The Nettle Tree


Fiction - Anthology
166 Pages
Reviewed on 07/29/2016
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

The Nettle Tree is an anthology of Western-inspired short stories edited by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Clifford Bye. The authors were presented with a challenge: create an original and different Western-themed story in 3,000 words of less. Thirteen writers' efforts are showcased in this volume, including the work of the two editors. After each story, a brief biography of, and links for, the author are given. What is it with the Wild West that conjures up so many daydreams and imaginative rides into the sunset, even for those who never really cared that much for the genre? For some, it's the endless vistas and open spaces; for others, the thrill and danger of measuring oneself up against a tall stranger who's new in town and reputed to be the fastest gun out there. The Nettle Tree's authors share Western visions that are not the stuff of your everyday frontier mentality. Zombies, mages, the trickster, and all manner of odd and unexpected treats await the reader.

The authors of The Nettle Tree had a challenging assignment indeed, to breathe new and strange life into a genre that all but the enthusiast may consider a bit overrated, trivialized or overdone, and they did so brilliantly. While my taste in Western fiction runs more in the lines of prospectors trudging through deserts looking for mythical gold caches and scouts surveying new lands, I found a number of stories in this collection that had me re-evaluating the Western and its possibilities. Phil Richardson's The Sheriff of Hog Waller is clever and convincing as outlaws, the townspeople, and the law conspire to make a killing off the bounty system. Christopher Wolf's zombie story, Tears on the Prairie, is poignant and intense. But I would have to say the title story, The Nettle Tree, with its transporting energy fields, captured my imagination and kept it close at hand throughout the story, and Leigh M. Lane's trickster in Valley of the Shadow deftly ramped up the suspense and atmosphere. There's bound to be something for just about any reader in this collection of original short stories. The Nettle Tree is most highly recommended.

Hilary Hawkes

The Nettle Tree is a collection of short stories compiled by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye. Bye has written one of the stories and the other twelve are by other excellent and talented authors. The overall theme of the book encompasses the western/cowboy genre and this is intriguingly mixed with science fiction and fantasy elements. The stories vary in length and include a shorter flash fiction tale too.

An extremely well written and engaging collection of stories, this book will delight fans of short stories with a bit of a dark edge and fantasy elements to them. The authors convey their characters’ personalities and motivations very well. I liked the combination of a variety of subjects and the way the stories seem to fit well together as a collection in terms of tone. While each author has a unique voice, these tales share an overall style and mood as they explore some unusual, baffling, and scary happenings in situations in which the characters find themselves.

As I read, I was on the lookout for my favorite story, but I have to admit each one was equally absorbing and brilliant. I liked the humor in Phil Richardson’s The Sheriff of Hog Waller; the weird mix of horror and western in Jeremy Shipp’s The Carousel; and the dark, speculative nature of Leigh M Lane’s Valley of the Shadow. Many of the stories, including Clayton Bye’s The Nettle Tree, explore unseen forces of spirit revenge, and a battle between those in this life and ghosts – suggesting nothing may be as it seems and that we may be fooling ourselves when we believe we have control over events and outcomes. An intriguing collection that combines western, sci-fi, apocalypse, zombie, and portals into other dimensions into an entertaining and gripping read. Recommended.

Maria Beltran

It is not very often that one comes across a genuinely unique book, but this is what editors Kenneth Weene and Clayton Clifford Bye created in The Nettle Tree. The titles in this anthology take readers through many different settings, characters, and elements that no one has probably taken them before, and in thirteen different stories. The major theme is western, but it comes in different forms and genres like horror, science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, magical realism and even alternative history.

The Nettle Tree, edited by Kenneth Weene and Clayton Bye, is a compilation of works by thirteen gifted writers who were each tasked to write 3,000 words, and genre shattering western stories. The result is a unique anthology of fiction that will not fail to entertain its readers. From The Carousel to The Nettle Tree to the Devil Tracker, we are confronted by unlikely characters navigating through strange circumstances and emotions that stretch the imagination more than anyone would think possible.

The Sheriff of Hog Waller is perhaps the easiest to read, but this does not mean the story is lacking in layers. In State of the Art, reality, technology and fantasy are deftly blended together that it becomes a difficult task to identify one from the other. And the caustic humor in A Hero Comes to Town is indeed a fitting end to a day spent with a book that you would definitely want to finish in one sitting. Reading this book is truly a strange and amazing experience!