Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: To Hold the Bridge - Garth Nix

To Hold the Bridge
Garth Nix 
Series: Abhorsen (novella), N/A (other stories)
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy!

I was pleasantly surprised when I came home from school to a package saying I was selected to read To Hold the Bridge early for the Epic Reads early reader program (I can't find any information on it anymore, but it was a thing.). Unfortunately, since I'm not really a fan of short stories, it was hard for me to get through this one - I just find that I lose momentum and don't feel the need to keep reading since all the stories are completely unrelated. Even though short stories are not my thing, there were a lot of great stories in To Hold the Bridge that will appeal to many different readers.

The first story in To Hold the Bridge is actually an Abhorsen/Old Kingdom novella by the same title. "To Hold the Bridge" was definitely a strong start to this collection. Even though I haven't gotten around to reading any of Garth Nix's work prior to To Hold the Bridge, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the world of this short story came across without having read any of the novels. The novella also did a fantastic job of making me even more interested in the actual series. I got Sabriel as a Kindle Daily Deal a few months back, so I definitely need to read that soon!

Since there are 18 other stories in this collection, it feels a bit silly to go through and list my specific opinion on every single one. Instead, I will give a general impression of the collection overall and highlight my favorites.

As I mentioned above, this was my first time reading Garth Nix's work, and it was very clear to me why people love his books. Nix has a very distinct writing style, with a very complex and fantastical feeling, even for the most mundane stories. Along with his writing style, Nix also builds worlds easily, always giving enough information in the short lengths of these stories without the information bombarding the reader. The stories fall into many different genres, with the collection divided into the categories of: Creatures of Darkness and Light, Standing Up to Be Counted: Coming-of-Age Stories, Check Your Faint Heart at the Door: Combat and Struggle, A Wink and a Nod: Lighthearted Tales, and Under Other Skies: Science Fiction. Overall, I was very much impressed by the wide variety and successful execution of so many stories - there was only one story that I decided to skip because I wasn't feeling it, which really isn't bad out of a total of 19 stories. The main downside of this collection is that, from my understanding, all of these stories have been previously published in other collections or in various magazines, although it would probably be difficult to collect all of them on your own rather than this conveniently bundled collection.

There were a bunch of stories I really enjoyed, but for the sake of being "critical", I'm only going to list the ones I liked the most. I'm often drawn to things with vampires (I wasn't a Twilight reader, but I am a Vampire Diaries TV show fan), and I really liked both of the stories about vampires: "Vampire Weather" (Creatures of Darkness and Light) and "Infestation" (Combat and Struggle). The two stories were really different even though they were about vampires, so that was an additional plus. Of the Coming-of-Age stories, I really liked "The Quiet Knight", which leaned more contemporary, and "A Handful of Ashes", which I kind of wishes was actually a book because I found the world so compelling. The other story I really liked from Combat and Struggle was "Holly and Iron", which was a sort-of Sword and the Stone retelling - I really liked the twist on that retelling! One of the stories I thoroughly enjoyed from Lighthearted Tales was another retelling - "An Unwelcome Guest" was a very original spin on Rapunzel. The other Lighthearted Tales story I liked was "The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike", which was a Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery meets paranormal.

Ok, maybe I lied about being selective about listing which stories I really liked...

Overall, I highly recommend To Hold the Bridge to fans of Garth Nix, fantasy, and short stories. If you like reading collections of short stories, there's really such a wide variety of genres included in here, and I think that there's something for almost everyone. On the other hand, if you're not a fan of short stories and tend to lose momentum when there's no suspense leading you to the next chapter/story, you may want to skip this one. All in all, a very strong collection, and I definitely need to read more of Garth Nix's work soon!

- Kiersten

Do you like reading collections of short stories?
Let us know in the comments!

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