Title: The Firebird and Other Stories
Author: R. Cooper
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 350 pages
Sub-Genre: alternate world, urban fantasy
Magical creatures known as beings emerged from hiding amid the destruction of the First World War. Since then they’ve lived on the margins of the human world as misunderstood objects of fear and desire. Some are beautiful, others fearsome and powerful. Yet for all their magic and strength, they are as vulnerable as anyone when it comes to matters of the heart.
A firebird in 1930s Paris is drawn to a writer with a haunted past. Upon returning from fighting in the Pacific, a jaguar shifter finds a third-gender human on his doorstep. Early rock ’n’ roll DJ Hyacinth the fairy shocks his listeners with his admiration for his quiet assistant. During the AIDS crisis, a gruff, leather-wearing troll dreams of a settled life with a mixed-species elf across the bar. An imp, who remembers only too well how cruel the world can be, tells himself he’s content to stay behind the scenes—if only his chaotic, impish magic would stop getting in the way. And a shy human tending his poisonous and carnivorous plants is convinced no one will ever want him, certainly not the handsome werewolf grieving for a lost mate. Human or being, all must overcome fear to reach for love.
I’ve been really enjoying this series but even so, I wasn’t sure about “The Firebird and Other Stories” because it’s a collection. I shouldn’t have worried. I absolutely loved it. Five short stories that don’t feel like short stories, and a one that is a follow-on for the characters from A Boy and His Dragon.
I laughed, I cried, and I will absolutely be reading these stories again. And that bonus was that three of the stories were connected clearly, with the others connected lightly. And, as has been the norm throughout this series, you love the characters in part because of the differences in each species, not despite them.
R Cooper’s beings each have strong traits to their species, but they aren’t always traits you’d expect, or the traits don’t always manifest the way you expect. And rather than understanding each other immediately, humans and beings don’t really understand each other at all, which isn’t helped by the way we often make assumptions or generalize.
I honestly can’t name a favorite story because I loved them all: the vain firebird, the determined fairy, the lovable troll, the hurting imp, and the shy human. Each story was written from one character’s POV, which was perfect for short stories, yet the story was told brilliantly. I didn’t want to stop reading even though I had things to do. Do not pass this one by just because it’s a collection.
I would recommend this story—well, this series, really—for lovers of interracial or interspecies romance, comprehensive world building, varied societies, or complex relationships.
If you haven’t read the other books in the series I don’t think it would affect your enjoyment of this one, but you should—they’re all different, and all extremely enjoyable. Although I must admit that my favourite until now has been “A Boy and His Dragon”. It still is, as far as the longer stories go, but this one is now one of my favourite collections/anthologies. Give “The Firebird and Other Stories” a try. You won’t regret it.
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