Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black

I was pretty excited to see a YA author posting a collection of short stories, since I am a huge short story fan.  The descriptions I read for this book used words like "dark fantasy" and "eerie" and "horror."  So I was pretty excited to read some scary short stories that were not about Satan, the devil, or anything demonic.  (Can't handle it, no way, not happening).  I was actually really hoping that this collection would be a "gateway" collection that would interest YA readers in short stories.  The entire fantasy genre is pretty well represented: we've got fairies, unicorns, werewolves, vampires, deadly sisters, etc.  But I have to say that it just didn't live up to my expectations. 

I have high expectations for short stories.  There are so many that are amazing.  It's such an awesome medium and can be done with such complexity and depth, while still being, well, short.  I didn't find any of these stories to be a good representation of the complexity that can be present in short stories.  Characters, tone, plot, etc were just so one-dimensional.  The writing was also nothing special.  I feel like an author can get away with having a great story and mediocre writing in a novel maybe, but when your writing is mediocre in a short story it really stands out.  Nothing awful, no typos, no gaping plot holes, but none of the striking language or significant meaning that I think really characterizes a well-done short story. 

I liked it ok while I was reading it.  It wasn't not-enjoyable, but it wasn't really enjoyable either.  It wouldn't say brain candy.  It was just something that occupied time, a diversion.  Like watching a TV you don't really like, but you're too lazy to get up and go do something you'll like more.  Also, I was really really disappointed that what was described as "dark fantasy" and "eerie" turned out to be more along the lines of childhood ghost stories with a vampire/unicorn/werewolf/fairy twist.  Not that I was expecting Stephen King.  And as I mentioned earlier, I am pleased to report that not a single spiritual evil exists in the book.  But I was not scared, creeped out, anything.  I was hoping for Pennywise and got Killer Klowns From Outer Space.

If you want to read actually eerie short stories, may I recommend Flannery O'Connor instead?  Or maybe some Alice Walker? 


  1. That does seem a bit on the deceiving side. So sorry that this one didn't even live up to what it was tagged as.

    Next book will be that much more better!

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  2. Pennywise scared me so bad I have an eternal fear of clowns now. I think perhaps Satan looks like a big painted up clown. (Shuddering)

    I dont care for this author so I wont be reading it, I did just finished Stephen Kings short story novel Full Dark No Stars..major creepy....