With Blood and Ash: The Curse of Blood Magic Vol 1
This dark fantasy anthology features novellette length stories about "deadly magic". Each of the seven stories in this volume are engrossing and emotional. The magic systems featured are diverse, yet all are primal and powerful with components of elemental magic and the fae.
The stories are longer than the short stories I have been reading lately and each one requires pause and reflection once done. They feel more like "mini-novels" than "short fiction" because the emotional depths and the characters featured are strong and complex. It took me a bit of time to get through this volume, but not because the quality was lacking, rather the opposite.
My personal favourites are (descriptions are from the amazon page):
Wynne F. Winters - "The Spring in the Desert": There is a world of drought and destruction, where magic is currency and water is life. What dark mysteries await you there?
The first story takes place in the desert where water is the most important element. Here we meet Silas, a woman on the run forced to confront her past. Silas was what I enjoyed most with this story. I found I could connect with this character very easily and she was what drew me in.
David Green - "Master and Apprentice": He was supposed to be her father-figure and teacher, but instead he broke the world. Now he wants her back, and is willing to pay any cost.
This story was heartbreaking - and definitely one of the darkest in the volume. I love a good dose of darkness in my fiction, so this one was perfect for me. That said, it wasn't overly graphic or anything. Again, like the first story, we have another strong female lead character. I enjoyed reading about her coming to terms with her former teacher.
Crystal Lynn Hilbert - "What We Were Made": For years a vengeful woman slumbered, and now she awaits the offspring of her enemies to return to the forest so she can enact her revenge.
The tone of this story is more folklore than fantasy. A powerful entity must face the descendants of enemies that destroyed her home. While the story starts with revenge, it's really more about the power of found family and sisterhood.