To Hold the Bridge (Garth Nix)

To Hold the Bridge is a short story collection by Garth Nix (including a novella of the Old Kingdom series).
Finished on: 12.2.2018
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

To Hold the Bridge offers a wide range of stories in many genres – from fantasy to scifi to fairy tales to fanfiction. Most of them are absolutely enjoyable and there are some that left me wanting more so much, I wished they had been expanded into novels. It’s a lovely, strong collection that really has a lot to offer.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

To Hold the Bridge

Plot:
Morghan dreams of working for The Bridge Company. They have been building and guarding the bridge that leads from the Old Kingdom to the wilds of the North. He has an old share of the company, hoping that this is his foot in the door.

I have to admit that it took me a bit to get back into the world of the Old Kingdom, but you bet that I was emotionally invested in the story. Tears were shed at the end and for a second there I really thought that the ending would be entirely horrible, but there was some room for hope. In any case, Amiel and Morghan for the win – I do wish I’ll get to read about them again.

Vampire Weather

Plot:
Amos is going out, although it’s Vampire Weather. He has taken all necessary precautions, he will be safe. Won’t he?

Vampire Weather was interesting, albeit a little predictable – it was just very classic in its build-up. But I did like Amos and the pro-vaccination propaganda the story turns into. It was really nice.

Strange Fishing in the Western Highlands

Plot:
Malcolm has been going fishing with Hellboy every year for many years. Those fishing trips are always special.

I was surprised that a Hellboy fanfic was included in the collection. And honestly, I think I don’t know enough about Hellboy to really enjoy the story. It was fine, but not for me.

Old Friends

Plot:
An old man is sitting, drinking coffee, overlooking a beach that gets filled more and more with seaweed – a sign that his oldest friends may soon come to join him.

I didn’t expect this story to grab me as much as it did, but damn, if I wasn’t completely entranced by it. But the Ents-meet-Doctor-Who dynamic of it, the palpable sense of loneliness the story exudes and the conciliatory ending – it was really touching.

The Quiet Knight

Plot:
Tony doesn’t like to talk because his voice sounds strange. But he turned that to his advantage in the LARP group he participates in, where his body size and his silence become his mystery.

Look, personally, massive, quiet and a little broken guys are absolutely my catnip, so it comes as no surprise that I loved Tony. And the story was cute, if you manage to ignore the sexist damsel-in-distress part of it.

You Won’t Feel a Thing

Plot:
The Arkle has a toothache – which is a problem. When he can’t hide it anymore, Gwyn sends him to see Doc.

This story is set in the same world as Nix’ earlier novel Shade’s Children, which I haven’t read. Unfortunately it seems to be a rather complicated world and crammed into this one story, it was a bit much for me. But emotionally, I was there and I did feel with The Arkle and his fate.

A Handful of Ashes

Plot:
Francesca and Mari work at the Ermine College, the only college for witchcraft open for women. In exchange for their work, they get to study there themselves. But the girls who study there regularly aren’t necessarily kind to students like them.

A Handful of Ashes reads like it started its life as something longer than a short story and dammit, I want to read that long format. I want an entire series in that world, starring Mari and Francesca who I absolutely loved. In any case: Witches! Excitement! Joan Aiken!

The Big Question

Plot:
One day, Avel is out hunting as usual when a question occurs to him. His mother tells him about a wise person who used to live in a cave nearby who may be able to answer him. But that search for an answer may turn into an even bigger quest.

The Big Question has a touching ending and it’s generally cute, albeit a little predictable. I wouldn’t have needed it to be longer than it was, but I enjoyed it for what it was. And for its language – it’s probably the most poetic of the stories in the collection.

Stop!

Plot:
An army troupe see a man walking in the desert in a restricted area. No matter what they do, he just doesn’t stop.

The twist at the end, revealing just what the man is, wasn’t half-bad but other thatn that, the story left me pretty cold.

