Led Astray, by Kelley Armstrong
Published September 2015 by Tachyon Publications
“Best of” is always an awkward phrase to see on the title of a collection. The nature of art, and especially storytelling, is subjective enough that readers likely won’t agree on what someone’s best stories are. These collections can then do a disservice to entrenched fans (who will wonder why story X wasn’t included), as well as newcomers (who may get an unrealistic view of an author’s work).
Putting aside the Best Of label, Led Astray serves as a great survey of Kelley Armstrong’s work and the stories she tells. The different multi-story worlds that she’s built are all present (except the non-supernatural Nadia Stafford series), mixed in with a good amount of original, non-series stories as well. This provides a good balance for existing fans, as well as allowing those who haven’t read Armstrong before a chance to slowly work their way into her oeuvre.
One of the ways that Armstrong manages to keep the collection interesting is that she borrows from a wide variety of source mythology for her stories. So there are werewolves, vampires, and zombies, as one might expect, but there are also lesser-known supernaturals such as Rakshashi, Kitsune, and the Wild Hunt.
Stylistically, Armstrong tells stories that are quickly-paced, easily-digestible, and contain a lighthearted, irreverent attitude. At times the stories can get fairly dark, but that lighthearted attitude prevents them from becoming overly morbid. The myriad narrators all feel distinct and unique, and lead to a fun reading experience.
Throughout Led Astray, Armstrong takes familiar tales of the supernatural and tells them in fresh, interesting ways that still pay homage to what made those things such powerful storytelling elements in the first place. It’s a great read for both entrenched fans of her work, as well as those unfamiliar with her that might be looking for a good entryway into her storytelling style.
(editorial note: a special thank you to the folks at Tachyon Publishing for providing a copy of this book for review)