The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards
I've had The Secrets of a Fire King on my wishlist pretty much ever since I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter (read my post). Now that I've read it, I'm wondering why I didn't try to get my hands on a copy sooner. I loved the varied settings of the stories, Edwards' vivid descriptions, and her sympathetic characters. In this collection, Edwards is subtle and strong. Her words are mesmerizing. And, while there were some stories that I cared less for than others, there were none that I wanted to write off (which is rare in a collection, I think).
I think my favorite stories were "Thirst" (about a mermaid who gave up the sea for love), "A Gleaming in the Darkness" (the story of Marie Curie's cleaning woman), and "Aristotle's Lantern" (how to describe that one?). I loved the irony of "The Invitation" and optimism evidenced in "The Great Chain of Being" and "The Story of My Life" (and how those two stories frame the collection).
While The Secrets of a Fire King has a number of recurring themes, I was particularly struck by Edwards' meditation on Marie Curie and her legacy. When radium appeared unexpectedly in a second story, I felt a surge of joy (and a greater anticipation about where that story would lead).