Infestation

Plot:
J. has been a vampire hunter for a while, even if he doesn’t look it. He definitely knows what he’s doing, but not everybody does.

Alien nano vampires are a pretty cool idea and I very much liked J. (I wonder if that stands for Jesus?) The ending did surprise me, too. And in any case, nano vampires make a surprising amount of sense. In short, I really liked this story.

The Heart of the City

Plot:
Gerard MacNeacail and Armand de Vitray are on guard duty when they see a monk on a white horse led by a scarlet woman – and that’s just the beginning of the strangeness.

The Heart of the City didn’t work for me all that well. I didn’t care for the settning, maybe because I don’t know enough about France at that time. And with the angels, it all got a little too Christian for me. But it was ok.

Ambrose and the Ancient Spirits of East and West

Plot:
Ambrose has seen his fair share of missions. After a demon attack, his next assignment leads him to seek out a Waldgeist. But there is something more to it than he assumed at first.

I’m a little torn about this story. I loved the Waldgeist in all of its facets, but I wasn’t particularly happy about the non-consensual healing of somebody I didn’t perceive all that broken.

Holly and Iron

Plot:
Merewyn leads a band of men, among them Jack, Doublejack and Robin. They are hoping for a good target to rob, but things take an unexpected turn.

Holly and Iron is basically Robin Hood meets Arthurian legend which is an interesting idea and I definitely liked Jack and Doublejack, but it didn’t come quite together for me. And I am a little uncomfortable with the unification in Robin.

The Curious Case of the Moondawn Daffodils Murder: As Experienced by Sir Magnus Holmes and Almost-Doctor Susan Shrike

Plot:
Sherlock Holmes is busy, so he sends his cousin Magnus to Lestrade to solve their newest case. Magnus is accompanied by medical student Susan Shrike and an almost endless amount of ramblings.

The second piece of fanfiction in the collection – this time it’s a Sherlock Holmes story with original characters. And again, I’m not exactly a Holmes fan, but it was entertaining enough. Especially because I liked Susan. Although I did struggle with the doctor-patient-lovers dynamic and the questionable pill consent. But mostly it was enjoyable.

An Unwelcome Guest

Plot:
The Witch is informed by her cat that there is a girl in her tower. A girl who has been trying to get into her tower for a while.

An Unwelcome Guest is a really nice take on Rapunzel that does manage to turn things more around than most fairy tale retellings . I really enjoyed it. And Jenny was a great familiar.

The Highest Justice

Plot:
Princess Jess is riding on an old horse, pulling an even older horse behind her that is carrying the dead queen – who could break through her bonds at any point if she thought of it. Accompanying her is Elibet the unicorn and they are looking for revenge for the Queen’s death.

This was one of my favorite stories of the collection. It features a great version of a unicorn, instant amazing chemistry between Jess and Piers and it reads like the set-up for a great long tale. The story really shouldn’t end where it does, it should start there. In any case, I want more Elibet!

Master Haddad’s Holiday

Plot:
Haddad is a senior apprentice assassin and he just needs one more mission to complete his apprenticeship. But it’s a mission that seems doomed to fail. Nevertheless, there he is on the starship and hoping for the best.

There was a lot going on in this story and the political system remained a little unclear to me. But I did like reading the story and I especially appreciated the ending.

A Sidekick of Mars

Plot:
The story of John Carter’s unknown sidekick.

The third – and final – fanfiction of the collection, a John Carter bit with original characters. Since I don’t care for John Carter, a copy of him seems even more pointless. At least Nix does include a bit of criticism of the original material.

Peace in Our Time

Plot:
The former Grand Technomancer is pruning his roses when he hears a velocipede, bringing him a young woman – the first visitor in quite a while.

The story builds on an interesting idea and uses technology and its implications very well. I would have liked to know more about the Technomancer’s sensitive ears and if there was more to it. But generally speaking the plot was a bit meh.

Summarizing: a strong and very varied collection.

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