[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
This collection of short stories revolve around the theme of “towers”, and more specifically towers of the dark kind: towers of sorcery, alien towers in strange world, sinister lighthouses, towers of the Underworld... There are very few “nice” dwellings here, and a lot of the stories do not carry much hope, or are tinged with a bittersweet side.
I found this a quick and pleasant read in general. While I admit not caring much for the first story (a poem), there was nothing really catastrophic in there. On the other hand, no story felt really above the others as far as I'm concerned. Mostly it's a matter of a good deal of stories feeling somewhat “unfinished”: too short for me to properly get to care about the characters (“Beneath the Bell Bay Light”, “Core Craving”), with endings that were often too open, as if something was missing (“Giving a Hand”, “Smoke and Sprites”), even though at first they did seem complete. That's something I've struggled with myself, and something I find regularly in other anthologies, and I won't fault this one specifically. So, all in all, it's a solid 3 stars, though not more.
The stories I liked best:
“Squire Magic”: Bittersweet indeed, but a nice lesson about magic, and how the most powerful spells aren't always able to best a cunning mind who knows what to do with “simple” spells.
“The Tower”: a quaint and quiet little town, a man staying close to its roots, and the evil looming abover everyone, in the shape of an old water tower. It had a bit of a Stephen King feeling.
“They Warp the Fabric of the Sky”: Beware what you're looking for... and do not disregard the power of a smile.
“Kiss of Death”: Somewhat comical and light, yet also a beautiful love story. (And it has a Lich and a Necromancer! Bonus points!)
“Annie the Escaper”: actually, not really a favourite; however, I liked the idea of a species realising in the end it couldn't live without the other, although not for the most obvious reason.
Special mention for “The Blind Queen's Daughter” because Arthurian & Lovecraftian mythos together.