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Speaking With Angels
Michelle West
Five Star, 335 pages

Speaking With Angels
Michelle West
Michelle West, better known to her friends as Michelle Sagara, was born in 1963, lives with her husband and children in Toronto, worked at Bakka, Canada's oldest SF and fantasy book store (along with her brother, Gary), and writes wonderful books. She has been published as Michelle Sagara, Michelle West and, occasionally, Michelle Sagara West. Twice a Campbell Award nominee (1991 and 1992), she writes a periodic book review column, Guilty Pleasures, for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Michelle West (SFF.NET)
Michelle West (U of T)
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Uncrowned King
SF Site Review: The Broken Crown
Rodger's review of Hunter's Death
SF Site Reading List: Michelle West

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

This collection, by Michelle West (who began her career writing as Michelle Sagara) contains thirteen stories, all reprints from various anthologies. In her introduction, author Tanya Huff likens the stories to dark chocolate. I think this is apt in that the stories all have a similar tone. New readers might wish for a few crunchy bits, a few peppermints amidst all that chocolate, but I suspect that West's readers are going to know just what to expect and will be pleased; her long, very complex fantasies tend to sustain a similar tone throughout.

Are the stories in Speaking With Angels a good introduction to a new readership? One could wish that they had had the benefit of a better editor; some of the stories are structurally uneven, most often appearing to be novellas or even whole novels ruthlessly cut down with data-heavy front ends in order to get to the punch, but West's intense emotional focus will draw many readers in, and keep them there -- especially if they like stories about vampires, handsome devils, and the undead. As Huff's points out most of the stories deal with emotional loss; quite a few with questions of death and its meaning, usually through the eyes of protagonists with an adolescent's understanding (and distrust) of organized religion.

My favorite story was a series of letters from Golda Meier called "Four Attempts at a Letter." The story is short, and quite powerful, evoking the painful choices of those who sacrificed nearly everything in order to make their vision of Zion a reality. Younger readers especially, or readers fond of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will probably enjoy "Sunrise," a long vampire tale featuring a teenage-girl vampire fighter and plenty of cute-guy vampires with lots of power and charisma when they're not busy bloodsucking. All of the stories, however they might make the occasional stumble in prose or structure, are told with vivid emotional intensity -- one can truly say here, with heart.

Copyright © 2003 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at

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