I’ll admit it, I’m not a big fan of short stories, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the fact that (disclosure) Sheri McGathy is my cousin. Or maybe I would have, if I saw past the length and read the book description:
Shay, a Blade Whisperer, has made a promise. A promise she is determined to keep, no matter the consequences or the pain that promise might cause. She has searched long, following the countless whispers of forgotten blades, until one quiet whisper reveals the blade she seeks. And now that she’s found the bewitched dagger, she must fulfill her promise to set her lover free…by killing him.
Kill her lover to keep her promise to him? I’m so there! A buck-fifty on Smashwords, and “Promises” is on my netbook, ready to keep me from getting bored on the treadmill.
Probably the main reason I’m not big on short stories is because I prefer longer works, that can pull me into a complex plot with well-drawn characters I have plenty of time to get to know and love. So often, there just isn’t room in a short story to dig deep enough, and the conflicts stay small out of necessity to fit the length. Worldbuilding is often sparse.
“Promises” proved to be a great exception. Although there isn’t room to really plumb the depths of the main character, a swordswoman named Shay, we do get a full sense of her motivation and what compels her to go places, and do things, few women would in her world. Her emotions are well-drawn, and we quickly care about her and want to see her succeed, while making a terrible choice. McGathy excels at worldbuilding – despite the short space, the reader can easily get a picture of her world that’s torn apart by magic and continues to decay. Background information is dropped into the story in small bits, just enough to build on that picture and enhance the experience.
Best of all, the conflict, while simple, is not small (see story description), and the end ties in nicely with the worldbuilding, its background, and Shay’s past.
As a bonus, the ebook download includes another short story: “The Gift,” a very short (almost flash fiction), sleeping-beauty-esque tale.
Do you like short stories, or do you prefer longer works? I read mostly romance novels, but when it comes to shorts, I find the format works better – for me, at least – for fantasy, mainstream, or crime fic. Do you enjoy reading some genres more than others in short form? And would you recommend any specific stories for my next workout?