For those of you who don’t know, the Phoenix Fiction Writers are a group of indie speculative fiction authors who’ve banded together to support each other, promote each other’s work, and write awesome anthologies together like Antiheroes. All of the people involved are amazing, both as people and as writers. I was super excited to get a chance to read Antiheroes before its official release in exchange for a review, my expectations were high, and I wasn’t especially disappointed. Without further ado, let’s get into the review.
The Wolf at the Door
I was laughing so hard at the introduction to this one. The reader is warned not to keep reading… but obviously I ignored the warnings and continued on. After that it gets more serious, but Shultz masterfully weaves in bits of fairytale, the creatures that inhabit the world are intriguing, and the ending is not what you expect.
Hannah Heath’s worldbuilding is amazing. It’s woven in beautifully, it’s rich and detailed, and it always leaves you wanting to know more and explore the world she’s created. The motifs and tone of the story were also incredibly well-done, which further contributed to my vivid view of the world. The characters were all muti-faceted and gripping, as well, and seeing Ishtaka’s struggle (from a distance!) was really interesting. I’d love to read a sequel.
The Word Thrower
The Word Thrower was probably my least favorite in the anthology, unfortunately. I wasn’t as engaged with the main character, and I felt like there was an unnecessary number of side characters that we didn’t really get to know. None of them stayed solid in my brain, even after a second read-through. However, the idea of word throwing is really interesting (I wish we’d gotten to see more of that), and the decision the main character had to make at the end was really thought-provoking.
The Astoundingly Mortal Peril of Denna Dorwen
The wit and humor in this one is amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed Denna’s story, and the characters were incredibly distinct and unique.
After reading Stealing Life in Phoenix Fiction’s smaller anthology (which you can read if you sign up to their mailing list), I was super excited to see similar tech and characters and settings in Stealing Freedom. This one felt less action-driven and more character-driven, which was a bit disappointing, and I missed the more tech-filled tone and atmosphere I remembered from Stealing Life. I really enjoyed the tech that Koya had, and it fit well with what we saw in Stealing Life. This was another story where I found it difficult to connect with the main character, unfortunately. I might enjoy it better if I re-read it as its own thing rather than as sequel to Stealing Life.
I’m honestly not quite sure what I think of this one. I think it was interesting but it wasn’t especially engaging for me? The idea of having an android for a main character is really interesting, and I think it was done well. I think the story would have been more satisfying and engaging if there were more background on REPL and AIHA, because they ended up seeming kind of faceless. I wasn’t quite sure what their goals were or why and I got them mixed up. (That could just be me, though.) I think I’d enjoy seeing more in this universe, this story just wasn’t for me.
I really enjoyed this one. Space-based sci-fi isn’t usually my thing, I tend to prefer cyberpunk and future tech on Earth instead of spaceships and other planets, but this one was really good. The main character was engaging (even though he kinda needed to be smacked upside the head) and his motivation and drive really came through on the page. I also enjoyed the world around him, and I’d be interested to see more of it.
As a whole, I really enjoyed this anthology and I look forward to reading more from Phoenix Fiction Writers, both as a group and individually. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys speculative fiction and/or antiheroes. :)
Buy through BookShop* and support an indie U.S. bookstore