A Thousand Beginnings And Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman (w/ stories from: Renée Ahdieh, Elsie Chapman, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E.C. Myers, Ellen Oh, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, & Alyssa Wong)
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins/Epic Reads)
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Summary: Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings: these are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.
Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.
A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place.
From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: A Thousand Beginnings And Endings is a stunning anthology that contains 15 short stories inspired by East and South Asian Folklore/Mythology. Through immersive writing and such heart, each unique tale comes to life on the page!
“We longed for nuance and subtlety, and layers, the embedded truths about culture that- more often than not-can only come from within…”— From The Editors (Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman)
I just wanted to share this quote in the beginning on the Editor’s page (that I loved) and it just really stuck with me throughout the entirety of reading this collection.
While I’m still debating between 4 & 4.5, ratings aside, overall this was a stunning anthology with incredible stories that bring to life mythology and folklore with some unique spins. (Each story also contains an author’s note sharing the inspiration and impact of each legend/folktale/mythology).
For this review I decided to make a short review for each story!
Forbidden Fruit by Roshani Chokshi: ★★★★★
This first story follows the Filipino folktale of Maria Makiling! Centering around a mountain goddess and a nearby villager named Bulan, Chokshi’s story chronicles their love for each other, but also the trials and uncertainty that come with it. Chokshi’s writing as always is descriptive, lyrical, and just beautiful! This story is filled with hope, love, heartbreak–so much emotion is poured through each moment of this story! It was definitely one of my favorites!
Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong: ★★★★★
Wong’s story centers around the Chinese tradition of The Hungry Ghost Festival (or Yu Lan) which takes place around “the seventh month of the lunar calendar, during late summer.” Olivia takes a trip to Arizona to visit the Grand Silver Hotel to cook a banquet for the Ghost Festival, which involves setting out food for ancestor’s, who may be alone or have unfinished business on earth, allowing them a chance to move on.
Wong’s writing allows for the Olivia’s past from the family tradition of cooking for the Ghost Festival through the women in her family, to her childhood of also doing that with her mother (who passed away), & to the present where she continued her mother’s work and wanted to honor her.
Wong’s storytelling builds the importance of family, honoring those of the past, the impact of loss, acceptance, and how family guides us and in turn, how we learn to guide ourselves + forge our own paths.
I loved the all the characters from Carlos (the hotel owner’s son), to Mei Ling ( a ghost who Olivia met in her past, when she joined her mother on a trip to her 1st Ghost Festival), even the characters just mentioned in passing from Olivia’s past girlfriend, her family, etc.
I wish that Wong’s story could be an entire novel! I would love to read more about Olivia and her story! Olivia’s Table was a spectacular story, I loved it! ❤
Steel Skin by Lori M. Lee: ★★★★☆
Set in the near future, Yer lives in a world of technology, robotics & androids. Inspired by the Hmong Folktale The Woman And The Tiger, in this sci-fi tale, Yer goes through feelings of loneliness and distance, with her father (a former robotics engineer) very busy with work, she sets up a plan with her neighbor & friend, Alang, to see what he’s up to!
With the loss of her mother, Yer wants to feel closer with her father, but has kept his distance, always busy with work.
We also get the interwoven plot-line of recalled androids and how it impacted Yer’s father’s job and the loss of her mother. It was interesting and unique element to the story that I loved!
I loved the setting especially through the description of a jungle setting with technology! The mystery and sci-fi elements are built + weaved into the story so perfectly (As a fan of sci-fi novellas, I really enjoyed this story!).
Over the course of the story, we learn more about the androids and Yer’s past! So, while a couple elements for the world-building + character development could have been expanded on, I overall really loved this story!
Still Star-Crossed by Sona Charaipotra: ★★★★☆ ½
This story is inspired by an Indian folktale of Mirza and Sahiba and within the story Charaipotra states their romance is “a warning, a lost-in-love couple…immortalized in an elegy of lust, familial drama, betrayal, & murder…”
In this story, Charaiporta spins this into a what-if tale taking place in the modern day, centering around Taara who is out dancing at a club with her friend Leela. From the club to dinner at a restaurant, even at her mother’s jewelry store, she see’s this guy, Nick, everywhere who seems to recognize her.
I loved how Taara’s mother later at their store, references the tale of Mirza and Sahiba & a story from her past about a guy she knew, because by the end when Taara see’s Nick again, it was a subtle hint that I didn’t see at first, but he leaves behind a gold anklet (that her mother has a pair to!).
With that I saw how this was a what-if reincarnation story and looking back, loved how the mystery and overall story was crafted and laid out!
