This is a collection of the best fantasy prose written in 2004, by some of the genre's greatest writers, and selected by two of SF's most respected ed...moreThis is a collection of the best fantasy prose written in 2004, by some of the genre's greatest writers, and selected by two of SF's most respected editors. Honestly I just bidded for this on Ebay just because I'm collecting all of Neil Gaiman's works (what SF/Fantasy collection be complete without featuring him, right?) but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself rediscovering fantasy genre once more.
Now, I would normally expect to find some stories I liked and some I didn't, but I found all of these stories to be great (with the exception of "Pat Moore" where I found my eyes glazing over).
Each of these eleven stories were written by a different author, and they range far and wide in style and subject matter:
"Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire" by Neil Gaiman >> (looong title, eh? *lol*) Writing realistic fiction can be so dreadful...especially when reality is so unreal! "Aye, welcome--on this night of all nights." The story deserves another reading.
"The Word That Sings the Scythe" by Michael Swanwick >> Will has much that he wishes he could forget, but he can't. And then he meets a charming little girl, one who can't remember anything. Watch out for that twist at the ending--certainly didn't see that one coming!
"The Little Stranger" by Gene Wolfe >> There once was a little old lady who lived by herself in the woods, and such strange things happen around her. But, is she really a witch? There are some allusions to Hansel & Gretel but it didn't spoil the story.
"The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link >> Genvieve's grandmother jealously guarded her handbag, her magical handbag. But, now that she is dead, Genvieve prepares for an adventure. Too badit wasn't her who thought of the idea of how to get "inside" first ;p Oh, and Scrabble fans will like this story
"Quarry" by Peter S. Beagle >> A young man, fleeing for his life, meets an old man who will help him and teach him what he needs to survive. But, it soon becomes apparent that the old man is fleeing something himself. Reminds me of LOTR's Aragorn as Hunter, for obvious reasons.
"The Enchanted Trousseau" by Deborah Roggie >> When a wizard comes to woo her wayward daughter, Gerinet, Alrea knows what she must do. And so, like her mother and grandmother before her, she begins to sew spells into her daughter's trousseau. Poor wizard--he sadly underestimated the peasant folk!
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Robert Silverberg >> When Gannin Thidrich becomes apprentice to a sorcerer, he did not expect his teacher to be a sorceress, and a beautiful one at that. Things are going to get very complicated for Gannin, especially when one's longings are obviously rebuffed again & again.
"The Annals of the Eelin-Ok" by Jeffrey Ford >> There is a species of fairy that lives in children's sandcastles on beaches, and they live as long as the castle exists. This is the story of the life of Eelin-Ok and Castle While Away. Makes you want to stay & try to determine if there are fairies living in your sandcastle after you've made it. Be sure to use blue bottle glass, the Twilmish will love you for it.
"Pat Moore" by Tim Powers >> Pat Moore never questioned how common his name was...until he started meeting ghosts with the same name. Got bored with this, or maybe I just didn't like the author's writing style.
"The Angel's Daughter" by Jay Lake >> Once upon a time, in a magical desert city, there lived an angel's daughter who could only be freed by a man who could win her heart. A short & sweet fairytale type of a story.
"The Silver Dragon" by Elizabeth A. Lynn >> In the land of Ryoka, an evil lord prepares for war against his neighbors, including the Silver Dragon. In order to neutralize the dragon, the lord steals his wife. But, the dragon will stop at nothing to get his wife back. This is my fave! I think the only dragon tale I ever liked :)
Title Fantasy: The Best of 2004 (Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, Michael Swanwick) Author Edited by Karen Haber & Jonathan Strahan Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
I've always had a special tendre for fairy tales for as long as I can remember (having read Grimm, Andersen, etc.) which explains why I would read any...moreI've always had a special tendre for fairy tales for as long as I can remember (having read Grimm, Andersen, etc.) which explains why I would read anything linked to it. Double whammy on this one since it's not only about the fantastical world that is of Fay but one that's linked to Queen Titania as created by Gaiman & Vess (see "Sandman Library").
