Three Sides of a Heart by Various — ★★★★★ — releases Dec. 19
Average Rating: 3.81 Stars, but I’m giving a five because there were so many stories here on my new faves list. This was a fantastic short story collection, and I have to admit I was really pleasantly surprised after seeing some mediocre reviews.
What stands out about this collection to me is the creativity.So much speculative fiction and so many weird ideas! There’s a lot of weirdness hidden within this collection, and I have no doubt even some of my fave stories will be polarizing – I’ve already seen two one-star reviews for one of my fave stories, lol – but I think everyone will be able to come away with a few favorites out of all these weird and wonderful stories.
If you only want my recommendations for best stories in this collection, try the badass sapphic alternate history of Justina Ireland’s Dread South, the speculative character-driven scifi of Natalie C. Parker’s Cass, An, and Dra, the friendship-focused contemporary of Veronica Roth’s Vim and Vigor, the weird and wonderful magical realism tone of Brenna Yovanoff’s Vega, the fascinating characters and stunning setting depiction of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s A Hundred Thousand Threads, and the saddest thing I have ever read, Bethany Hagen’s Unus, Duo, Tres. You’ll notice that’s a full 6 of the 16 stories in this collection. I am SO. HAPPY.
# FULL STORY REVIEWS
Since I mostly wanted subversions out of this anthology, I’m going to put a 🏳️🌈 to indicate love triangles that aren’t three heterosexual individuals, and a ☀️ to indicate trope subversion or stories I felt did something totally new with the love triangle.
♔ Riddles in Mathematics by Katie Cotugno – ★★★ 🏳️🌈
This is contemporary following a girl, her brother, and her brother’s maybe-girlfriend. This was cute, first of all, and I like that part of this love triangle was simply a guy and a girl who everyone thinks are dating but aren’t necessarily at all. Unfortunately, I think I misunderstood and believed they were dating for part of the reading. I also don’t love that the burden is put on our protagonist to deal with her homophobic parents; how, exactly, is it teenage angst to not want to associate with a mother who can’t shut up about your short hair? She’s the parent. She can deal.
♔ Dread South by Justina Ireland – ★★★★★ 🏳️🌈☀️
I’M SCREAMING AT HOW GOOD THIS WAS. It’s about a badass black zombie hunter girl in the post-civil war era and the girl who falls for her. And LOTS of trope subversion. Every racist trope, especially the “you’re the one good black person” trope, just died a very painful death. Writing style rocked, concept is of course badass – civil. war. zombie. hunters. – and honestly, I’m just so here for gfs murdering racists. Good concept and great story.
♔ Omega Ship by Rae Carson – ★★ ☀️
It’s about… a naked girl and two hot naked boys having to repopulate the earth. Which, trope subversion, yay? I think Carson was going for a subversive feminist little story, and there was one moment towards the end I liked, but… I think the concept was just too fucking messy for this to ever turn out well. It just got cringey.
♔ La Revancha del Tango by Renee Ahdieh – ★★★
This is about a girl in Buenos Aires and the boys she meets along the way. I think fans of good contemporary romance will enjoy this a lot, but it didn’t do a ton for me. Liked the banter, but the whole sexy-tango-dancing thing is just not me. Also, very weak love triangle and nothing new was done with it.
♔ Cass, An, and Dra by Natalie C. Parker – ★★★★★ 🏳️🌈☀️
This is a novella in which our main character, Cass, can see the outcomes of her decisions before she makes them – until she ends up torn between An, her best friend or maybe something more, and Dra, a hypnotizing person she’s just met. And it is really, really, really compelling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe towards the end. It’s more of an urban fantasy story about choices than anything else; I’d argue the love triangle is somewhat immaterial, but it’s a great way of conveying the story. (Honestly, the ideal ending to this one is them all getting together.)
♔ Lessons for Beginners by Julie Murphy – ★★★★ 🏳️🌈
Bi girl falls in love with another girl while giving her and her boyfriend kissing lessons. Cute, cute, and cute. Nothing new with the love triangle, maybe, but I really enjoyed reading this.
♔ Triangle Solo by Garth Nix – ★
Listen, I’m sorry, but it is laughable how terribly this was written. The constant ellipses. The obvious reveals. Everything. God, it was just terrible.
♔ Vim and Vigor by Veronica Roth – ★★★★★ ☀️
Oh my god, this was so beautiful? It takes a story about a love triangle and turns it into a story about genuine friendship. So much trope subversion.
♔ Work in Progress by E.K. Johnston – ★★★ 🏳️🌈☀️
This follows three possibly all in love with each other characters, Alex, Tab, and CJ. Each of the three stories has three sections, one for each POV. Mostly, I just found this a bit confusing: the gimmick is cool, but I didn’t catch on quickly enough and honestly found it a little too weird. Definitely not a typical love triangle, though – I really liked that none of the characters were gendered.
♔ Hurdles by Brandy Colbert – ★★★
…huh. This follows a girl caught between her normal boyfriend and normal life, and a boy she deeply loves. Which is something slightly new, I guess, but even this I’ve seen done before. I have… so many mixed feelings. I liked all the characters and the idea, but I had too many issues to really get fully immersed. First off, our main character here read really similar to Suzette from Little and Lion AND the main character of Colbert’s Summer Days anthology story. And I suppose I just… found it kind of boring. The non-ending doesn’t help; it would’ve worked if I’d connected with everything more, but since I felt so apathetic towards the story, it did nothing.
♔ The Historian, The Garrison, and the Cantakerous Catwoman by Lamar Giles – ★★★★ ☀️
…holy crap. Um, I’m not going to say anything about this, but I think you should read this to the end.
♔ Waiting by Sabaa Tahir – ★★★★
This was a pleasant surprise! It’s contemporary about a girl caught between two great guys, each with their own issues and good parts. It’s not anything new, but I think I enjoyed this mostly because I genuinely liked both dudes. Another one where the ideal ending would’ve been them all getting together.
♔ Vega by Brenna Yovanoff – ★★★★★ ☀️
It’s a love triangle between a girl, a boy, and a city. And I’m pretty sure half its readership is going to end it like “huh?” but it’s still worth reading because HOLY CRAP I LOVED IT. Brenna Yovanoff just knows how to get to the heart of the human soul, and this short story is no exception. Her writing is just… holy shit, I adore it. I loved the picture I had in my head of Las Vegas while reading; Yovanoff just excels at creating mood quickly, and making you care for stories.
♔ A Hundred Thousand Threads by Alaya Dawn Johnson – ★★★★★ ☀️
This was really really lovely. It’s a story about a futuristic Mexico and rebellion. I don’t know exactly what I liked most about this, but I think it was probably the writing – just stunning – and the characters, who I cared about so much by the end I was near tears. The story, while occasionally confusing, had me rapt with its odd tone and intriguing worldbuilding. Can’t recommend enough – in fact, I’d love to read a full length novel.
♔ Before She Was Bloody by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★ 🏳️🌈☀️
This was quite odd; it’s a high fantasy story about an antihero, and there’s also some high fantasy polyamory going on? I felt that the actual story and worldbuilding was too confusing to truly adore, but I found the writing quite engaging.
♔ Unus, Duo, Tres by Bethany Hagen – ★★★★★ 🏳️🌈☀️
Poly vampires and a whole lot of antiheroes. That was… the most painful thing I’ve read in my life. I cannot even begin to convey how painful this was. I reject this story and I very much reject this ending. I’m blocking all of you. Fuck. No one asked, Bethany Hagen. No one.
VERDICT: A collection of weird and fantastic speculative fiction stories that left me totally enthralled. This story collection was so much more than I expected and I can’t recommend this enough.