The first of the three novellas in this book is ‘Moontide’ by Mercedes Lackey. It is the story of a young woman who is summoned back to her father’s keep because – it turns out – he wants to marry her off to an enemy of the kingdom to garner more power for himself. Fortunately, our heroine has not passed her growing-up years in idleness, but has instead been trained in all sorts of unladylike skills, and now finding out what her father is up to is her first mission as a kind of spy for the king. This story is set in Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms world, although none of her previous characters are in it, and nor does the usual fairy tale connection appear. It’s a likeable enough story, although the resolution is a little simple and – as always with Lackey’s work – one never really doubts that Good Will Prevail. Still, it makes a pleasant enough read.
The middle story is the story of Clirando, a young warrior priestess whose best friend sleeps with her lover. For their betrayal, both are banished, and the ex-friend curses her. In order to lift her curse, if she can, Clirando must go the Isle of the Moon and… do whatever is necessary. This is an interesting tale with Tanith Lee’s lyrical, dreamscape-like writing. You are never quite sure until the end what is ‘real’ and what is illusion.
The last story is set in C.E. Murphy’s ‘Walker Papers’ series; Joanne Walker has recently discovered her powers as a shaman and is trying to avoid taking any responsibility and is quite clearly hoping that if she just ignores everything for long enough it will all just go away. Unfortunately, three murdered women, with ties to her own past and dead mother, make it quite clear that ignoring things is not going to be a viable option. I have to admit, Joanne made me want to slap her. She spends most of the story whingeing and whining and making things difficult for herself, and the ending seems to happen more by accident than anything else. The story also felt like a snapshot from a larger picture – lots going on, of which we only got glimpses. Really, this plot could have done with more word-space, and possibly then it would have felt less arbitrary and rushed. On the other hand, I found Joanne so irritating that I would probably have thrown my book-reader through a window, so maybe it was all for the best.
All in all, therefore, this gets three stars. The middle story was probably my favourite of the three; ‘Moontide’ was a nice, easy love-story, and ‘Banshee Cries’ is OK if you can cope with the protagonist’s self-pity.