It has taken me a shamefully long time to write this blog post, despite my enduring love of Garth Nix and how much I enjoyed this collection of short stories – mostly because I spent the last week preparing for BUCS Outdoor Archery competition, and then the weekend doing the competition, and then the last four days complaining about how much pain I was in after the competition (and the rain…!)
Nonetheless, now that I’m back at my computer, and able to type properly, it’s time to post about Garth Nix’s newest short story collection!
Once again, it’s worth noting that I am lucky enough to be on Hot Key Books’ blogger list, so I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
To Hold the Bridge – Garth Nix
A short story collection, including an Old Kingdom novella, from author Garth Nix!
Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?
Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.
It’s difficult to review a collection of short stories, because it’s not like they have the same characters which develop through the course of the book. Instead, what we have is a collection of snippets, glimpses into fantasy worlds, and small, isolated incidents in characters lives – but Nix is excellent at this. The nineteen short stories which make up the book are a collection of science fiction and fantasy which each presents their own distinct world and enthralling characters, neatly wrapped up in bite-sized pieces.
Although short stories can sometimes seem like an information dump, these were nicely paced in that they revealed enough of the world for the reader to make sense of it, but didn’t burden us with unnecessary information.
Three of the stories were set in worlds from Nix’s full-length novels – To Hold the Bridge, the title story, is set in the Old Kingdom, naturally. There are also one story each set in the worlds of Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes. I really enjoyed these – a glimpse into a different, totally disconnected, part of the same world. The only issue I had with To Hold the Bridge is that I actually have no idea when it happened – is it before Clariel? Between Clariel and the Old Kingdom trilogy? During the Interregnum?
Well, no, it wasn’t during the Interregnum. They mentioned a queen.
In any case – Nix is a master of short fiction, and this collection showcases his varied skills in worldbuilding and character creation.
I saw on twitter last week that he was making notes about Ermine College, the setting of ‘A Handful of Ashes’.
I just made some notes for another story set in Ermine College at the University of Hallowsbridge, while meaning to do something else
— Garth Nix (@garthnix) June 8, 2015
I have to say I’m pleased about this, as I really thought there was much more could be done with this particular world – it was probably my favourite ‘new’ world in the collection.
Although I have seen some complaints that all of these short stories have been published before, in different collections, I really enjoyed the chance to see the spectrum of Nix’s seemingly limitless world-building skills in a single collection.