Author Margaret Lindholm Ogden, better known as Megan Lindholm and as Robin Hobb, contributes new and old work from both her pen names to a single anthology.
The stories by her earlier nom de plume, Lindholm, are all contemporary or near-future science fiction and fantasy, clearly set in our world or something a lot like it. The Hobb (Dragon Haven, 2010, etc.) stories are longer, set in the Realm of the Elderlings, the world where most of her bestselling fantasy epics take place. Lindholm/Hobb claims in her preface that while both pen names bear some core similarities, they explore different “issues.” However, the stories then proceed to belie her assertion. All are beautifully written parables, expressing a clear message but managing not to be too offensively preachy about it. They speak of an intimate knowledge of living on the edge of poverty and desperation, confronting the threat of abuse, feeling pride in forging one’s hard-won way in the world and making necessary sacrifices for both love and art. Of particular note are Lindholm’s “A Touch of Lavender,” about the relationship between a musical alien and a struggling family; “The Fifth Squashed Cat,” which explores both the rewards and the painful costs of accepting a mundane over a magical existence; and Hobb’s “Cat’s Meat,” in which a clever, ruthless cat (is there another kind?) helps a single mother defend her territory.
You don’t have to be a fan of either of the author’s identities to enjoy this collection—but you may become one.