Tales From the Later Lands - Harriet Goodchild
My favourite stories in this short collection were The Seal's Daughter and The Beggar and the King, though the first was a nice, bloody tale of love and revenge that carved out a nice place for itself.

It's chiefly when I'm reading these kind of ballad-y stories that I become aware that I read with two hearts. The one is carried away by the beautiful language and the grand themes of love, loss, redemption, revenge, and so forth. The other is a sceptical and sarcastic little beggar that rolls its eyes and says to the characters: "Are you an IDIOT? Why would you DO that?" I try to ignore this heart because it's the one that gets me into trouble with teachers.

Anyway, back to the stories. The Seal's Daughter would be my pick for the most beautifully written of the bunch, with repeated themes and lines that made it a poem as much as a story, but The Beggar and the King I also loved. It's one of my favourite Faery storylines: mortals crossing into Faery to snatch back The Thing that was taken from them. Passing through hardships and trials, grasping the ungraspable and doing the undoable to gain their desire.

The last story alone made me sorry I'd read it. As were the other stories, it was beautifully written, but there was such a darkness to it that it left me feeling physically sick. My nightmares are like that, and I have enough of my own without adding more. (Now you also know why I don't read grimdark :D )

Having said that, I don't think there are many people who will feel the same way as me, and as with everything else I've read of hers, Harriet Goodchild's Tales From the Later Lands is written with such beauty and lyricism that you feel you're dreaming a dream as you read. You won't find much better writing than this.