A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Ellen Oh
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
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.
Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renée Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.
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.
This anthology of tales derived from Asian cultures, is a treat for those who have been waiting for something like this. There are some wonderful stories – some presenting the folklore in a modern setting, some exploring nuances of the old stories with a feminist view, some expanding the stories in its original setting – but they all make a good collection, and each of them beautifully written.
For my own culture, the stories were all inspired from the Mahabharata/Hindu folklore and explored different stories in different aspects. There was a time-spanning retelling of the battle in Mahabharata, a Dusshera story inspired by the goddess’ fight against a demon (that one didn’t feel as good a retelling, though), and a reincarnation story that was equal parts chilling and intriguing.
The other, non-Indian stories included a wonderful tale about two sisters, a tale of a mountain deity with her own agency, and two stories about fox deities – tricksters in a futuristic game setting, with a daughter seeking out the remnants of her mother in a digital world (which was such a hopeful and positive exploration of a digital landscape instead of a regular ‘the robots will kill us’ story), and another a historical fiction about the origin of kitsune stories. There was even an aswang story that Cruz manages to link to her existing Blue Bloods series!
My only little complaint was that the background/author’s notes about which story inspired the particular retelling would come after the story – which takes away half the joy of looking at the parallels of the story, particularly if you’re not familiar with the story. After the first two stories, I started going ahead and reading the author’s notes first and then the story.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection of stories, and a delight for Asian and diaspora readers specifically!
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Greenwillow Books, via Edelweiss.
9 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings by Ellen Oh, Elsie Chapman”
I am so excited about this book!! It makes me even more excited to see that you enjoyed it!
This book has been on my radar for a long time, I’m excited you liked it and it sounds really great, can’t wait to read it myself! ❤
Glad to know you are excited! Hope you like it too!!
I loved this book! Great review!
This just came in on hold for me at library and I’m SO EXCITED to start it… I’ll probably do what you did and read the author’s notes before reading the short story, especially given that my familiarity with the source material is probably patchy in a lot of cases, so I appreciate the heads up!
Great! I hope you love it too!
I was so glad of the author’s notes though! I really enjoyed the fact we got to learn about where the ideas were inspired from, it was a favorite part of the anthology besides the actual stories. ❤️ Lovely review.
Yeah I couldnt recognize the ones from my own culture so those notes were handy!