I’m only one volume into Monstress by Marjorie Liu, but I enjoyed my experience with the graphic novel enough to know I wanted to pick up her new short story collection: The Tangleroot Palace. It wasn’t hard to buy into: Sana Takeda’s gorgeous art is gracing the cover and it promises tales of dangerous women.
The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of seven short stories that were written in an eight-year period when Liu was living in the forested midwest. The setting had a huge impact on her writing during this time as we see the forest and all its secrets take center stage in many of the stories. I loved the ominous woodland vibes because it made everything that much more mystical and unknowing. Liu’s introduction also highlights the fact that she tried to leave the stories as is and avoided editing them (if at all) in order to keep the integrity of her voice from back then. Some stories are more compelling, others are more fleshed out, and some are the beginnings of a much larger tale. I loved them all for what they were able to accomplish. Here’s a breakdown of the collection:
- “Sympathy for the Bones” features dark magic and poppets to explore the power a person can hold over another.
- “The Briar and the Rose” is a new twist on the tale of Sleeping Beauty and details a defiant love.
- “Call Her Savage” portrays a war-torn world soaked in exhaustion, violence, and heartbreak.
- “The Last Dignity of Man” tells an emotional story about connection featuring a man pretending to be Lex Luthor.
- “Where the Heart Lives” is a prequel to Liu’s Dirk & Steele series and shares a hopeful tale of love and found family.
- “After the Blood” is an Amish vampire tale about love, understanding, and new beginnings.
- “Tangleroot Palace” tells the story of an independent and not-so-traditional princess choosing her own destiny.
The collection is named for its final story, “Tangleroot Palace,” which stands out from the rest due to its longer length and give us a more complete look. However, a forest is not made up of just one tree, so while “Tangleroot Palace” can easily steal the show, the compilation as a whole is a strong showcase of Liu’s writing prowess.
I am amazed by the variety presented in Tangleroot. There’s everything from whimsical fairy tales to a modern superhero to a gritty war story. Each is written in a unique style that catches your attention immediately. The stories are deeply immersive and I found it hard to read more than one a day. I say this as a form of praise because the worlds were interesting, and I wanted to stay in them a while longer before having to jump into another fabulous Liu creation. The only downside is that I want more. I am greedy for content. The stories move quickly because they are short (duh) and don’t have the space to explore the world in depth (totally appropriate). Liu’s biggest crime is writing short stories so well that I want the entire world served up to me in detail.
Each story in The Tangleroot Palace is so unique with the only common thread being Liu’s incredible imagination. The collection will easily appeal to many and each story will resonate with everyone differently. I definitely loved some stories more than others, but I promise you there’s not one bad apple in the bunch. I’d love to know which story stands out the most to you.
Rating: The Tangleroot Palace – 8.5/10