The Tangleroot Palace, by Marjorie Liu (Tachyon)
This collection was my introduction to the work of Marjorie Liu. I found the stories oddly disquieting while I was reading them but Liu’s skill was so evident, I trusted it all to come together and I was not disappointed. I didn’t like all the stories equally, but that’s to be expected in any assortment of short fiction. These feel as if they’re paced like novels, but I think that’s because of the unusually subtle ways Liu weaves together the various fictional elements. Her work reminds me of that of the late Phyllis Eisenstein, who told emotionally complex, sophisticated stories with simple language. Here the real story lies beneath the mechanics of prose and plot, each thread of the tapestry contributing to a gorgeous and emotionally satisfying whole. And the last piece, a novella that gives its name to the collection, is just jaw-droppingly awesome.