The Counting Of The Vermillion Beads by Aliette De Bodard: ★★★★☆ ½
Inspired by the Vietnamese folktale of Tấm Cám where they are stepsisters and Cám is envious of Tấm’s marriage to the king, and overall they aren’t really on equal terms. However, De Bodard changes this by having the sisters support and help each other and loved how powerful that message came through in this story!
Tam & Cam work as cencus girls in the palace, but long for freedom beyond its walls. Tam is able to cross over the wall and transforms into a bird and the rest of the story follows Cam and the courage she gains to be free too!
The symbolism, writing, and powerful messages of sisterhood + freedom are so beautifully explored in this story and I really loved it!
The Land Of The Morning Calm by E.C. Myers: ★★★★★
Following the Korean epic, Chasa Bonpuli, which centers around dieties of the afterlife, ghosts (Gwisin), and much more, this story follows Sunny and how her and her father + grandfather are still aching from the loss of her mother, 5 years ago.
I loved this story so much, from the characters, story, and even the gaming/RPG elements! There’s a lot of symbolism in this story (seen especially through the game called The Land Of The Morning Calm).
This story follows Sunny’s journey back to the game since her departure from it since her mother passed + with the recent news that it’ll be taken offline.
With such powerful themes throughout this story, Sunny comes to accept the loss of her mother through the journey of the game and–it was so beautifully written!! I just felt so much from this story, it was amazing!!
The Smile by Aisha Saeed: ★★★★★
This story is inspired by a South Asian legend, where Anarkali (a dancer girl) and how she served in the court and Prince Saleem fell in love with her. Many different stories say the king sentences her to be buried in a brick tomb, even the prince helped her escape!
In Saeed’s tale, we follow Naseem who is a dancer and lives in the palace. Prince Kareem loves her, but we get the sense that Naseem longs for something more beyond the palace.
I loved this story so much, I wish Saeed would write an entire novel about this story! I loved all the setting, plot, & characters from Naseem, the prince, Naseem’s maidservant Simran, Tarek, a guard who is also Simran’s love.
This story is about freedom, sacrifice, and choice! It isn’t necessarily sad, but can be seen as both happy + sad! With Naseem forging her own path and accepting that the love she had, wasn’t exactly what she longed for.
Girls Who Twirl And Other Dangers by Preeti Chhibber: ★★★☆☆ ¾
This story is told through both a modern day celebration Navratri and the battle between shape-shifting demon Mahishasur & Durga (according to Chhibber “a physical manifestation of divine female energy” or the union of deities: Vishnu, Shiva, & Brahma).
I loved that this story explored actions and the consequences that come with them as Jaya, Jessica, & Nirali try to get back at boy from Jaya + Nirali’s childhood (Dinesh) who embarrased Nirali when she was younger and who wasn’t all that nice to Jaya.
With Jaya focused on her & her friends plan to get back at Dinesh, it also leads Jaya to think about their plan or feelings of anger/grudges whenever she sees the Durga statue.
With that it led to an alternate story of the battler of Mahishasur & Durga which really symbolized main themes of the story, that I found to be very interesting. Such as good vs. evil, the consequences of actions, how anger can sometimes lead to rushes in/poor judgement etc. There’s also a great focus on female friendships!
Those elements were all explored very cleverly, however, the pacing of the story did make it feel like the story dragged for me and some background characters/elements could have been expanded on a bit more!
Nothing Into All by Renée Ahdieh: ★★★★★
Inspired by the Korean fairy-tale of The Goblin Treasure, Ahdieh introduces us to Chun and Charan, brother and sister, who have been inseparable since they were young and love the outdoors (& were in search of goblins). However, an accident that causes Chun’s hand to burn, they soon start to drift apart.
Now years later, Chun has an almost jealousy for her sister and her future as a bright music student and with word that she’s caught the eye of one of the best trackers in their village, the adventure to the Goblin Tree is the only thing that still keeps them close.
As they both reach the tree (alongside some falling acorns), Charan finds herself taken underground to the land of the goblins and in exchange for 2 acorns, is given a magic club + a chance to make her wishes come true!
Though magic comes at a price as Chun (who out of jealousy & the need for his family to have better fortune) takes the club and then its up to Charan to find him!
The ending left me wanting so much more from this story! Ahdieh’s writing from emotion, characters, setting, food, etc. always has me immersed in her stories!
It was a fantastic story all around!
Spear Carrier by Rahul Kanakia: ★★★★★
In Kanakia’s story, (inspired by The Mahabharata) a young man (who we don’t know the name of), is in a valley with hundreds of other people & creatures, to prep for some unknown battle. He comes here because one day after school, he was found by a god and was chosen, additionally he has thought constantly of what it means to be a hero.
To start this story was odd, but in a way that made it so interesting (think speculative fiction)! The first person POV really made this story for me! You get so much emotion, humor, & thought-provoking conversation from this main character throughout the story, and he just feels so real!
