September 26th, 2010

funky

It's all in the way they use their wands

The Way of the Wizard, edited by John Jospeh Adams.

There were some seriously outstanding stories in this collection.

Desirina Boskovich's "Love is the Spell that casts out Fear" is another of those stories that makes me flail somewhat incoherently. It just works. She puts little effort into making the fantastic land where half the story takes place make much sense; that's not its purpose. But she manages to evoke a wonderful, if fragile, place nonetheless. And it's counter-poised against a very real story of possible tragedy in the 'real' world. How the two work together is in itself a magical thing.

A completely different take on the idea of wizardry is provided by Simon Green, in "Street Wizard". The idea of providing a 'day in the life of' can be a bit tired, but Green's whimsy does it service here, and suggests a slightly different take on the mundanity of late-night streets.

Poignancy is revisited in "The Secret of Calling Rabbits", by Wendy Wagner. It's not quite Watership Down, but heartstrings may not go unmoved. It was bizarrely nice to see a non-human character as the wizard.

Krista Hoeppner Leahy takes a classical turn in "Too Fatal a Poison" by revisiting the Odysseus story of Circe enchanting the sailors into pigs. What I adored about this story is that, rather than making Circe the focus - and don't get me wrong, I'd read good Circe stories all day - it's two of the ordinary sailors who are examined. This is more about the impact of magic - and warfare - than it is about the magic itself. And that's quite sobering, in an anthology that could all too easily have ignored ordinary people.

Families and their issues are the focus of David Barr Kirtley's "The Family Tree." Again, this is not a story that lauds magic and its users. Rather, it asks the rather pointed question: what happens when most in the family are magical? How do you deal with conflict, and jealousy, and the conflagrations that inevitably occur - especially when you're living on top of each other?

Finally, Genevieve Valentine's "So Deep that the Bottom could not be seen" brings in ecological and environmental damage, and is about someone who may not be a wizard at all. I loved the characters, and... well, the vibe of the thing. If you suppose magic is natural and connected to the land, how can the current environmental crisis not have its effect?

It's an interesting anthology. For myself, I've discovered recently that for fantasy to really work for me, it has to have more than simply magic and a vaguely interesting plot. Not all of the stories managed it. But the Valentine, the Leahy, and the Boskovich in particular make this a worthwhile anthol for me.