Today I am delighted to be sharing my review of ‘At the Gates and Other Stories’ by Patrick Samphire. I had read and loved ‘Shadow of a Dead God’ and leapt at the chance to read and review this collection (and I apologise for taking so long!).
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review.’*
A ghost searches for revenge in ancient Egypt. A boy unearths the bones of a dragon. A girl risks awakening a dark god to save her dog…
He reached out a hand and touched Grace’s cheek. The touch made her shiver. “You can’t save everyone, Grace.”
“I don’t want to,” Grace whispered. “Just her.”
At the Gates and Other Stories is a collection of sixteen fantasy short stories.
This was a wonderful collection of short stories that was nothing like what I had expected. The mood and tone of many of them caught me a little surprise having come to this after reading Shadow of a Dead God, but these sixteen stories are a fantastic showcase of what Samphire can do. I also enjoyed the brief introductions to how each story had come into being, offering an insight into the emotion and thought process behind which one. What really stood out for me about At the Gates and Other Stories was the variety of fantasy worlds that we get to glimpse in this collection, as well as how history/archaeology and mythology were woven into the tales while telling tales that at their core about the characters and their experiences and emotions.
‘The Glass Slipper’ was probably my favourite story from the whole collection, and I would love to see more of the F.I.S. I’ve found that fairy tale retellings are one of those things that either does or doesn’t work for me with no in between, and I enjoyed the twist that was used here. The idea of the tale rolling onwards regardless, even going so far as to change things to ensure that it can unfold as planned is fantastic, and a wonderful reflection of how fairy tales change and adapt with the times, and I just adore the concept that there are places and people that have been lost to the Path. Another favourite was ‘Uncle Vernon’s Lie’ which was beautifully written, and resonated on so many levels, from Benji’s anxiety about new places and things to many of the things that Vernon said, to the realisation at the ending. While ‘Dawn, by the Light of a Barrow Fire’ appealed to my love of archaeology, while being a wonderful, raw exploration of grief and loss.
‘The Equation’ and ‘When the Dragon Falls’ also stood out for me, they’re very different stories, and yet they resonated in a similar way for me with the idea of magic being lost to logic and growing up, and actually put me very much in mind of one of my favourite childhood films ‘The Flight of Dragons’ so there was a little touch of nostalgia when reading those stories. The idea of magic being constrained to an equation was fascinating and also sad in a way because that is never how magic should be, while there were many elements of ‘When the Dragon Falls’ that hit home on a personal level.
Honestly, there was not a story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy, although there were a couple that was painful to read and for some reason ‘Crab Apple’ crept under my skin and unsettled me.
There is an almost haunting quality to many of these stories, perhaps it because of the types of emotions that are explored within them – the pain and grief of different forms of loss, the idea that you can’t save everyone, the loss of magic and wonder – but each and every one of the tales in this collection hits home and makes you think long after you’ve turned the last page. I think this collection is perhaps one that you have to be in the mood to read because it does have more than a little weight to it, but I would wholeheartedly recommend At the Gates and Other Stories, and this book has firmly established Patrick Samphire as a must-buy author for me.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.