Review – To Hold the Bridge – Garth Nix

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Summary:

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Review:

As always, short story collections are a hard review because different stories will appeal differently to you, so my review will mainly focus on the structure and form of the book itself.

First off, I want to point out something that I found to be a bit of a disappointment: not a single story in the collection.

Not. One.

Not even the “original” Old Kingdom novella, which the way the book touts you think it would be.

Instead, if you browse the earliest pages of the book, you’ll discover that everything in the is book was published between 2009 and 2013. While this probably isn’t an issue for anyone aside the most die-hard of nix fans (myself included), it is disappointing that Nix couldn’t even contribute anything new at all. I don’t know. $18 for reprints just seems high. I think I’d feel better about the collection if had been published as a trade paperback instead.

That aside, I do like the major revamp in formatting between the last collection I looked at and this one. Gone are the self-important introductions before each story, which I’m all too happy to see. The stories themselves are sorted by overarching themes: paranormal, coming of age, horror and the like. It makes it easier to find what you’re most interested in, though many are mutli-genre so you still might just want to read them beginning to end.

Content wise, I did enjoy the novella – it’s set in the world of the Old Kingdom while not being directly tied to the Abhorsen series. It’s a mostly quiet tale of a boy trying to find himself a place in the world and it works. The quality of the short stories overall is also definitely higher here than the last set I looked at, which you’d hope for as it’s been 20+ years and you’d expect at least some improvement. While I do think that he’s still better as a long-form writer, there is so much improvement that if you’re just going to grab one of his collections to check out, I would recommend this one instead.

So do I recommend it?

Yeah, I guess. Personally, if I could do it over again, I’d probably wait for it to be released in paperback because of the lack of truly new content. But for the stories themselves, I can give it a nod.

Verdict: Borrow It

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