The Teen Appeal

Giving truth to Memphis youth

Shards and Ashes is darkly mysterious, haunting


By  Sudeshna Barman

White Station High School

Following the only modest success of their first anthology, young adult authors Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong have teamed up once again to deliver their latest collaboration, Shards and Ashes.

Where their first volume, Enthralled, featured short stories of paranormal romance, Shards and Ashes revolves around a dystopian theme. With YA heavy hitters like Veronica Roth, Rachel Caine, Margaret Stohl, Kami Gracia, and Beth Revis all contributing, this volume contains a smorgasbord of talent.

Released on Feb. 19, the anthology has so far not made waves. It is well-known that short stories are much more difficult to sell than stand-alone novels. Today, most young adult novellas and short stories are published by well-known authors whose huge fan base for a particular series ensures that the shorter works will sell well. Some examples would be those of Stephenie Meyer’s Short Second Life of Bree Tanner or J.K. Rowling’s Quiddith Through the Ages. 

The blurb from Shards and Ashes reads: “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.”

That is not to say that each of the nine stories is good. Nancy Holder’s “Pale Rider” is so abstruse and boring that it is, frankly, impossible to follow to the end. “Corpse Eaters” by Melissa Marr is gruesome. “Love is a Choice” (Beth Revis) cannot be understood unless you have read her previous trilogy, Across the Universe. “Dogsbody” by Rachel Caine is twisted and incomprehensible and downright weird.

On the other hand, two stories are universally noteworthy. The first is by Veronica Roth, entitled “Hearken.” Roth builds a bittersweet world in just a few pages; the atmosphere of death and music, of terror and love, is richly evocative. The setting, the premise, and the plot are all top-quality and innovative. The second is “Miasma” by Carrie Ryan. Charles’ dramatic sacrifice makes for an unforgettable, heart-rending end.

What each of the nine tales share is an aura of despair and oppression. The anthology is characterized by a somber, overcast mood. If you like your dystopia with a dash of horror and melancholy, pick up a copy of Shards and Ashes at your local bookstore.


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