiger from a magical Indonesian family. She has ties both to the local shapeshifter pack, and a community of Indonesians who practice magic. Those two worlds have not combined before, but when her Alpha shows up carrying a curse that’s killing him, Dali must use the resources and knowledge of her family background to protect her shapeshifter compatriots.
Despite Dali’s introduction painting her as quite reckless, she functions a guile hero here. She wins her confrontations with knowledge and cleverness, which is fun to see in a genre that’s generally quite heavy on the asskicking.
Scry by Anne Ivy
Length: 9,000 words
Esthe is a scryer, able to watch in on scenes of the future. Her aristo family is threatened by a nonhuman being intent on destroying their social structure—and she is abandoned by her husband during his escape. In a desire for revenge, she cuts a deal with her enemy, even knowing that he had no choice but to kill her eventually. And finds herself fighting on the opposite side of her family, struggling with her own distrust, and somehow carving out a life.
Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
Length: 40,000 words / 264 pages
Alright, so this is edging into short novel territory, but keep in mind that this story exists in the context of an epic fantasy series whose novels are about 400,000 words each. Edgedancer is only 10% of that.
I make no secret that I absolutely love Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives series. Edgedancer is the story of a character who’s barely seen in the series proper, as she has her adventures in a completely different corner of the world.
Lift is a street urchin who has powers that affect friction and heal. And she is absolutely ridiculous, in the best ways. Her antics are so much fun to watch. Her banter with her spirit companion—who she insists must be some sort of monstrosity, to his everlasting exasperation—is hilarious. And her insistence that she’s totally not trying to help anyone (and that she ended up tracking down the serial killer who almost killed her friend by accident) is both funny on the surface and revealing of her character’s depths.
Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage By Seanan McGuire
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Length: 4,000 words
Why yes, Seanan McGuire’s works are dominating this list. I make no apologies—she’s awesome, she writes tons of short fiction. And long fiction. Okay, she just writes tons of fiction in general.
This short story is a metaphor for growing up and losing the magic inherent in childhood. It’s so short I don’t even think I want to say more than that, but I enjoyed it.
Rogue Elements by Karen Chance
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 35 pages
Lia is a war mage with a werewolf mother, which is why she gets assigned to the case when the daughters of werewolf clan leaders start disappearing. But she’ll need to work around an old flame who’s determined to stonewall her in order to solve the mystery, while taking care not to end up like the missing women herself–since she is the daughter of a high-ranked werewolf.
Karen Chance’s worldbuilding is always impressive, and I like the set-up of Lia’s character. She’s not a were, but she’s related to one, and can’t escape that world because of it. She is a war mage, but her werewolf blood keeps her on the outskirts of that, too. And though this job isn’t one that she wanted–she’d like to stay away from the weres–once she’s in, Lia just goes for it. No matter what ridiculousness comes her way, she rolls with it and keeps pushing forward.
Red as Snow, Black as Blood, White as a Raven’s Wing by Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: three stories varying in length from 20-35 pages
Available: Here, towards the bottom
Set in the same world as the Jonathan Healy and Francis Brown stories, but in modern times. This trilogy of short stories follows two characters. Istas, one of the particularly brutal species of cryptids called waheela—about whom there is a page on the author’s website, because Seanan McGuire produces genuinely amazing amounts of content. And Istas’ boyfriend Ryan, a tanuki (here is his species’ description page).
These are cute little stories about how the brutality of waheela and the more socially-dependent nature of the tanuki collide, and how Istas and Ryan choose each other anyway.