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Shards and Ashes (2013)
Shards and Ashes (2013)
by Melissa Marr (Editor), Kelley Armstrong (Editor), Veronica Roth, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Rachel Caine, Nancy Holder, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan
Paperback ARC
Publication Date: February 19th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

The world is gone, destroyed by human, ecological, or supernatural causes. Survivors dodge chemical warfare and cruel gods; they travel the reaches of space and inhabit underground caverns. Their enemies are disease, corrupt corporations, and one another; their resources are few, and their courage is tested.

Powerful original dystopian tales from nine bestselling authors offer bleak insight, prophetic visions, and precious glimmers of light among the shards and ashes of a ruined world.

My Thoughts:
I’m obsessed with dystopians, so coming across Shard and Ashes was like Christmas for me (despite the weird cover that made me think it was a paranormal anthology instead.) But I find that short stories can be hit or miss for me. On one hand they allow me to explore many different worlds, but on another hand sixty pages is sometimes not enough to develop a world or to make me invested in the characters (which explains why it took me a week to finish this one.) There were also moments were I felt some of these short stories were just leftover scraps, as if they were not fully fleshed out ideas. This made evident in the abrupt way some of these stories ended, as if the author had a host of great ideas, but ran out of steam halfway through. Of course, not ALL of the stories in this collection were like that. And despite the my disappointment in plot, all these different dystopian imaginings kept me turning pages.

Hearken by Veronica Roth
Roth does character development very well in this one (arguably the most developed characters you’re going to get in this anthology,) and in less than forty pages. I am impressed. But I am still not quite sure what’s happening in this world, or if should belong in this anthology if Roth’s name wasn’t so big. In this world, there are gifted people who can hear “life” and “death” songs (so I guess they are prophets?.) And a girl listens to her alcoholic mother’s song and suddenly understands her despite being a poor daughter. One of the most rushed endings that tried so hard to be deep. Yawn.

Branded by Kelley Armstrong
My favorite of the bunch. I am normally not much of a paranormal fan, but I didn’t mind the werewolves. What made this story stand out was that scene with the little girl being left behind by her family. Not only was that scene powerful, but it was a moment where I thought, “Woah, this author has guts.” I also like a smart, albeit slightly devious, protagonist any day.

Necklace of Raindrops by Margaret Stohl
Before throwing in random Chinese phrases, please consult a fluent Chinese speaker. Not only were most of the translations awkward, but, “WHY?? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?” I didn’t believe for one moment that they were in China and started disliking the story from the first page. Perhaps the story is supposed to be social criticism towards China’s corporate culture. Apparently in this world, people are given a necklace, and I guess you lose the beads depending on how much of a risk-taker you are. The statistics behind the necklace also calculate organ donation (which I found to be an interesting concept worth pursuing further.) And there’s also something about dropping out of a helicopter to commit suicide. Then there’s insta-love, and suddenly these reckless teenagers turn into masterminds who can hack into government databases for the sake of a quick ending. Ugh. I didn’t care for any of these people.

Dogsbody by Rachel Caine
A Cup game? Children abandon their families…because they want to see a soccer game. Do they pass out food and money at the game or something? I don’t get the logic. There are some heavy-handed commentary being made about capitalism. Also slightly reminds me of The Hunger Games. The plot twist fell short because it was predictable (when someone suspicious givens you the freedom to look at “proof,” chances are that “proof” has already been scrubbed clean.) And the protagonist is not very bright. All brawn and no brains. There’s also a teleportation machine thing that is able to take apart your cells and build you back up somewhere else. Futurama-style. The fast-pace made it an easy read though.

Pale Rider by Nancy Holder
What is happening again? Something about having supernatural powers, and who the land of magic seeped into the world. Same old, same old but much more confusing and dark.

Corpse Eaters by Melissa Marr
This story is like a horror flick that spent more time trying to get you to disturbed than tell a story. The image of reptilians always struck me as cheesy. I inevitably imagine Godzilla and poor CGI. There’s something about religion and Gods. Why do people believe these lizards are Gods and not just aliens strike me as bizarre. I am not sure I understand the intentions behind the characters–especially the father. This anthology loves its drunken, irresponsible parents. I enjoyed the idea of going undercover, leading a rebellion, but I was underwhelmed. I want my closure!

Burn 3 by Kami Garcia
New York City is a victim of global warming, causing a gigantic dome to be built. Unfortunately, UV rays can still get through and burn people. I imagine this world to be akin to Sarah Crossan’s Breathe cover. A 16-year old girl finds her little sister missing one day and goes on a “journey” to the sewers to find her due to the lack of help from the police–who are in denial. The “I must save my younger sister!” thing is becoming a trend, and it is making me dislike children. However, it’s still one of the stronger stories in this anthology.

Love Is a Choice by Beth Revis
This one would’ve probably worked better if I had actually read Across the Universe. But I haven’t, so I have no idea how the characters relate to the main story. I was bored with this one: ruler drugs everyone to make them his minions! I didn’t agree with the protagonist plans to lay in hiding on a spaceship for a decade or two to plan his rebellion (you are going to wait until the baby grows up? WHAT?.) How is that feasible? But I think the ending was refreshing.

Miasma by Carrie Ryan
Another story where a girl saves her sister. I need more world-building for this one. There’s a plague and there are a group of doctors with beaks and goggles coming in to “save” people with their plague-eating monsters. Clearly nobody wants these guys around taking away their family members, and but nobody does anything…Everyday, the protagonist. Frankie, works so she can bribe these doctors. Why she doesn’t go in hiding with her sister, and instead waits for the inevitable in her house is beyond me. I thought this story was a parody (I still hope it is) because Frankie’s daydreams are laughable. She meets a boy in the house she works in who gives her a rose. Then she starts imagining him rubbing a rose petal over her face, and god knows what other secret fantasies she has in store. Then when he comes over to her house, she thinks he wants to get in her pants. I imagine him being very frightened–but of course, he is “in love” with her. And blah blah blah. There’s also a “twist,” which was fairly obvious when his clothing was described. And there’s this melodramatic ending where they hold up everyone else on the boat because they spend forever fighting over who should stay. I was annoyed to the point I wanted to push her off the boat.

Rating: C–