Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy
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Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

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3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  447 ratings  ·  124 reviews
“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ran...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Tor
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Community Reviews

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Karen
DNF-- I slogged through the intro and the first 10 stories, and then realized that I was regarding it as more a chore to be completed than a book to be enjoyed, and put it down. This REALLY didn't measure up to expectations, IMO. Datlow and Windling are master anthologists, but I was gravely disappointed in this offering. Frankly, I wished I COULD have kept going, because (on flipping through) some of my favorite authors have stories near the end of the book (really, what I SHOULD have done was...more
Laurie
I made the mistake of thinking this was a steampunk anthology; it’s not. It’s Gaslamp Fantasy; fantasy stories set in the Victorian era with magic included. Here you will no find brass goggles or airship pirates. But it was a happy mistake, because I enjoyed this book very much.

Victoria reigned for a very long time, so there is variety of events, inventions, real people, and movements to choose from when writing in the era. A couple of the stories are actually about Victoria; the title story is...more
Miriam
With a few exceptions (aren't there always?) a very solid collection of Victorian-set fantasy.

Irena
2.5

The worst thing about anthologies is that their stories are almost always of uneven value. These are all well written stories. I liked some more than others of course. There were quite a few boring ones. They all have a few things in common though. Fantasy is the most prominent one. You'll see various levels of Victorian society interwoven with the fantastic, from the poor matchwomen with their phossy jaws to the queen herself.

The following are just personal notes (to remind me what they wer...more
Wealhtheow
A pretty solid collection of fantasy stories, linked by their connection to Queen Victoria's reign. I think my favorites were the creepy stories by McHugh and Koja, the rousing "Phosphorus," and the hopeful "Estella Saves the Village."

"Queen Victoria's Book of Spells" by Delia Sherman. A magician-historian looks under the simple cantrips and magical recipes in a book and finds a young Victoria's diary. It reveals (view spoiler), and the histor...more
Alex
I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction and the fact that there was a recommended reading list at the back of the book. I also found the inclusion of brief story notes from each individual author after their contribution quite clever. As always with anthologies though, mixed bag of actual tales.

Certain aforementioned author notes helped pinpoint where my dissatisfaction may stem from. I had an unconscious expectation of being able to plunge myself into an unending stream of escapism. But several o...more
Jasmine
Really enjoyed the title story, Elizabeth Bear's tale, "Phosphorus", and "We Without Us Were Shadows". The rest I'm pretty well indifferent towards, but I REALLY liked those four.

It's odd how often people use the Victorian era to explore the ignorance and powerlessness of women, though. That was definitely a theme.
Catherine Siemann
Thoroughly enjoyable anthology of neoVictorian fantasies. I was lucky enough to hear Leanne Renee Hieber, Genevieve Valentine, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Veronica Schanoes read from their stories at the book release party -- all excellent, though very different. Other favorites included stories by Jeffrey Ford, Maureen McHugh, Elizabeth Gatland, and Jane Yolen. Theodora Goss' "Estella Saves the Village" hit a personally sour note for me - the girl who dreams of being a writer and grows up...more
A.t.
I bought this book just to read the story by Leanna Renee Hieber, my favourite authour, but I read the whole book. It was very enjoyable, but some of the anthologies were a bit boring or annoying.

Judging it all up the book, in my opinion, was very enjoyable and addicting. Each story was unique and special, like a diamond. I recommend one should buy it.

Edit: I might as well add that there are some stories that would leave someone crying or wanting to cry, especially the stories:
Queen Victoria's...more
Alex MacFarlane
Admittedly I bought this cheap for just a handful of its stories, knowing that the theme is not of much interest to me - so it's no surprise that I found most of the stories underwhelming, and skipped several. The standout is "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes, a bitter, angry, sad story about the fatal illness poor working girls in match factories succumbed to, and the lengths one afflicted girl's grandmother is willing to go to let her see the end of the strike that'll take steps towards better...more
Shomeret
The truth is I despise the values of the upper crust in the Victorian period who are often the only characters to be seen in Victorian novels, but I'm always up for rebel Victorians poking at its underbelly and I love inventive fantasy. When I saw a list of the authors, I thought there might be potential in this anthology.