Just like the main character, we’re trying to figure out what’s going on and if he’ll make it back home!
I really loved this story it was fast-paced, had such a great + comedic main character, & I loved following his journey!
Code Of Honor by Melissa De La Cruz: ★★★★☆
Following the Filipino folktale of the Aswangs, (vampire-like beings), De La Cruz’s story centers around Aida, who is an Aswang. Originally from the Philippines, she flees after her mother is killed and travels across the world to end up in New York, to find others just like her!
The story was immersive and fast-paced, I was sucked in from the very beginning! The story essentially tells us everything about Aida and her life leading up to the present, where her diary has been taken and she has some suspicion of who it may be (Lilah, a classmate who doesn’t really like her).
Throughout this story I loved the strong message weaved throughout, that all Aida wants is a sense of belonging!
Bullet, Butterfly by Elsie Chapman: ★★★★★
A retelling of the Chinese Folktale, The Butterfly Lovers, follows Liang who is a recovering soldier and awaits the news of the war. He disguises himself as a girl and wants to head to the city armory. There he meets Zhu and the 2 become fast friends, but Liang knows he’s quickly falling in love with her.
Chapman’s writing brings the characters, setting, symbolism, everything to life! I would love a full length novel about Liang, Zhu & their amazing friendship 😭💕♥♥
The friendship forged between them was so beautifully written. From the secrets they share to the love they clearly have for each other–captured my heart! ❤
The symbolism of the butterfly, from the latest design of butterfly bullets (that unfurl within someone within seconds of being shot), to how butterflies means so much to the ending!!
I don’t want to spoil too much, but this story was beyond stunning! I smiled, cried–I loved this story!
Daughter Of The Sun by Shveta Thakrar: ★★★★★
Thakrar’s tale retells the epic of Princess Savitri and Prince Satyavan. Similar to her story, the legend tells of Savitri choosing to be with Satyavan, despite his death coming in a year.
Savitri carries a light within her and as she works for a museum on an estate, she finds herself longing for freedom. She even gets told that one day she will find someone who reflects her light back to her.
So, she takes a trip through a nearby forest + lake and sees a boy, Sayavan, and its clear that he is her mirror (who is symbolized to be of darkness and her of light).
She doesn’t want to see him go, so she takes him from the lake that was going to allow him to reach home.
Despite an aspara’s warnings, she wants to get know him and he wants to know her. So, she gets told that she has one year to be with him!
The lyrical writing brought so much vibrancy to the setting, characters,folklore, and story! I adored reading about Savitri & Sayavan’s beautiful relationship, the connection they share!!
This story is about love, selflessness, and taking chances!
I loved everything about Daughter Of The Sun and I wish this was a full-length novel 😭💕💕♥
The Crimson Cloak by Cindy Pon:★★★★★
Based on the Chinese legend of The Cowherd & the Weaver Girl, Pon’s story follows the 7th daughter of The Jade Emperor & Heavenly Queen, who calls herself Hongyun, and how she falls in love with a mortal boy, Cowherd.
Told from a 1st person POV, we follow her story of how she met Cowherd and how she learns more about what it means to be human, as she finds herself playing and then falling for him.
The writing brings a vibrant life to the story as well as being told through a great fantastic 1st person POV, with Hongyun speaking directly to the reader.
Its a beautifully written tale of love and the beauty that comes with it. While there is also some heartbreak, it leaves you on a hopeful note! This story was wonderful!
Eyes Like Candlelight by Julie Kagawa:★★★★☆
Kagawa’s story centers around the famous mythical Kitsune of Japanese mythology. The story follows Takeo, who saved a fox when he was younger. He grows up to be a rice farmer in his small village. With a bad harvest season, he heads to offer rice to Inari (the rice god) in hopes that his village can be saved from the tax collectors.
But soon finds himself in the house belonging to Yuki and her family. He has to head home, but Yuki (trying to convince him to stay) reveals she is actually a Kitsune.
She agrees to help his family/village and get the rice ready for the collectors only if he promises to return to her + her family for 1 year right after!
I loved the writing-style of this story a lot! You really get to know each character, the setting, the stakes, and the story had me immersed start to finish!
I can’t explain, but overall it wasn’t exactly a 5-star read. However, I really enjoyed it!
There were stories I definitely loved, liked, and some moments here & there where I didn’t connect fully with some, but ratings aside this is definitely an anthology I recommend!
A Thousand Beginnings And Endings is an anthology that is filled with rich and fascinating retellings of East and South Asian mythology + folklore! The stories within this anthology cover and explore a number of themes all while allowing the each author to bring a unique spin to their favorite folktales & stories!