Bitter Waters, by Chaz Brenchley

Review copy provided by author, who is an online-and-conventions friend.

So few single-author collections have a unifying element these days, or when they do, it’s because the author is a one-trick pony. This does, and Chaz is not. There is a deliberate unifying element of melancholy here–some sweet, some darker– and of male same-sex relationships of varying types. There is a lot of water here, mostly seawater, but not enough to make it feel obligatory. Not enough to hit the point of “here we go again.”

What does not unify the collection–and this is fascinating too–is setting, or genre, or a particular set of characters (though there are some character commonalities across a few). Some of the stories are very clearly in high fantasy settings. Others are what used to be called urban fantasy, before paranormal romance made that term uncertain. Others have no clear speculative element at all but are suspense or “mainstream,” character studies, relational stories. There is an assured movement from each to each, a sense that the reading protocols will be signaled so that no story will be unsatisfying but each will be uniquely and completely itself.

There is love, or not; there is loss, or not; and where there is genuine love, there is sometimes genuine grief to match, and sometimes that love is undermined and taken apart by darker revelations. I finished with the sense that Chaz could have done more of these, that this happened to be the set that he had now but that this was by no means an exhaustion of what he had to say with these themes.

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