The feminist story "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren, who is completely new to me, was excellent. It's about women demonstrating that they have value and an impo...more
Meghan
Like all anthologies, this was difficult for me to rate because it was all over the map in terms of enjoyment for me.

Some standouts both good and bad:

I really liked Delia Sherman's titular "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells", which was both an interesting story and a magical world that I would enjoy reading more of.

"Phosphorus" made a deep impression on me as both an explicitly didactic story about Lucifer matches, "phossy jaw" and the match factory workers' strike and a creepy story about love, m...more
Angela
I've had a mediocre run of luck with anthologies lately, and this one is no exception. Though the setting and subject matter appealed to me deeply, and quite a few of my favorite authors are included, there simply weren't enough standout entries in here to make the collection memorable.

The standout entries were, for me, "The Unwanted Women of Surrey," "Phosphorous," and my personal favorite "Charged," all of which can be found in the middle of the collection. "The Vital Importance of the Superfi...more
Amy
I think that the concept and description of this book sounded so delightful that my expectations were too high. Some of the stories were really magical and I truly appreciated the introduction where they included a review of fairy and magic literature from the Victorian era. (I want to look up some of those authors now, too.) There were just too many stories that were disappointing. Like I said, for many of them, I think I was just disappointed because they weren't what I was expecting. Some of...more
Jonathan
So I actually only read some of the stories, but I enjoyed those. My first introduction to "gaslamp," which is like steampunk but more fantasy instead of sci-fi.
LAPL Reads
Steampunk, the sub-genre of science fiction set primarily in the 19th century and featuring fantastic, often steam-powered, technologies with a Victorian flare, has been steadily growing in popularity over the last two decades. But what if you are more of a fantasy reader than a sci-fi reader? Well, prolific editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have just the collection for you: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. Within this book, Datlow and Windling have gathered a marvelous collection of all n...more
Michelle
Terrific. I've never read gaslamp fantasy or steampunk before. This is a great intro to the genre--a lighter taste of the fantastic...less steam work type stuff and more heavy on the magic and fantasy, except based in the Victorian era, a great way to start off for folks not prepared for the steampunk genre. There was at least one steam driven story, which was good, and has made me curious about others.
Clara
An anthology that is more than a sum of its parts. I was pleasantly surprised to find it, for the most part, unsentimental, with a real feel for the nuances and the exploitativeness of the era. Varied, surprising, and just good.
Nerdycellist D
This is a great anthology - I only skipped one of the storied in it! Datlow and Windling are probably my favorite short story editors out there. I highly recommend any of their collections for those looking for great fantasy.
Amy
Much different than steampunk and also much better, IMHO. My favorites were Phosphorus, The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown, and Their Monstrous Minds. But overall, a really great collection.
Leah
That was fun! Happened across this one at the library (there is something infinitely satisfying about browsing through shelves of books, being actually surrounded by their physical presence) and picked it up because I thought short stories would be easier for me to break into manageable chunks of reading. I was wrong! I've been reading this pretty much non-stop since I started.
The stories varied greatly in how they affected me, but I got wrapped up in every one of them. The trend towards gettin...more
Meran
I gave this 3.8 stars…
18 Brand New Tales - written of a magical version of England, anytime in the 1800s but ending by WWI. Some very famous authors write about very real happenings of the time (and some not so real.) We have romanticized the Darkness of the Victorian age, when slavery of children, races, and classes was common.

[For some reason, it took me forever to read this book~]


Queen Victoria's Book of Spells by Delia Sherman-(Many modern ideas, even computers, so I guess the above rule is...more
Christine
Aside from the short story this anthology is named for, there was very little worthwhile to read.

