This is the first anthology I’ve read in awhile, so please bear with me if my review doesn’t make sense. In fact, I’m not quite sure how to structure this review since most of my previous book reviews were for novels, but I’ll figure it out!
(Before I continue, let me take this opportunity to apologize to any readers out there who came to my blog for travel posts, listographies, and anything else that doesn’t have to do with books. There’s currently a typhoon here in the Philippines, meaning there’s not much else to do but sit inside and read. I’ve already issued a similar apology in my previous post, but it never hurts to cover all my bases.)
Note: This review was written for a featured linkup done by Naz at Read Diverse Books called Read Diverse Books Year-Round, the point of which is to promote books written by or about POC, LGBT+ individuals, #ownvoices, disabled individuals, and other marginalized voices. If you want to join the linkup, click on that nifty link up there!
(Addendum: I linked up an earlier review, Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, because I realized it also fit into the requirement of being a diverse book. If I’m not mistaken, you can link up to three book reviews!)
A Bottle of Storm Clouds is a collection of short stories revolving around Filipino myths, traditions, history, and pop culture. I thought of these stories as something like a little bit of the extraordinary in the ordinary, glimpses of lightning amidst gray storm clouds. The stories could happen to anyone; the characters could be anyone. The events Eliza Victoria writes about are at turns creepy, scary, and sometimes funny, but for all that they involve the supernatural, the fantastic, the impossible, there’s an element of reality that makes you think, yes, I can believe that this could happen.
Salot – Classic horror story that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. Every so often, I’d put the book down and check my surroundings just to make sure there was no one…watching me.
Ana’s Little Pawnshop on Makiling St. – I talked about the extraordinary in the ordinary, and this short story perfectly describes what I mean. Here, Maria Makiling is a businesswoman who rents out real estate to lesser diwata and enkantandia, and any number of curios and charms may be had for the right price – the color of your hair and eyes, childhood memories, the best day of your life.
The End of Pi – When you first read this story, it sounds mystical and ephemeral. At first, you think the main character having dreams of the last numbers of pi will leading to something like the discovery of the secrets of the universe or the meaning of life or something. But it’s not at all like that. It really threw me, but in a good way! And best of all, it ended with all sorts of kilig feels! (Note: If you’re not Filipino, I beg of you, Google what ‘kilig’ means – you’ll thank me for it!)
Siren Song – Unlike Ana’s Little Pawnshop, which made me feel melancholy; and The End of Pi, which was sweetness and light, Siren Song is utterly painful. In a town blessed with supernatural gifts by the mermaids living in the nearby river, a man rejects his own gift of foresight because of the torment it brings him, and so comes up with a plan to get rid of it once and for all. Proceed with caution, it’s quite horrifying (but in the good way that literature is horrifying).
What I liked:
- The greatest thing about Eliza Victoria’s writing is how realistic it is. Forget about all the fantasy and myth she weaves into her stories, all of them still leave you feeling as though they could happen to anyone you know – even you.
- A lot of the short stories were open to the reader’s interpretation. Each story could have a million and one possible endings, depending on the reader’s mood when he or she peruses the book.
- Honestly – and this is the greatest compliment I could give a writer – her works put me in mind of Neil Gaiman, only in a Filipino context.
What I didn’t like:
- Some of the stories were hard to follow, but honestly that’s more on me than it is on the writer.
4.5/5. This is, essentially, modern Filipino speculative fiction at it’s absolute finest!
P.S. – I would like to add that after stalking Read Diverse Books thoroughly as well as the twitter account @readdiversebooks, I now have a massive crush on Naz. Thanks, life. Thanks.