Carlton gives us the origin story of Queen Titania of Faerie (was I ever surprised to learn that King Auberon isn't her first husband) and that Timothy Hunter (of Gaiman's "The Books of Magic") is her offspring! Okay, mental note to self: have to read "The Books of Magic" once more.
By lending such a bleak world that is 11th century England & that of the accompanying plague gives the reader a foil that enables one to understand why Rosebud/Titania is the way she is, and of the choices she made since leaving the Earthworld.
The mini-series gives one more questions than answers...yet engages me all the more.
Title The Books of Faerie Author Bronwyn Carlton;Neil Gaiman (Consultant) Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
What would you be willing to do, to undergo, in order to have your Heart's Desire?
"You and your firstborn child and his or her firstborn child...It's...moreWhat would you be willing to do, to undergo, in order to have your Heart's Desire?
"You and your firstborn child and his or her firstborn child...It's a gift that will last as long as I live." "And what would that be, sir?" "Your Heart's Desire."
I love "Stardust"! This is THE fairy tale meant for adults. It retains the fantasy that you'd want yourself immersed in: a world that is so much older than what we know, where everything is possible & where you're only bounded by your own unimaginativeness.
Here you meet a refreshing take on the creatures of Faerie: The wood-nymph who became a tree with copper leaves that rustle prettily; a small, hairy creature in floppy clothes who proved to be an invaluable member of the Fellowship of the Castle (I do wish Gaiman expounded on this); the exotic bird/Lady Una with her deep violet eyes & mysterious aura ("I gain my freedom on the day the moon loses her daughter, if that occurs in the week when two Mondays come together"); Tristran Thorn, the most unlikely of heroes who in the end realizes what is truly his Heart's Desire; and of course, the fallen Star, Yvaine ("the way she glitters and shines, upon occasion, in the darkness").
My heart twinge in sadness at what the star must've felt when she thought she had lost the heart she gave to a boy: "I'm called Yvaine," said the star. "So," she said, "you are Victoria Forrester. Your fame precedes you." "The wedding, you mean?" said Victoria, and her eyes shone with pride and delight. "A wedding, is it?" asked Yvaine.
This book features an interview with Neil Gaiman on how he was inspired to write “Stardust” as well as a separate story, “Wall: A Prologue.” Been hunting for this edition for quite some time now, having disliked the current movie tie-in covers currently published.
Title Stardust Author Neil Gaiman Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
This features the complete modern translation of all 279 of the Brothers Grimm's collection of fairy tales. Just don't expect the Disney-fied version...moreThis features the complete modern translation of all 279 of the Brothers Grimm's collection of fairy tales. Just don't expect the Disney-fied version of fairy tales here though--this is an English translation of the original German version.
The stories have both pagan & Christian features; and if you're somebody who can't reconcile a bit of gore with your fables then I guess you're better off watching children targeted animated versions of it.
Don't skip the introduction; it will provide you with an invaluable insight into the lives of the Grimm Brothers, who, contrary to popular belief, were not peasants traveling all over Germany to collect these fairy tales. In fact, they were distinguished gentlemen who held on to academic professions & because of this were afforded the opportunity to compile these stories.
Title Vintage Grimm: The Complete Fairy Tales (Vintage Classics) Author Brothers Grimm, trans. by Jack Zipes Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
This book in the spin-off series "The Books of Faerie" gives a glimpse of Auberon as a child, before he became King of Faerie. It's fascinating to see...moreThis book in the spin-off series "The Books of Faerie" gives a glimpse of Auberon as a child, before he became King of Faerie. It's fascinating to see who Auberon used to be.
There are other familiar characters here as well, such as Dymphna (who turns out to be Auberon’s aunt), Obrey and even the Amadan (what an underhanded manipulative creature!).
As with all the books in these series, the stories are well-written and engaging. There is even a Timothy Hunter (from "The Books of Magic") story at the end, "Dark As Day, My Lady, Bright As Night." I highly recommend “The Sandman" books and all of their related series to my friends and fellow booklovers, and "Auberon's Tale" upholds the high standards already set (although I prefer Titania’s origin story).
Like “The Books of Magic”, Gaiman's disappearance from the spin-offs as head writer has affected them negatively, but they're still above average.
