Summer Shorts - zombies vs unicorns edition

Artwork from Zombies vs. Unicorns

Summer Shorts is weekly feature of short story/novella reviews, posted every weekend of July and August, 2011. Every week has a different theme – be it featuring a specific anthology, a particular genre, or a great author.

Last week I reviewed some great Kelley Armstrong stories, and this week I’m featuring two stories from the infamous anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns.

The Highest Justice by Garth Nix

Thoughts: I feel as though I got the “wrong” thing out of The Highest Justice.  Nix was probably aiming to impress upon the reader how unicorns represent a higher, well, justice. Their purity of form being the physical manifestation of righteousness – dispensing out justice even when it is rather gruesome.  I have no idea where he was going with his zombie so, needless to say,  I didn’t get it.

And while his unicorn idea is a great one, I can’t say it carried me through this particular tale.  No matter how many invisible, violent unicorns appeared – nor how many flesh-eating members of the royal family tried to take a bite out of people – my overwhelming impression of the plot was one of “meh”.

So what did I “get” out of The Highest Justice?  2,000 words of pure, unadulterated fantasy – complete with kings guards, royal betrayals and quite a bit of horseback riding.  Coming straight out of reading The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, I’d been wondering what high fantasy YA novelists were out there… apparently I need to start reading some Nix!

Bottom line? A refreshing bit of high fantasy – Garth Nix may be worth further investigation.

Favourite quotes:

Jess drew her sword and kicked her palfrey into a lurching charge. She caught the surviving bandit just before he managed to slip between two thorny bushes, and landed a solid blow on his head with the back of the blade. She hadn’t meant to be merciful, but the sword had turned in her sweaty grasp.


Purity Test by Naomi Novik

Thoughts: Oh my goodness, this was brilliant! Naomi Novik really needs to set up shop and teach other YA writers how to deliver a short story, because Purity Test?  It had everything I could possibly want from a tale!

First off, it was funny as hell. I was reminded of Shrek, only with unicorns instead of donkeys and, er, more awesomeness. If I had highlighted all the quotes I wanted to share, the entire story would have been life jacket-yellow.  As such, I managed to restrain myself:

“Where did you come from, anyway? Like, Fairyland or something?” The unicorn turned its head and gave her a blue-eyed glare. “Yes. Fairyland,” it said, dripping sarcasm. “Fairyland, where the fairies and the unicorns play, and never is heard a discouraging—”

The unicorn brightened, which Alison had to admit was something to see. “Are you a lesbian? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count toward virginity.”

Don’t you just want to read it right now? I sure would have after that!

Second reason for Purity Test‘s awesomeness? Pacing and editing. Introducing new characters, a new universe and describing the plot? It’s a hard thing to do in only a few thousand words. A lot of novelists, quite frankly, can’t do it. It doesn’t make them bad writers, just bad story short writers. Naomi Novik, it turns out, is both a fantastic novelist AND an amazing short story writer. She throws us straight into the plot, a provides 3D characters and a hysterical universe to enjoy.  I was left wanting another story, but not a continuation of the one I’d just read.  Per-fect.

Bottom line? Novik had be at the first sentence and kept me enthralled until the very last line. Zombies vs. Unicorns is worth buying just for this story!

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