Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays

Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays by Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak, & G. Clemans
Publisher: Grey Sun Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Holiday, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (298 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!

This collection stars four authors, each with their own distinct style. National bestselling author Maia Chance, who is famous for her cozy mysteries, dazzles with humor and folklore. IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science. Science fiction & fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past. And for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.

Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds into something everyone will enjoy.

There are many mysteries in the Christmas season if you know where to look.

“Wild Hunt” caught my attention immediately. The narrator, Tyson, is the newest member of his supernatural hunting team. If he succeeds in figuring out how an innocent human was murdered, he’ll be promoted. Failure? That isn’t an option. The world building was so intricate that I briefly wondered if this was a prequel to a book. The society that Tyson belongs to was simply that well described. I also enjoyed seeing how this character attempted to solve the case. He had a methodical style of thinking that worked nicely for a murder mystery, especially once he began talking to the potential witnesses and suspects in the case.

In “The Ringers,” a girl named Elise moves to a strange, new town with her parents where both magic and curiosity are strictly forbidden. Elise needs to figure out why the citizens of this community are so quiet and sad before it’s too late. I had a hard time getting into this story at first because how slowly the plot moved in the beginning. Most of the characters were introduced right away, so it took me a while to figure out how everyone was connected as well. It would have been helpful to start in a less busy point so that I could have had more opportunities to piece everything together. The premise itself was creepy and interesting, though, and I soon came to enjoy it. A few of the other stories in this collection had similar pacing problems. I really enjoyed all of their premises. I simply needed more time to figure out what was going on in the first few scenes because their beginnings included so much information about what was happening in them.

One of the things I liked the most about “Odysseus Flax & the Krampus” was how many times it surprised me. This tale was about a man named Odysseus who finds himself temporarily stranded in a small town until the next train arrives. While he’s visiting, he overhears some local people discussing a local legend about Krampus whisking away the naughtiest children as a punishment for their bad deeds. It’s difficult to say anything else about the plot without giving away spoilers because the narrator does so many creative things with it. I was especially impressed with how she tied everything together. The twists were unexpected, but they also worked really well with what I’d already learned about the characters who were involved in them. This was especially true in the ending. I definitely didn’t see it coming ahead of time, but I could also completely understand why the author wrote it that way. It was really well done!

Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays was a fascinating mixture of genres. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries that are heavily influence by science fiction.


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