A fantasy anthology of four stories, each one using one of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Every story uses one of the elements as a focus of the tale. These elements are used to direct fate, as power sources, and to bring the characters together in unique ways. These are romantic fantasy short stories that provide a sampling of each author's style. Each author contributes a new story of theirs to this collection.
For the element Air: Sharon Shinn wrote Bargain With The Wind.
This is a fantasy retelling of the Cinderella tale. It focuses on the sacrifices people are willing to make to obtain their greatest wish. This version of Cinderella focuses more on what happens after the central figures fall in love and get married. This version is only beginning where the traditional tale ends.
Sharon Shinn's short story was the reason I wanted to read this book. I really like her writing style, and when I discovered it was a Cinderella retelling, I was very excited. I greatly enjoyed the uniqueness of her Cinderella tale.
For the element Earth: Jean Johnson wrote: Birthright.
It is time for the heir to the kingdom to take their place as ruler. The problem is, the heirs are twins, and no one is certain who the rightful heir is. The twins work to discover which one is suppose to rule the kingdom, and have very different methods for finding the answer to this life changing question.
This was the first story I have read from Jean Johnson. I did not care for this story as much. It was very heavy on the romance, almost to the sacrifice of some more interesting plot ideas. I thought it was too much for a short story.
For the element Water: Carol Berg wrote: Unmasking.
Everyone in this world is tested at a young age to determine how best to serve their country that is battling to keep demons out. A search trainee and a farmer must find a way to work together to thwart the spy in their midst and end the war.
This was my first time reading anything by Carol Berg. I did not engage with this story. It took too long to gain momentum, which is not good in a full length book, but is essential in a short story such as this. For me, it was a forgettable tale.
For the element of Fire: Rebecca York wrote: Huntress Moon.
Very skilled with magic, a young noblewoman Zarah finds herself sold into slavery after her father is convicted of a crime he did not commit. She is sold as a spy, and must discover a powerful council member's secrets if she ever hopes to gain her freedom and protection for her family.
I believe this was my first time reading anything by Rebecca York. The language of the story was inconsistent. Sometimes it seemed like it was set in the future after the United States was destroyed, and other times it was more similar to a medieval fairy tale. I would have preferred that the story flowed together a little better.
Perhaps my biggest issue with this story was that a slave was bought for the sexual pleasure of their master, but having sex with her was not forced if her master took the time to pleasure her. I do not normally like to spoil the endings, but she marries him three days later because they are in love. A short story does not mean everything speeds up.
I would have liked these short elemental stories more if they had focused more on plot than romance. While I realize that these are fantasy romance, the romance took over the tales being told, and did not really balance with the other plot points. I liked Sharon Shinn's story, but that was it. I did not care for the writing style of the other authors. For these short stories it seemed that it was just a few romantic encounters and little else. Perhaps I would appreciate the other authors more if I were to read a full length book that had time to develop something other than romance.
If you can find the Sharon Shinn story elsewhere I would recommend that, because the other stories were not as good.