Mischief, Magic, Love and War.
It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.
Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker's wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.
These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.
Including an afterword by Dr. John Lavagnino, The London Shakespeare Centre, King's College London.
"powerful page-turner with a strong slice of fairness and feminism… highly readable but enjoyably horrible… [a] lovingly curated collection."– Starburst
"Each piece of work opens on a world of fae, of compacts, of magic and blood, and affection spurned and love embraced. You don't have to be a Shakesperean to enjoy the new worlds thrown open by this text."– SFandF Reviews
"Monstrous Little Voices is something special"– SF BlueStocking
"WHY HAVE YOU come here, Ariel? Why now?"
"At first, I was busy. Fairy business. I was on that island for a long time, child. I had to return to Titania's court, to make my obeisances, pardons, pledges. I had to report and explain my absence. But after that—" She falters, looks aside. "After that, I was ashamed. And hopeful, too, just a little; I thought you might adjust, given time."
"I could adjust, perhaps. But as they will not, I cannot—or if I did, there'd be no point to it."
She doesn't ask who they were. There's no need.
"Do you love him?" Ariel asks, softly.
"Compared to what?" It comes out harsher than I intend, a pant of rage as pain saws through me. My father impressed on me the value of feminine virtues, and when the ship came—when Ferdinand came, and I finally had an audience—it was surprisingly easy to embody them, as though my flesh and feelings both had only awaited their function. But the world in which it was easy was a small, unvarnished one, as utterly distinct from my present state as shells from sapphires. If such a woman truly exists, she is not me, nor have I met her like, here in this place where my every move is scrutinised for the failings of barbarism. "Compared to how I once loved my father? Compared to how I should love myself? I do not." Tears slip down my cheeks. "I do not, and now it's all too late."
"It doesn't have to be." Ariel kneels, or gives her airy form the semblance of kneeling. "You can leave this place, Miranda. Go where you will."
"As a woman alone? One marked as spurned, or barren, or runaway from her lawful lord, and whose father in any case would drag her home again? Such choices you offer! Pearls to make a pauper rich." My lucidity slips like a lady's veil, restored by the cooling brush of Ariel's hand.
"What if," she says, and stops. On the island, I had no true glass, but this past year, I've grown enough accustomed to the sight of my face to recognise its expression now as one of fear, and grief, and defiant apology. "What if they thought you dead?"
"NATURAL SLEEP, LIKE natural life, is precarious," said Ariel, alighting on the sand. Her leopard-voice was a rumbling purr. "Remember that, Miranda."
"I will, but what does precarious mean?"
Ariel paused in the act of washing a paw. She twitched an ear, then popped back into our shared girlshape, toying with a curl. "It means unsafe, and subject to change. Like a sandbar moved by waves."
I nodded; I was an expert on sandbars. Then, unbidden, a strange thought came to me. "The mice moved when I touched them," I said. "Do I not move in my sleep?"
"You don't," she said. "No matter the provocation, you stay still."
"Oh," I said. "That's... comforting, I suppose." My skin felt strangely cold. "Is it comforting, Ariel?"
Her eyes were mine, yet older than mine. "That depends," she said.
"On the provocation."
"THERE IS A spell," says Ariel, when I say nothing. "A glamour of sorts, though a little more complex. All who know you here will think you dead of your childloss fever—which I can cure, in either case," she adds, quickly. "You will live, Miranda. I owe you that much. But if you wanted—"
"Yes," I say. I exhale relief like poison. I don't know where I'll go, if Ariel will take me there or merely provide me with a chance at departure, but I cannot stay here. My island was not wild, compared to this.
There are such monsters in a palace.