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

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3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  642 ratings  ·  167 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

(showing 1-30 of 2,683)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Kristen
Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of short-story anthologies. I always want more of the stories I like, and find it a chore reading the ones I don't. Overall, I prefer single, full-length stories. However, the title of this one sounded like it might be good. And on balance, it was - good, not great but good.

All the stories have a paranormal aspect to them, and many have a steam-punk turn as well. I would say of all of the offerings, I read most of them, liked more than half, and really enjoyed p
...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
Brianna
Starting 2015 by shifting a nearly finished book into the complete pile.

I find anthologies from multiple authors really difficult to review as there is always such a varied type of submission and in general I don't think this is a genre type that I enjoy much.

There were a few thought provoking and quite interesting short stories in this anthology but I also found a few that were really not to my taste and seemed to drag on which meant I found myself putting the book down for long periods of time
...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.
Ellie
I read this on the plane. I got about a third of the way into it and I probably won't finish.

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells is an anthology of gaslamp fiction. They're all set in the English Victorian Era. It's gaslamp, so most of these are Victorian fantasies or Victorian horrors. All the ones I read were very dark.

I have nothing against dark fiction, but it's not really my cup of tea. I also like the Victorian era, and while there was an awful lot wrong with it, it's totally possible to write
...more
Travis Mueller
Oct 03, 2014 Travis Mueller marked it as pass
I really like the first story in this collection (which shares a title of the collection as a whole) and would happily read more related to it. Though I like the narrator more than the subject of narration, but I do like the rational, almost scientific approach to magic that is posited by the story and the adaptation of encryption to a fantasy setting. The second story, "The Fairy Enterprise", was rather a bore, with the main character being so absurdly over-the-top in his villainy and casual di ...more
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.
Meg
I won this anthology in a book-review blog give-away, and I am very glad I did! Not only are there stories within written by a number of authors I admire, but the stories themselves provide a diverse and engaging set of views of the Victorian period, tinged with the fantastic. From the magic lessons of a young queen to the true horrors of a matchstick maker with 'phossy jaw,' this anthology captures the strangeness that was the many contradictions of the time period and culture, both dark and li ...more
Vendela
Most of the short stories seemed to take their cue from the section of the introduction that focused on the dichotomy of Victorian focus on what we now think of as Victorian (prudishness, chastity, childhood, etc.) and the dirt and filth of the factories that enabled all the wealth as well as the underground drug trade and the flourishing sex trade. I didn't mind this, but it made the highly enjoyable more lighthearted stories stand out more, which seems to defeat the purpose a little bit, if on ...more
Pip
Hard to know what to rate this...there were some really good stories ('Phosphorous', 'Estella Saves the Village', 'The Memory Book' and 'La Reine d'Enfer') and the rest were kind of meh or didn't appeal to me at all. In the end I've rated it based on the highs, not on the lows!
Yandi Jaya
Books have been written about steampunk, and it is a favorite genre; the mixture between Victorian aesthetic and more modern values.

It would be a mistake to assume this is all there is in this anthology.

Sure, there was a few steampunk-ish stories, but other than that there were a lot more. So much more. Mystery, magic, ephemeral qualities that were visible in fairytales and folklores; something that seemed to be a direct influence.

And at the same time there were interesting looks at the social c
...more
Kathleen
The stories were all solidly done, and I did enjoy them, but, eeeeh, it was awfully white, and while I appreciate the authors' willingness to explore the less savory sides of gaslamp fantasy and Victorian-era London, it felt mildly classist as well. Still, I love that most of the stories had at least one female narrator. Be advised though, there is rape in one story and several stories dip (pretty successfully) into horror, so if that's not your bag maybe give this a miss.

Standout stories includ
...more
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.
Snap
I should know better than to read an anthology. I just don't "do well" with short stories. But, I'm a big fan of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow and really enjoyed their "Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" .. all sixteen collections. Perhaps it is the Gaslamp Fantasy that I'm not fond of. I also found the first ones too dark for me. That may be because the real world can be dark enough without reading about dark fantasy. Who knows? I did not finish the book and for some reason Good Reads made me ra ...more
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.
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Contents 1 12 Mar 02, 2012 08:39AM  
  • Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables
  • Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal  and Romance
  • The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
  • Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations
  • Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense
  • Happily Ever After
  • The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius
  • Wings of Fire
  • The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
  • The Melancholy of Mechagirl
  • Fast Ships, Black Sails
  • Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (Clockwork Phoenix, #1)
  • Somewhere Beneath Those Waves
  • The Immersion Book of Steampunk
  • Welcome to Bordertown (Borderland, #5)
  • Morlock Night
  • Steam-Powered:  Lesbian Steampunk Stories
  • Firebirds Soaring: An Anthology of Original Speculative Fiction
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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 Lovecraft Unbound The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm Black Heart, Ivory Bones

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