HARDENED HEARTS contains dark fiction stories connected by the theme of love-all kinds of love. This book's strength is in its diversity. It covers so many facets of the subject, there's something here for everyone.
The tales that stood out for me were:
Calvin Demmer's story WHAT IS LOVE. This story knocked my socks off and I will be tracking down more from this author!
THE HEART OF THE ORCHARD by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This read almost like a warped fairy tale, and as we all know, fairy tales can often be quite grim.
PINK BALLOON by Tom Deady was my favorite story in the book. It totally broke my heart.
HEIRLOOM by Theresa Braun. I love tales about mirrors and this was an excellent example of why. This was my first experience with Theresa Braun's work and we are off to a good start.
THE RECLUSE by John Boden. Short and sweet, Boden always impresses me.
ClASS OF 2000 by Robert Dean. I guess the moral of this tale is not to mess with someone that can throw a baseball at 100 mph. It seems like common sense to me.
BURNING SAMANTHA by Scott Hallum. I had never previously heard of Scott, but he's on my radar now.
50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR MONSTER LOVER by Gwendolyn Kiste. Here is another author that I haven't had any experience with but whose story was impressive.
Lastly, IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO by J.L. Knight. A heartbreaking story about love and loss. Poignant and dark all at the same time.
9 of the 17 tales resonated deeply with me and that's above average, so I rounded up my original rating from 3 to 4 stars. I have some new authors to follow and I think they are offering up original work which only improves the genre. Bravo!
Recommended for fans of diverse dark fiction!
*Thanks to John Boden for providing an e-ARC of this anthology in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*
Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on January 17, 2018.
A Viking adventure with all the gore and blood that you could ask for. If only I could have been made to care for the characters…
Soldiers learning to maneuver robots in the war have to do as part of a hive mind. Pretty soon, real life cannot compare with the virtual one that they lead with the other members of the hive.
A retelling of the myth of Marcus Atilius Regulus, a Roman Consul. In the story, he is tortured by Carthaginians before his death. Everything in the story is actually setting up the reader for the way he dies.
An abused child grows up into a sociopath. You can guess what happens next!
It isn’t that bioengineered soldiers haven’t been done before. Here though the author makes it all about religion.
A black man joins the army in the eradication of Native Americans. The story remains localized and makes no claims about the big picture.
A coma patient becomes an avenging spirit with a special soft place in her heart for kids.
I have been wondering if I would like Gabaldon’s writing and I wonder no more. This story is based on a skirmish between the French and English soldiers on Canadian soil.
Nature and “people” come together in this story to save the land. I liked this one because plants featured in it.
POVs change as we see Carthage fall and a Roman general plays mind games with the Carthaginians he will be selling off to slavery.
Canine gladiators and sibling love made this story one of my faves!
An alien race tries to take over the planet and humans band together to stop that from happening. They also have help from the unlikeliest of sources.
Women have faced discrimination whenever they have dared to step into a profession. Flying planes during a war isn’t any different.
A mercenary is hired to rescue a princess who didn’t really need to be rescued. The princess was a pleasant surprise.
A utopian dream to unite the world while a war goes on outside. Didn’t take too long for it to unravel.
AIs rule the world. Humans don’t stand a chance against them yet they won’t give up fighting back or remembering how life used to be.
Sometimes, the enemy on the other side of the border is your friend. In this story, soldiers who trained together are forced to fight against each other when France daren’t go against Germany.
Soldiers have been manning an entry point into their empire for years now. No reinforcements have arrived for some time. The absence of enemies starts to make them think. Does the empire they have been defending even exist anymore?
A bully of an emperor keeps an architect alive just to torture him. The ending was a letdown.
A tale of Egg, the squire who isn’t a squire, and the knight he serves.
I’d say, you won’t be missing much if you didn’t read this anthology. But that’s just me…
This is a powerful collection of fairytales, and it would have made the Brothers Grimm incredibly impressed. Leigh Bardugo has such a disctinctive ‘voice’ when it comes to her writing, and it lends itself well to allegorical tales such as these, with vivid imagery, and vibrant characters, some frightening, and some beautiful.
You can’t help but be drawn into even the most scary stories, just like you did when you heard Little Red Riding Hood’ for the first time, but this you realize is on a much grander and more lavish scale.
The book itself is a delight to hold and read, and the illustrations by Sara Kipin make it a keepsake you’ll want to treasure. It’s not a book to rush through and the stories are definitely ones that make you think. Thorny, sumptuous and very clever.