Review: ‘Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales’ edited by Kelly Link and Cassandra Clare

An interesting collection of short stories themed around beasts, monsters and supernatural creatures (vampires and werewolves included, of course.) Many of them are fun, fresh and easy-to-read- I particularly liked  ‘This Whole Demoning Thing’ and Sarah Rees Brennan’s ‘Wings in the Morning’, for its openly gay storyline and strong gay characters.

However,  others, (for instance, ‘Quick Hill’, ‘Son of Abyss’) shocked me with their level of dark violence- for example, some focus a little too graphically on severe self mutilation, torture, bullying behaviour, horrific war injuries…yes, really, and all in one collection. Parts of it were nauseating, parts disturbing and parts downright bizarre! Perhaps in a novel these dark themes would be a little easier to take, but in a collection of short stories they left a bitter taste in my mouth, because a lot of the darker parts seemed to be written in lurid detail merely for shock value. And yes, it did shock me. (Some stories I had to skim read over lunch, it was so bad- you have been warned.)

With this in mind, I wasn’t quite sure whom the intended audience was- teens? young adults? adults? Either way, some descriptions didn’t strike me as suitable for younger, perhaps more impressionable audiences, (my opinion) which is a shame, because some of the writing was actually very good- for example, Kelly Link’s ‘The New Boyfriend’- a tale of robotic ‘boyfriend’ dolls that come in werewolf, vampire and spooky ghost guises. This was a story that had me hooked right until the end…even though I did think the end in itself fell a little flat. Cassandra Clare’s ‘Old Souls’ was also very good- as a feminist I liked the pro-choice ideas behind the plot. (Having read some of her other work in short story anthologies, I think Clare is a very good short story writer, and her characters are interesting and fresh- perhaps even a little better than her ‘Infernal Devices’ trilogy. Don’t hate me, ID lovers!) All in all, a good collection with some good, well-known authors- interesting to read, fresh in places, but in some a little lacklustre, and dare I say it, a little too bloody and macabre for its own good.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10 stars.

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