Reviewing a short story collection is always tricky; in most cases, the quality of the material vastly differs every couple of pages, ranging from absolute genius to “why did you even bother including this.” Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges excepted, of course. Borges is forever and always the exception to every rule ever.
Gaiman’s Fragile Things, too, goes from absolutely stellar and inventive writing (the opener, “A Study in Emerald”) to scraps that should have been left tucked away into a folder somewhere (most of the poems). If anything, the collection is an homage to storytelling itself and even though the quality is a bit uneven, Gaiman’s love for stories shines through on every page. He takes you from fairy tales to aliens, from Cthulhu to Beowulf, from Narnia to Victorian London, and from the Matrix to Arabian Nights.
Fragile Things is a true cabinet of curiosities and though it may not be the best entry in Gaiman’s bibliography, there are a few gems in there. Ever wondered what happened to Shadow after the events of American Gods? “The Monarch of the Glen” can tell you! Always wanted to see what a Sherlock Holmes/H.P. Lovecraft cross-over would look like? No? But you do now, don’t you? “A Study In Emerald” is everything you never knew you wanted (and can be read online)!
I wouldn’t recommend this book in its entirety to people who aren’t already familiar with Neil Gaiman’s style, but for the fans, this is definitely worth a read.