“They’re b-b-b-bad, bad to the bone,” to paraphrase George Thorogood. Who are? The beautiful but deadly femme fatales who populate the short stories of Beauty Has Her Way…, an engrossing anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek. Split up into three sections, “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow,” the collection features stories by some of today’s best fiction/fantasy/SF authors. Some of the women have been pushed to their very limits. Some of them just try to do whatever it takes to survive. Some are seduced by dreams of power. Some of them are Queen Bitches. Most are after revenge of one sort or another for having been wronged–and they get it, in spades. This is not a heroine’s book, so much as it is an anti-heroine book, but it’s impossible not to identify with and root for the women in these remarkable stories.
I’ll touch briefly on a couple of the short stories form each of the three sections, just to give you an idea about what sort of tales you’ll find in this anthology. All of the short stories are great, and I apologize ahead of time to any of the authors who I can’t get to in this review. “Yesterday,” has five short stories in it, of the fantasy and historical fantasy genre. “Today,” deals with six tales of modern day urban fantasy, and “Tomorrow,” contains six science fiction or apocalyptic fantasy stories.
The two short stories I’ll mention in “Yesterday,” are Sacrifices to the Moon by Paul D. Batteiger and Dunkle Froline by Ramsey Lundock. Batteiger’s Sacrifices to the Moon is a Robert E. Howard influenced Sword & Sorcery type of tale, reminiscent of Howard’s Conan and Red Sonja novels. I’m a major Robert E. Howard fan, so I really liked reading this story about a city which seems helpless to defend itself against an ages-old curse and monsters (the Children of the Ku) which come out of the river to devour its residents, and a barbarian warrior woman, Sheol, who defends the city and eventually becomes it’s queen.
Dunkle Froline by Ramsey Lundock is either an alternate universe type of historical fantasy short story, or if it’s set in ours, it follows an alternate timeline, like the novels of Turtledove. Humans are kept as slaves by the and are forced to fight and live in the slave pits, subterranean and away from the sun light. The dunkle volks are either magic-wielding alien or fantasy being sorts of overlords that rule over humanity’s remnants. How they came to power is not mentioned in the story, but that is probably not very important, as the tale focuses on the plight of one human in particular, known as Tessa.