I bought Dangerous Women with my September audiobook credit on Audible — and it’s the second audiobook I have ever returned.
Dangerous Women is an anthology of short stories by famous authors including Joe Abercrombie, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon and George R. R. Martin. It is edited by George R. R. Martin.
I picked this up as I have enjoyed previous anthologies that George has edited. I only managed to get about halfway through before returning it. Many of the stories didn’t seem to fit the theme of ‘dangerous women’ or were just boring. A few of the stories were quite disturbing and I skipped them as they were too hard to read.
At the start of each story, there is an introduction to the author (mostly this was a list of all the books they have ever written). In the audiobook, each short story is narrated by a different author.
Thoughts on each of the short stories
As this is a short story anthology, here are my thoughts on the stories I read:
- Some Desperado, by Joe Abercrombie — This story is told from the point of view of Shy, one of the characters from Red Country. It’s essentially the story of a woman trying to escape from her bounty hunters. I enjoyed this, but it is in his own short story compilation, Sharp Ends (Sharp Ends is fantastic and I definitely recommend it!).
- The Hands That Are Not There, by Melinda Snoddgrass — This story is told from the point of view of a drunk man in a bar. He tells the story of a woman he met at a strip club, that may or may not be true. This one was okay, I liked the twist at the end. It was an interesting and horrifying story, though mostly I just ended up feeling sorry for the main female character and would have liked to know more about her motivations.
- My Heart is Either Broken, by Megan Abbot — This is about a couple whose daughter has gone missing, told from the point of view of the father. I didn’t enjoy this one but I didn’t hate it. I didn’t like the ending — the story felt unresolved.
- Nora’s Song by Cecelia Howard — This story focused on Eleanor, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. In this story she is a child, as she witnesses arguments between her parents. I found this one a bit dull. It didn’t really seem to have a point to it or a proper conclusion. (And unsure who was meant to be ‘dangerous’ in this one? Nora? Mostly Eleanor just sounded bitter and angry with her husband.)
- Bombshells, by Jim Butcher — I have only read the first book in the Dresden Files series, so while I read this one it wasn’t a stand out for me. I guess if you are a fan of the series, this one is a must-read! I liked the main characters, who are all female, and I do like Mr Butcher’s writing, so I think you may enjoy it even if you aren’t familiar with the series.
- Raisa Stepanova, by Carrie Vaughn — This follows female pilots during WW2, with the main character, Raisa, trying to become the second female ace (shooting down five enemy aircraft). I liked the concept of it and I love reading about women’s efforts during WW2, but this just didn’t really ignite my interest. The ending was a bit of an anti-climax.
- Neighbours, by Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb) — This story follows an old woman who lives alone and her conflict with her children, with a touch of fantasy: a strange mist appearing outside her house. I really enjoyed this one (though I am a fan of Robin Hobb!). Throughout the story you are unsure if the mist is caused by Alzheimer’s or by magic, and I really felt for her. I enjoyed the ending and the conclusion (though I don’t think any of the women in this story are ‘dangerous’).
- I Know How To Pick ‘Em, by Lawrence Block — This is about a man who picks up a woman from a bar in the US, told from the man’s point of view. Again, this one was dull. The ending has sexual violence in it and I found it really upsetting.
- A Queen in Exile by Sharon Penman — This story centres around Constance of Hungary, mother of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. It was okay, though again, the ending was anti-climatic. She was obviously a brave woman who was not afraid to go against convention. But she didn’t seem ‘dangerous’. The author explained in the footnote what made Constance ‘dangerous’ (she conspired against her husband later in her life), but then why not write about that instead?
- The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman — This story is set in a magical school, with the students upset about their wine servings being cut. I thought this one was good fun. I enjoyed the contemporary references to things like Harry Potter. Sophie Turner narrated this one, and unfortunately I thought that she let the story down a little. It sounded like she stuttered and struggled in places.
There was another short story that I skipped halfway through: Wrestling Jesus, by Joe R Lansdale. It’s about a boy who is taught how to fight by an old man, to stop bullies picking on him. There were no women in this story at all. It also had sexual violence and I just couldn’t read any more of it.
Overall, Dangerous Women was such a disappointment. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, especially from well-known authors. Many of the stories didn’t fit the theme of the book and were from the point of view of male characters.
I also didn’t like that many were set in pre-established worlds with established characters, either. These are are only ever of interest to fans, rather than introducing new readers to the series. From Goodreads, it looks like many people only bought this for the Outlanders short story, which I skipped as I’ve never read the books!
Do you have a Goodreads account? Feel free to add me: my username is Lecari!