Book Review: The Underwater Ballroom Society

Authors: Various

Publication Date: 30 April, 2018

Publisher: Five Fathoms Press

*Disclaimer: I’d like to to thank Ms. Burgis, one of the editors, for kindly providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a lovely anthology featuring some of my favorite voices, with all of the stories sharing a common theme–an underwater ballroom! Pretty cool, right?

Here are my thoughts on each story:

  1. The Queen of Life – Ysabeau S. Wilce: A story that mixes fairy tales and rock’ n’ roll. Beneath this fresh premise is a deeper story about how one sees their life and its meaning.
  2. Twelve Sisters – Y. S. Lee’s: A retelling of one of the Brothers Grimm’s stories, or rather, a “sequel” to it, where after the happy ending we are presented with a failing marriage and an abusive husband. I should mention that the story deals with a pretty sensitive topic, which is domestic violence.
  3. Penhallow Amid Passing Things – Iona Datt Sharma: Loved the worldbuilding here. A fully fleshed-out land of smugglers, officers, and magic. I actually tried to find out if this is a new story for the anthology or part of a longer form that had slipped my radar, because it read totally fresh to me.
  4. Mermaids, Singing – Tiffany Trent: Set in Victorian England, featuring a creature ruthlessly forced to work in a circus. It’s a little on the darker spectrum of fantasy, and manages to delve deep into some real life topics.
  5. A Brand New Thing – Jenny Moss: A story of a young bookworm who travels to an underwater ballroom to escape her reality–a very intriguing concept and a lovely protagonist’s voice. 
  6. Four Revelations from the Rusalka Ball – Cassandra Khaw: This story (and the next one) are my favorites in the anthology. I’m quite familiar with Ms. Khaw’s writing style–sharp, lyrical, and poetic. She “wields” the prose with phenomenal skill, and this story is no different.
  7. Spellswept – Stephanie Burgis: My other favorite story, which is a prequel to Ms. Burgis’ story Snowspelled. It focuses on the relationship between Amy Standish and Jonathan Harwood, and has the same charm and lightheartedness of its sequel.
  8. The River Always Wins – Laura Anne Gilman: A story that mixes a dance club, memories, and sorrow in a powerful blend. This one is pretty multilayered, and I read it twice to make sure I didn’t miss any of the hidden messages.
  9. The Amethyst Deceiver – Shveta Thakrar: A very “energetic” and fun short piece about “mushroom-people”! You have to read this one to understand what I’m talking about, one of the coolest concepts I’ve come across!
  10. A Spy in the Deep – Patrick Samphire: This story is the longest, but is very tightly woven that I didn’t actually feel its length at all. It’s more on the sci-fi side, and features a heroine training to be a spy for the “British-Martian Intelligence”. I loved the concept a lot, and it compelled me to go look for more of Mr. Samphire’s work.

Verdict? This book is full of fresh concepts and some of the best writing you can come across. A definite recommendation.