Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories

6 CDs. 7:30 hrs. HighBridge. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781684411603. $34.99. digital download. F
The stories in this collection by Barnhill (The Girl Who Drank the Moon) mainly center on transgressive women: pirate queens, fugitive sorcerers, and casters of dangerous spells. A lonely widow finds companionship with an affectionate monster, a witch's spell for beauty backfires in unexpected ways, and a young woman inherits both supernatural powers and a pirate crew. There's a fairy-tale tone to many of the offerings; even the stories set in modern America maintain an otherworldliness. The two stories that don't feature female protagonists are "Open the Door and the Light Pours Through," a slowly unfolding ghost story told in letters between a young soldier and his betrothed that is literally and figuratively haunting, and "The Insect and the Astronomer" in which an educated and lonely insect scientist seeks his counterpart. The latter half(ish) of the book consists of "The Unlicensed Magician," a tale about a country under the heel of an immortal minister who uses children born with magic to power his obsession with eternal life and the one nearly invisible girl who evaded his agents at birth. English voice actor John Lee narrates with gravitas and intensity, with occasional doses of humor that throw the strangeness into sharp relief.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy their fantasy with a dose of weirdness and atmosphere—Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury come to mind—will enjoy this collection. ["In her debut short story collection for adults, YA author Barnhill highlights fantasy's breadth with unusual settings and extraordinary characters living outside of the realm of reality. A magical volume for fans of the genre": LJ 2/1/18 starred review of the Algonquin hc.]
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