I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, at how beautiful, well-written, and interesting I found these stories. Maybe I underestimated the content due to the cover art. Are those collagen-inflated lips? Is the woman's clavicle aflame or is she imitating Mrs. Doubtfire? The cover hints at trash romance, not hypnotic, gorgeous fantasy. Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller were right, you can never tell a book by its cover.
I could choose any number of passages from the book as proof of Laini Taylor's talent. For whatever reason, I kept coming back to "Goblin Fruit" where awkward teen Kizzy fantasizes about the woman she wants to be when she grows up:
Kizzy wanted to be a woman who would dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy's blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn't possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balconey, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as cooly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer's small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.
It's that deep want that makes Kizzy goblin bait, and makes for a great story. "Spicy Little Curses Such as These" and "Hatchling" aren't too shabby either.
The theologian-me loves Taylor's speculation on the afterlife, God's immanence and petulance, and the awesome power of the human soul. I'm always drawn in by discussions of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism - two aesthetically-stunning religious traditions. In the end, the entire book made me happy in a diversity of ways. If you read it, please let me know what you think!