By Steve Stred
Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery was the third or fourth book I read by Steve Stred in 2019. It was also my first time entering the world you’ll find in Piece of Me, thanks to the story, “For Balder Walks.” It was bleak, enigmatically magical, and frigid – I literally got chills reading it. I could feel that troll’s eyes upon me, as if it were looking over my shoulder at the pages as I swiped left. Basically, it was the collection that revealed to me Stred’s ultimate strength in writing; which, in my opinion, lies within the realm of dark fantasy. Granted, his work in science-fiction is also quite demanding of attention – make sure to read Jane: The 816 Chronicles – but Stred has a knack for taking a world of magic, blending it with terror, and piercing it with emotionally electric storylines. That is, ultimately, the case with Piece of Me.
Set some time after “For Balder Walks” (though not directly tied to it, per say), Piece of Me follows Kari, a mother that has lost her husband and son to the wilderness. After years of waiting for them to return, she is finally given a chance to find them and reunite. However, things are far from what they seem, and I mean that universally for the reader. Not only is Kari getting into something much larger than herself, so is the reader; the world described in Piece of Me is immense and full of potential. You only learn a bit here and there as you go (enough to carry the story), but there’s plenty shadowed along the way. Stred could easily write a series of novels of this sort without revealing the full picture. And that, my friends, is exciting. But we’ll circle back to that in a moment.
Piece of Me spends its time either tugging at your heartstrings, pulling you into adventure, or shaking you to your core. There seems to a bit of everything in this one, and that will do just fine by me. Stred’s experience in horror is especially evident in the story’s final moments, and likely to catch new readers off-guard. Are you happy for Kari at the end, or sickened by her choice and its consequences? Whichever way you lean – and I’m not sure anyone could fully lean one way over the other – Stred has left you with a series of possibilities (and questions).
Lucky for us all, he has a new series in the works that expands upon the world found here. You can sign me up for the ride, no doubt.
Review by Aiden Merchant
I read this book using my Kindle Unlimited membership. If you’re a subscriber as well, you can read Piece of Me today, free of cost!