The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror is an anthology edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene – the second annual collection with another already in the works. It is comprised of 32 carefully selected short stories of fantasy, dark fantasy, horror and paranormal romance – an award winning selection of the best Australia had to offer in 2011.
It also features interesting and in-depth extras – there is the usual section about the contributors and when each piece was first published, but then there is also an account of the year that detail things from a discussion on the impact of eReaders, to notable podcasts, to obituaries of writers since lost, along with a special piece by Lucy Sussex regarding the beloved Sara Douglass. It also has a recommended reading list, acknowledgements and lists of significant works, events and results of major awards won during the year.
This alone makes this book a valuable reference guide, if nothing else.
Yet of course, it is so much more than that. These 32 short stories are truly the best out there – generally in anthologies a reader may skip one or two (or more!) of the stories within that just don’t catch their interest. For once, I didn’t skip any of them, finding each story just as captivating and making me wish there was more to read than the last.
In particular, ‘The Patrician’ by Tansy Rayner Roberts (recent winner of the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award) is stunning, telling of Clea who works at a near-future Roman theme park set in the middle of rural Australia who discovers that Julias isn’t dead, and how that turns out to be a very good thing.
‘The Hall of Lost Footsteps’ by Sara Douglass and Angela Slatter is a confusing yet powerful story about a witch called Isolde, hated yet needed by a small village, with an ending that other short stories could be jealous of.
‘Reading Coffee’ by Anthony Panegyres is a Greek-Australian tale of old, a sad twist of hatred and mistrust that’s made readable by the in-depth characters and tantalising mentions of food, also holding a bitter-sweet ending.
Something must be said about the presentation of this book. The cover is stunning (I wish I could find who the artist is!) The layout and typeface are noticeably elegant (Sabon and Poor Richard, good work, Russ!), and the 500 pages feel decent yet not oversized or too heavy.
This book was published by Ticonderoga Publications and can be found in many places –
Online in Australia: indiebooksonline.com
Online overseas (with free shipping): bookdepository.co.uk
Your nearest bookstore should also stock it, or will be able to order it in for you, at your request.
Katharine is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of Katharine herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.
This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 5th November 2012.