Title The Books of Faerie: Auberon's Tale Author Bronwyn Carlton;Neil Gaiman (Consultant) Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
I gave a laugh at this disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real people (living, dead, or stolen by fairies), or to any real...moreI gave a laugh at this disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any real people (living, dead, or stolen by fairies), or to any real animals, gods, witches, countries and events (magical or otherwise), is just blind luck, or so we hope"
The heart of the story, which served to launch the ongoing "The Books of Magic" series and its various mini-series spinoffs, is the realization by the mightiest of the occult powers that Timothy Hunter is destined to become the most powerful magician ever known, should he actively choose to walk that path. Accordingly, Doctor Occult, Mister E, the Phantom Stranger and John Constantine band together as the so-called Trenchcoat Brigade to show Tim what could lie in wait for him if he embraces a future of magic.
Gaiman used the four issues to formally split the structure of the story, and allow for a different artist to draw each issue: In Book I: The Invisible Labyrinth (artwork by John Bolton), Tim is introduced to the history of the DC Universe by the Phantom Stranger; In Book II: The Shadow World (artwork by Scott Hampton), he is taken around the present world by John Constantine; In Book III: The Land of Summer's Twilight (artwork by Charles Vess) he visits Faerie and the other mysical realms with Doctor Occult; and In Book IV: The Road to Nowhere (artwork by Paul Johnson) he travels to a possible future of the universe with Mister E.
In its most basic form, this is of course a classic quest story, wherein a young man has to undertake a journey to discover his destiny, and along the way will discover mentors, guides, companions, and foes. In Tim's case, he's actually taken to the past and the future, and given an introduction to many of the occult players of the present. He also takes a fateful trip to Faerie, a mystical land which has long been of fascination to Gaiman (see his "Stardust", which also shares artist Charles Vess, for another treatment of the fey world).
Fans of the Sandman series will particularly appreciate the storyline for its views of the Sandman universe, complete with cameo appearances by Cain & Abel, Morpheus, Destiny and Death. What readers are treated to is essentially a guided tour of the worlds (both in physical reality and nether regions) and timelines (the past, present and the absolute end of infinite time) occupied by the characters in the numerous volumes of the Sandman series. In a nutshell this series is grand and sweeping in every sense of the word and it's absolutely beautiful to look at.
"The Books of Magic" began life when DC Comics decided to highlight some of their mystical characters across the range. They Gaiman and asked him to come up with a four issue prestige-format series "about our magic characters". This volume fit the bill and is exceedingly enjoyable to any DC reader who have been fascinated with the magic-oriented superheroes, but can be intimidating to the less avid. Nevertheless, even for the more timid, the Vess artwork alone is worth the price of admission.
Title The Books of Magic Author Neil Gaiman & John Bolton Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
The original "The Books of Magic"as written by Gaiman was great reading. Rieber takes over writing chores for the regular series and manages to put to...moreThe original "The Books of Magic"as written by Gaiman was great reading. Rieber takes over writing chores for the regular series and manages to put together a decent arc in "Bindings".
There are a few subplots in the story, but the main driving force is Tim Hunter's battle with the Manticore. The Manticore is a changeling beast that captures children, "educates" them and eventually eats them. This is vintage Vertigo horror stuff, and is creepy enough to make you think that Gaiman might have ghostwritten it.
Great introduction by Jane Yolen and I really do agree that indeed, "The world's glue is story...To move is to miss a part of the tale."
Overall, it's an interesting tale of Timothy Hunter, perhaps the greatest magician of all time, and the illegitimate son of Tam Lin and Queen Titania of the Faeries. While I found the story tight-paced and enjoyable, I wished they'd give us a little more backstory as to how Tim knows who his true father is. But I guess readers of "The Books of Magic" would have to just find themselves copies of "The Books of Faerie" for the background story on that one. I also felt that the explanation for the dying Faerie lands was just thrown in but wasn't given a chance to be fully developed.
"Love is the stuff that keeps things moving so they stay together. Fear is the stuff that makes things hold so still they fall apart."
I was quite surprised by the cameo appearance of Death--although I have a feeling that she's going to play a greater part later in the series. I can hardly wait for that. And please, can I loiter around the Keep of the Three Enigmas a little bit longer?
