Much excitement here this morning to find that George Williams has reviewed The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings in The Weekend Australian‘s arts section. Much dancing and running in circles making loud noises. Or, you know, something more dignified.
FANS of fantasy fiction have come to expect great things from Queensland author Angela Slatter. She won an Aurealis Award for The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales and was a finalist in the World Fantasy Awards for Sourdough and Other Stories.
With these and other collections, she has carved a niche as one of the best writers of short stories of dark fantasy. In a field where trilogies and even 10-book series have become commonplace, these short works provide a more than welcome counterpoint.
In The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, Slatter returns to familiar territory. What was supposed to be a sequel to Sourdough and Other Stories instead turned into a prequel as she became immersed in explaining her complex world in ever greater detail. She does so in 13 stories that expand on the earlier book by showing how things and people came to be.
The collection begins with The Coffin Maker’s Daughter, for which Slatter became the first Australian to win a British Fantasy Award. It introduces the character of Hepsibah Ballantyne, a maker of coffins who is accompanied on her rounds by her hectoring, ghostly father. Ballantyne presents herself at the house of the deceased, only to take a shine to the dead man’s daughter, describing her as ‘‘pink and peach and creamy. I want to lick at her skin and see if she tastes the way she looks.” From there the story intertwines death and lust, until the end arrives with a quirky, dark twist. It’s a brilliant opening to the book.
The rest is here.