George RR Martin & Gardner Dozois “Dangerous Women” (Tor Books, 2013)
Despite the title, there’s a very loose theme to Dangerous Women. In fact, after reading these collected stories, I’m not exactly sure what their criteria for selection actually was. Please don’t take my point wrong. I’m not complaining. If anything, the rather nebulous concept makes for varied reading. There are many types of female characters in these stories. Perhaps even better, there are many types of stories. Sword and Sorcery, Epic Fantasy, SF, Historical Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Mystery… Martin and Dozois cast a wide net and got a wonderful rich array of material.
The most attention has been given to the George RR Martin novella “The Princess and the Queen”, which details the history of an intra-Targaryan civil war. As excited as I was to read this, I was not blown away. Martin’s approach is to tell the story of the first Dance of Dragons as a history text. While it is certainly informational, without the character work that is so build into the framework of ASOFAI, it lacks the connection –at least with this reader—that makes the series so addictive.
Fortunately all is not lost. There are plenty of other wonderful pieces to delight almost any genre reader. Joe Abercrombie’s “Some Desperado” is a tense tale featuring Shy from Red Country. Megan Abbott’s “My Heart is Either Broken” is a disturbing bit of noir. Joe R Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” is both touching and exceptionally creepy as you try to determine if the magic is actually real. Brandon Sanderson’s “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell” is a long piece that features wonderful world building (as you might expect from Sanderson). Lev Grossman’s “The Girl in the Mirror” is set in an American Hogwarts that is more disturbing that any nose less antagonist. Megan Lindholm (Robin Hobb)’s “Neighbors” is set in the suburbs, and again blurs the line between fantasy and reality.
So yeah, there are plenty of great stories in this collection. It really does the anthology a disservice to think of it as solely a vehicle for a Westeros Novella. Dangerous Women is so much more than that.