Jaym Gates’s collection, The Shattered Queen & Other New Mythologies: A Broken City Miscellany (Falstaff Books, 2016), is a collection of 26 short prose pieces, some of which are more lyrical or poetic than story, and others that create entire worlds in the span of scant few pages. Of the pieces, half are reprints, while the other half are new to this collection.
While all of the pieces are beautifully written, some of the stories stuck with me longer than others. “First Step, Last Breath” tells the story of explorers in over their heads. Using a parallel structure, the reader slowly comes to understand more and more of the truths behind this story, and its inevitable ending.
Two of the stories, “I Am Made of Every Color” and “The Greatest Hunger,” struck me as particularly lovely. Both are darker stories, and the first was especially haunting. On the other hand, “Co-Exist” had me laughing with the opening line, and presented an interesting alternative to the usual zombie apocalypse fare.
My overall favorite, though, was “Lord of Heaven and Earth,” a post-apocalyptic tale with dragons. This story unfolded slowly and delicately, offering an ever growing view of what had happened, while packing in plenty of action as well.
More than anything, I was struck by the beauty of Gates’s use of language. Even in the most straightforward of stories, the word choices were brilliant. The lyricism of the first few pieces in the collection never goes away, it just becomes more refined and interwoven with the details of the many worlds that Gates has created through her stories. If you love reading well-crafted, beautiful prose, this is the collection for you!