Fight Like A Girl edited by Roz Clarke and Joanne Hall (book review).
‘Fight Like A Girl’ is an anthology featuring a selection of short stories by female writers exploring the different ways characters can fight like a girl. Collecting 15 stories by a range of both well-known authors and new names, there’s a good variety of settings, themes and characters. However, I struggled to engage with a lot of these stories and, for a book that sets out to celebrate female writers and characters, I found it disappointing that so many of the stories had female characters that were forced to hide that they were women or pretend to be something that they weren’t.
Like any anthology, there are probably going to be stories you enjoy and stories you don’t get on with, so I’ll just mention a few of the ones I most enjoyed below and let you explore the rest of the anthology on your own…
It’s fairly easy for me to pick my favourite story from the book, ‘Fire And Ash’ by Gaie Sebold. It was the last story in there and I was really pleased that it finished the book on a high note as there had been a few stories earlier on that I really didn’t get on with. This story follows a young woman called Riven, who was the only survivor of a horrific battle. She’s struggling with survivor’s guilt, drinking too much and trying to get the last few remaining personal items back to the next of kin of her company, but the final item only throws up more questions instead of the closure she’s looking for. I found Riven to be a compelling character. She was beautifully written and the story had some really touching moments. I was rooting for Riven from very early on and she was the character I found it easiest to engage with in this collection.
The first story in the anthology, ‘Coins, Fights And Stories Always Have Two Sides’ by Juliet McKenna, was another of the stories I found memorable, although this was also one of those where I wished the female character was more prominent. It’s set in a camp populated by mercenaries and soldiers for hire, all waiting for the next job to appear. Naturally, in these camps, there’s an element of bravado and competition to see who’s the best swordsman and in amongst all that testosterone, we are introduced to a lone woman, seen as just a hanger-on scrabbling for scraps to survive the winter. Of course, there might be more to her than meets the eye and the enjoyment in this story is figuring out exactly what that extra element is. The story is told from the point of view of a soldier turned chef and he was a great character that I really warmed to. It was the narrator more than the story itself that I think made this one a winner for me.
‘The Cold Wind Oozes’ by Kelda Crich is another story I’d like to mention because this one featured a character I found really quite creepy. The story itself was a bit tangled but the central character in this is an old woman called Mother Commander Clyfaed, who was so cold it gave me shivers. She’s commanding an army of humans and mostly-humans against several alien races that are trying to take over the Earth and, every so often, she experiences visions of the future. These visions are bleak and her actions to prevent the events she sees are merciless. Very much in the vein of Victorian gothic novels, this one is a chilling tale of desperation, violence and unholy bargains. Definitely one that sticks in the mind!
Finally, I want to say a few words about ‘Archer 57’ by Lou Morgan, which was one of the stories that focused really well on a strong female central character, this time a desperate nameless woman who has lost everything and now seeks only revenge. In a seemingly endless war, when the leaders have forgotten what they should be fighting for, this lone woman, serving in the lowest job, could end things once and for all with one final destructive act. It’s a pretty powerful story about loss, desperation and how hard one person can fight and although the character may be nameless, we learn a lot about her in the few short pages of this story.
That’s just four stories out of fifteen, so there’s plenty more variety in there to tempt readers in. Unfortunately, I found the balance tipped towards stories I didn’t like or didn’t care about, with relatively few of the stories being ones I enjoyed and will remember. I’ve mentioned some of the ones I enjoyed in this review and think that the range of stories is such that plenty of folk will find something in here to enjoy, even if not all of them hit the mark.
(pub: Kristell Ink, Grimbold Books. 286 page paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-190984-566-4)
check out website: http://kristell-ink.com/