I didn’t care much for the first Clockwork Phoenix. While some of the stories were good, others felt forced. Overall, they all sounded similar. This second collection is more varied, though few of the stories really stand out. There’s less ‘grotesque for the sake of grotesquerie’, but more pretentious and more experimental work. At least two of the stories were thoroughly irritating in their snobbish in-crowd feel.
Here are the stories I found most interesting:
- Three Friends by Claude Lalumiere – archetypal children in a mysterious setting
- Six by Leah Bobet – what happens to the sixth of seven sons of a seventh son
- Angel Dust by Ian McHugh – exotic fantasy brings statues to life
- The Pain of Glass by Tanith Lee – high desert fantasy
- The Fish of Al-Kawthar’s Fountain by Joanna Galbraith – fish plot to save the world from neglect
This volume has a less cohesive voice, but it also includes more accessible stories, and they work better. It’s not enough to make me forgive the stories that I found profoundly aggravating, but it’s a step up. If the series follows this trend, the fifth book may well be quite good. This volume, though, is a decidedly mixed grab bag of stories – some interesting, many not.