Title // A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Author // Edited by Ellen Oh and Elise Chapman, various authors contributed
Publisher // Greenwillow Books
Publication Date // June 6th 2018
Synopsis // Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.
Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.
Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.
A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5)
Everyone is sleeping on this wonderful anthology!! I had never even heard of this before from the book community just got lucky to see it promoted in my local library catalog and thank goodness for that because then I never would have gotten to read this wonderful collection of Asian retellings!
I love retellings so much, and in the past have read multiple collections of retellings, but those mostly featured the same European fairy tales, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc, that we’ve all read a million times. This was so incredible to read about all these different Asian cultures through these wonderful retellings, and I really encourage everyone to pick this anthology up to learn more about these wonderful cultures and stories!
I’m especially happy I read it because I’m actually Asian American, and I shared this book with my mom, and she read the ones based on our culture (Chinese) with stories she grew up with, and we talked about them and it was amazing. I learned more about our Chinese stories, and was also exposed to stories from a variety of other wonderful Asian cultures that I might not have known about!
This collection features a brief author’s note after each of their stories, explaining the original story and why they chose it, and I really loved reading about each of the ownvoices authors’ personal connections to their stories and culture.
Forbidden Fruit (Filipino) ★★★★★
This was such a wonderful way to start off the anthology. I was so drawn in by the dreamy way the story was told, and it felt like such a wonderful mythical magical world.
Olivia’s table (Chinese) ★★★★☆
I really liked how the story wove the magical feel of the Chinese celebrations and myths into a contemporary settling. It felt like magical realism which I really enjoy, and it explored grief, moving on, and family and culture for Asian Americans.
Steel Skin (Hmong) ★★★☆☆
This was a pretty cool science fiction retelling. It was a bit confusing at first, but when I started to get it though it was cool and I was shocked at the end! It was a really unique retelling of the original story too and the author is a genius.
Still Star-Crossed (Punjabi) ★★☆☆☆
The initial concept of this wasn’t my favorite, as it had a guy almost stalking a girl and she’s uncomfortable with him, which was a bit uncomfortable for me, especially in the ending reason why. I like these types of stories sometimes but I feel like it didn’t work great as a short story without much time to be developed. The ending and way it tied into the fable was cool though, if a bit creepy.
The Counting of Vermillion Beads (Vietnamese) ★★★☆☆
This was a super interesting concept, and after reading the author’s note I love how the author wrote the story, changing girl hate to an empowered sister girl love relationship! The world building felt underdeveloped and confusing and the ending felt rushed though, and I think this would have worked better as a full book than a short story.
The Land of the Morning Calm (Korean) ★★★☆☆
This was a cool concept and I liked reading about the Korean myths and mythological creatures. It was sort of scifi/fantasy with the concept of gaming and going into games and I found that to be too weird for my liking though.
The Smile (South Asian) ★★★★★
This was such a beautiful compelling story! It’s about a peasant girl in the king’s harem, whom the prince is in love with, but it really examines the power dynamic between them, owning versus loving someone, and it had a super empowering ending.
Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers (Gujarati) ★★☆☆☆
I’m sorry but this was my least favorite, it just felt really immature. The girls seeking revenge on a boy who was rude to them and trying to get him in trouble with his mom just felt petty. I also didn’t really like the way the original myth was info dumped in large italicized sections, as it’s hard enough to get into a short story with just a few pages and this took me out of it.
Nothing Into All (Korean) ★★★★☆
I really enjoyed this whimsical tale of goblins! It was cool to see the siblings love and anger for each other, juxtaposing good and bad.
Spear Carrier (South Asian) ★★☆☆☆
This was an interesting sort of portal fantasy story. It was a bit confusing as there were random time shifts and info dumps in an already short story, but it was quite an interesting message about questioning what it is to be a hero, and what are you dying for.
Code of Honor (Filipino) ★★☆☆☆
This story links in to the author Melissa de la Cruz’s early 2000s urban fantasy vampire book so it felt like I was transported back to then when Twilight was all the rage. It was a pretty generic story fitting with that time, but I did like the description of this different version of not a traditional vampire, but a Filipino vampire like creature.
Bullet, Butterfly (Chinese) ★★★★★
I adored this story! I loved seeing what started as a dare turn into more as the star crossed lovers fall in love with each other, but alas, it’s not to be! I loved the butterfly imagery and the ending was so beautiful and tragic.
Daughter of the Sun (South Asian) ★★★★☆
This was a beautiful story about making choices and following your heart, and I really loved the determination and feminist spins the author put on the original tales. It was a bit hard to get into at first though.
The Crimson Cloak (Chinese) ★★★★☆
I loved the style this story was told in, that really felt like a fable or fairy tale where the narrator would address the reader specifically, “dear reader.” I loved how the author gave the girl, who was previously just a bride and wife, a voice, and I loved the love story! The narrator did annoy me a bit at times though.
Eyes Like Candlelight (Japanese) ★★★★★
This was a great way to end the anthology, with a wonderful story about kindness and compassion and love, beautifully written although it made me so sad at the end! I loved reading about the Japanese Kitsune too. My favorite story!
Average rating 3.5, but honestly some of these stories are so incredible that you should read it for those 5 stars. And also for the culture! And just… read this anthology.
Have you read this book? Do you like anthologies? Which of these stories is your favorite/sounds most interesting? I’d love to chat in the comments below!