Anti-heroes are all the rage these days, but what about the protagonists who fall firmly in the middle of the hero-villains spectrum? Those characters who live in the shadows out of something other than choice?
The thin, often relatable line between good and evil is what Shadowed Souls, a new speculative fiction anthology edited by Kerrie L. Hughes and Jim Butcher (author of Dresden Files), works to explore, with short stories from some of the best fantasy authors of the moment that show the complicated nature of good and evil. As Butcher puts it in his foreword:
A lot of people in these stories you’re about to read are made of shadow … They aren’t good. But they aren’t necessarily evil, either. They need to be where they are, doing what they do. So come along and take some time to consider the darkness, and those who spend their lives moving in and out of it.
Some of the short stories in the Shadowed Soulscollection succeed at exploring this theme better than others, but there is something in here for most lovers of speculative fiction — and you might just come away with a new author to check out. No doubt the Dresden Filesstory “Cold Case,” which gives us deeper insight into character Molly Carpenter will draw a lot of people to this anthology, but my personal favorite was Seanan McGuire’s “Sleepover.” The story of a sardonic lesbian succubus who gets kidnapped by a band of teenage boys explores questions of intimacy, marginalization, and Pacific Northwest sewers with a healthy dose of roller derby thrown in for good measure.
In addition to Butcher and McGuire, Shadowed Soulsincludes stories from: Kevin J. Anderson, Rob Thurman, Tanya Huff, Kat Richardson, Jim C. Hines, Anton Strout, Lucy A. Snyder, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Erik Scott de Bie. Stories include such fantastical subjects as zombies, genies, wizards, bogeyman, ghosts, and fae.
With a variety of setting and tone across the 11 stories on offer, there’s something here for any lover of fantasy and/or urban fantasy as a genre. As with most anthologies, you might not find every story to your liking, but with elements like ghost unicorns and such a meaty theme to pull this collection of stories together, Shadowed Soulsis a heck of a ride.
Shadowed Souls is available to buy on November 1st.