The artwork was pretty bad - often it shifted from one frame to another, becoming well-defined in one frame and blurry in another. Dimensions altered. And Titania was terribly drawn - she's supposed to be beautiful; after all she's the Queen of Faerie! Charles Vess' cover artworks won't disappoint, although a lot of details were lost due to the smaller reproduction for this volume.
Title The Books of Magic: Bindings, Book 1 Author John Ney Rieber; Neil Gaiman (Consultant) Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
"The Books of Magic: Summonings, Book 2" follows the story of Tim Hunter, a teenager who is destined to become the world's greatest magician. Tim must...more"The Books of Magic: Summonings, Book 2" follows the story of Tim Hunter, a teenager who is destined to become the world's greatest magician. Tim must contend with a heartless sorcerer, tea in hell, a murderous Victorian cyborg, a whirlwind family reunion with an insanely jealous Faerie Queen and ... a first date.
Young Tim Hunter is reminded of an imaginary friend he had as a child who was killed by someone or something. In an investigation into the imaginary friend's death he enters a world where all his childhood imaginings are now real. Simultaneously we follow grown up and increasingly pitiful Tim Hunter. He visits the past to kidnap the woman of his life (in the so-called formatory) while she still loves him and to raise himself to grow up to be him. Influencing his younger self is a daunting task for him since he has traded away his childhood memories in various battles with demons.
Those are the big plots that span the shorter stories. The small plots involve a magician (of The Cold Flame that was vanquished by The Trenchcoat Brigade in the earlier book), who tries to catch Tim with his slave succubus and various characters from Victorian England who have crossed over into modern England via the land of fairy. The sucubus makes for an interesting character: at one point she lets her dinner, a live pigeon, fly free over the city and muses on her own lack of freedom. There are also parallels between her obvious position of slavery and the less obvious traps that other characters are stuck in.
The layouts felt just a tad off for me. Often I read frames out of sequence and they just didn't flow right and I get a bit disoriented. After the first story in "The Books of Magic" series was complete, Neil Gaiman vanished, leaving the series in the hands of writer John Ney Rieber. That is not entirely a bad thing, but it's not a great one, either.
While "The Books of Magic: Summonings, Book 2" is still good reading, the gap in quality between the first collection and this one is noticeable. The stories here are far more unconnected, disjointed, and episodic than those in the first collection, with only Tim to hold them together as a coherent whole.
Title The Books of Magic: Summonings, Book 2 Author John Ney Rieber; Neil Gaiman (Consultant) Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)
Artemis Fowl is a thirteen-year-old criminal genius. His father (also a criminal genius) is missing, presumed dead and his mother, now recovered (than...moreArtemis Fowl is a thirteen-year-old criminal genius. His father (also a criminal genius) is missing, presumed dead and his mother, now recovered (thanks to fairy magic) from the melancholic madness the affected her during the course of the previous novel has packed Artemis off to an expensive boarding school. There he confounds the child psychologists (he does, after all know much more about their subject than they do -- wrote the book on it in fact) and merely broods on the possibility of finding his father whom he steadfastly believes to still be alive.
A breakthrough comes when Fowl's manservant and bodyguard, appropriately named Butler, hands his master what amounts to a ransom note apparently from the Russian Mafiya and thus begins the adventure.
Meanwhile down in the bowels of the Earth, in the Lower Elements (the last Mud Man -- what they refer to us humans -- free zone on the planet, there is upheaval in the fairy domain. Colfer's fairy domain is not the one you grew up with, rather it is one hip and happening high-tech urban landscape, infested with crime and grime and the need for a police force with an arsenal. Their job isn't easy aside from dealing with the crimes perpetrated amongst their own various kinds from trolls to pixies to goblins, there is the added and ever present danger of discovery by humans.
"Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident" is wholly enjoyable on many levels. It plays with the kind of toys that are now part our everyday lives and where vital clues are transmitted by email and text messaging, ransom demands come as mpg files and added to this are some wonderful impossible inventions, the stuff of pure science fiction. I may just pick up another book from this series, however I'll probably choose one that doesn't involve too much sci-fi elements.
Title Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident Author Eoin Colfer Reviewed By Purplycookie(less)