Saturday, 17 May 2014

True Grit

I like full length books, but every once in a while I want to read something short, breezy, and fun. So when my favorite author, Rob Thurman, came out with her first anthology... Well, let's just say that a major fangirl moment was had. Silver and Salt by Rob Thurman was everything I expected from Thurman and then some: Dark, gritty, sarcastic, intense, and a complete blast. 

I'd read three out of four of these stories before Silver and Salt's release, and I found them just as enjoyable and exciting as I did the first time I glued my eyes to the page. Let me explain why...

My paperback copy, which is even more gorgeous in person.
The first story is Milk and Cookies, which was featured in the anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. The short revolves around a teenager named Nicky who has a bad attitude, a hopeful sister, a bully problem, and a big secret. The story takes place around Christmas, and is my favorite thing to read around the holidays. The holidays are different for everyone, and Nicky's determined to suck it up for the sake of his sister, provided the bully he's aggravating doesn't kill him first. The ending was a really fun surprise and the image I get in my head from it always makes me smile. It also serves as a message to bullies: Don't do it, because you never know who you're messing with.

Next up is First Ball...Last Call, a story that was in Courts of they Fey, is probably the only Western with faeries that you'll ever read. It's set in a future where the world has already ended. It features polar opposites Seven and Scotch who are on the hunt for the creatures that destroyed the planet. A lot of the story is Seven's reflection on his past, where he and Scotch came from, and how the world became the way it was. I find the story's strength to be the bleakness of it. Yes, the world is dying. Yes, they can't stop it. But you'd damn sure better make the most of what you have.

After that we come to the story that was completely new to me. A Grain of Salt is a brand new Cal Leandros short story, is by far the darkest story in the anthology, but quite possibly my favorite. Those of you who've read Slashback will notice the connections to Niko's chapters from that novel (the story takes place a little while after that, prior to Cal's abduction), though Niko takes more of a backseat at this time. When Cal is connected to a truly horrific crime, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and face the consequences of those actions the only way he knows how. Cal is famous for going back and forth between acting normal, accepting that he's a monster, and using his monster side to do something good. That's one of the reasons I love this story so much. When Cal uses violence to get violence, he doesn't deal with it the same way most heroes do. As with all Thurman stories, there was a twist I didn't see coming, and the ending really stuck with me. It serves as a reminder that Cal in completely unlike any main characters in serial fiction.

Last but not least, Talking Trash, a super fun short featuring much loved Trickster characters Zeke and Griffin. When Griffin comes home from the store and finds a census taker sticking out of a garbage can, he starts interrogating Zeke about his motives. I'm hesitant to go over any other details because the series takes place after Grimrose Path, the second novel in the Trickster series, and there are some fun surprises that will be spoiled if you haven't read that book or its predecessor, Trick of the Light, which had a huge twist that won't have as much impact if you skip along to this short. I'm not saying you can't read it, I'm just saying that the Trickster series is equally as fun as the Cal Leandros series. Zeke and Griffin are fun and unique, and Zeke isn't that different from Cal. Though I wouldn't put them in the same room together.

I've already gone over Thurman's strengths as an author in a previous post about the Cal Leandros series, and this anthology serves to amplify all those strengths: Creativity, sharp dialogue, terrific and memorable characters, brutal action, and a ton of gritty twists. I think I drive my friends insane by recommending Thurman's work as much as I do, but I wouldn't do it if her work wasn't so damn good.

Silver and Salt can be bought as a paperback from or directly from Thurman's website. There's a Kindle version as well, but I would recommend buying either the paperback version or the PDF from her site, since the artwork is absolutely stunning and you will get the genuine article. The anthology features a slick wraparound cover, as well as introductory covers for each individual story. I haven't come across many anthologies that have individual art for each story, so it was a rare and fun treat. My favorite was the one for Talking Trash, which makes me think of the Boondock Saints, though now Boondock Saints art will make me think of Zeke and Griffin. Go figure.

Yeah, this was a long review, but this is by far my favorite anthology ever. Fans will probably already have it (and if you don't, shame on you), and I encourage other readers to give it, and Thurman's other work a try. You will not be disappointed, especially if you like your stories on the saltier side.


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