If you have the chance to borrow or check it out from your library, I would recommend reading the very first short story in the book. Alone, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells is a nice example of why I love short stories. No excessive exposition, no disillusionment as the reality of the story fails to live up to the imagination, just a tantalizing piece of a reality that intrigues and excites. A little...more
Jen
Another anthology that may as well have been compiled just for me. Life is so good.
Maureen
Generally a pleasant and interesting collection of stories. While there were a few that I found a bit dull, there were no stories that I actively disliked, and there were many that I enjoyed. Many different and subtle takes on what was meant by gaslamp fantasy were included in this anthology, and I appreciated the diversity in that regard. Unfortunately, some of the stories were prone to uncritically glorifying the Victorian era, which isn't really my cup of tea (but I recognize lots of people h...more
Natalie
Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have once again put together an amazing anthology with stories from a fabulous group of talented authors. The fairy tale re-telling anthologies by them have always been some of my favorite. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells focuses on Gaslamp fantasy (a personal favorite of mine) and includes tales from some of my favorite authors, including Jane Yolen and Tanith Lee. The entire collection reminds me a lot of Susanna Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu and Jonathan Stran...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Jun 21, 2013 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fantasy lovers
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: Tor Books
Original review posted at Layers of Thought.

Shellie’s quick take: A fantastical and intellectual collection of stories termed “Gaslamp” (set within Victorian times) with dark themes.

Shellie’s thoughts: What is Gaslamp fantasy? It’s fantasy set within the time when gas lamps lit England, before electric lights. So there can be a flavor of steampunk, but gaslamp is a broader genre as reflected by these stories.

In their stories the authors from this collection take “a poke” at the era with its blat...more
Liz
As is the way with most anthologies, the stories by authors I enjoy I enjoyed and the stories by authors I had never heard of didn't exactly inspire me to check them out. Anthologies are like that and, I admit, I'm really bad at reading through them. They are better encountered a story at a time, but I can't read that way and books need to go back to the library sooner or later.
I picked this one up because of the topic and because a bunch of the authors were familiar to me and I knew I liked the...more
Stephanie
“From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” by Genevieve Valentine:
5/5. I loved it. A story told through documents and letters, it was tantalizing and mysterious but also satisfying.
“Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman:
5/5. I loved it. A modern-day scholar re-analyzes the diaries of Victoria, with magic. I got the cold chills when I finished.
“For the Briar Rose” by Elizabeth Wein:
4/5. The protag...more
Just_ann_now
Before I started reading the stories in this book, after reading only the preface and introduction, I blithely blew this anthology off as "Steampunk, with a side of Fae". It most definitely is not. Each story was engrossing; spellbinding (as promised on the tin) and a number of them were quite dark. Theodora Goss's "Estella Saves the Village" was unabashed Great Expectations fanfic, while Cat Valente's "We Without Us Were Shadows" is intriguing Real-Person Fiction of the troubled Bronte family....more
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Contents 1 12 Mar 02, 2012 08:39AM  
  • Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables
  • Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense
  • Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded (Steampunk, #2)
  • Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal  and Romance
  • Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations
  • Fearsome Journeys: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy
  • Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (Clockwork Phoenix, #1)
  • Fast Ships, Black Sails
  • The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius
  • The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
  • Happily Ever After
  • Steam-Powered:  Lesbian Steampunk Stories
  • The Future is Japanese: Science Fiction Futures and Brand New Fantasies from and about Japan.
  • The Immersion Book of Steampunk
  • Firebirds Soaring: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction
  • Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores
  • Morlock Night
  • Somewhere Beneath Those Waves
46138
Ellen Datlow has been an award-winning editor of short science fiction, fantasy, and horror for over twentyfive years.

She is editor of the Best Horror of the Year and has edited or co-edited a large number of award-winning original anthologies. Her most recent are Supernatural Noir, Naked City, Blood and Other Cravings, The Beastly Bride, Teeth, Trolls Eye View, and After (the last three with Ter...more
More about Ellen Datlow...
Snow White, Blood Red Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy (Riverside Series) (The Dresden Files #10.9) The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm Lovecraft Unbound Black Heart, Ivory Bones

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