This was a fairly interesting book, and even though I didn't like all of the stories, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The introduction had some fascinaThis was a fairly interesting book, and even though I didn't like all of the stories, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The introduction had some fascinating material in it, and I learned a lot about horror stories in the early 19th century. It's given me a few books and other things to look into to learn and read more, which is always nice. As always, Polidori's The Vampyre is a fun read, even if it's not the greatest vampire story ever. This edition has some really nice supplementary material, including the preface that was published with the story when it first appeared. I really liked getting more of the context around the story, especially the bit where an editor of the original magazine briefly explains vampire lore of the time. Some of the stories weren't that exciting to me, since they were old enough for me to either easily guess twist or not be scared of the fear they embodied. Stories of dying and them coming back to life just don't quite work for me. However, there were some excellent tales here. Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman lacked any supernatural element but more than makes up for it with a chilling depiction of inhumanity and cruelty. The Master of Logan was a fun ghost story with some interesting background in Scottish religious issues. The Victim was a predictable but still creepy story inspired by the sadly real phenomena of people being murdered to provide bodies for dissection. My Hobby, Rather was short but it managed to create a rather creepy image that gave me a nice scare. Finally, the Sheridan Le Fanu story was definitely the best. I came to this book because I had a hankering for Gothic tales of moldy old castles with secret passages and murderous relatives, and boy did he deliver. He apparently later expanded the short story into the novel Uncle Silas, which I definitely plan to seek out. All in all, although there were a fair number of stories that I wasn't that fond of, I had a great time reading this collection. There are some good scares and it's fascinating to learn about the history of the horror genre....more
This looked like a fairly promising collection, but sadly I only really liked a few of the stories. I think the big flaw is that while the anthology iThis looked like a fairly promising collection, but sadly I only really liked a few of the stories. I think the big flaw is that while the anthology is called Fearsome Magics, the theme isn't really tight enough. I like Strahan's discussion of how magic has to have consistent rules and not just be able to do anything, and yet there isn't much consistency here. Some of these stories feature magic in only the loosest sense, or even have none at all. Grigori's Solution tries to pass off a math equation as an end-of-the-world spell and succeeds only in telling a story of people reacting to the end of the world that I've seen done much better elsewhere. Aberration is some sort of strange time travel story (or something - it was far too vague and confused), and the only piece of magic is a stone that the character believes is the cause of her wandering through space and time. Ice in the Bedroom is just as explicable as a hallucinatory total break with reality brought on by the protagonist's wife's suicide as it as as an actual magical journey to a surreal ice world.
Hey, Presto! was about a stage magician and his clever, adventurous daughter, but I did at least enjoy the story. The protagonist is the sort of spunky schoolgirl I love reading about, and the look at the backstage of a magic show was fun. My other favorites also had good female characters. The Dun Letter sees a girl pondering whether she wants to take a trip to fairyland or not, and the fairy good Where Our Edges Lie suffers in my eyes only because it treats fairly similar themes - I would have loved it more if it hadn't come in the same collection. Devil's Bridge has a heroine with a really interesting magical power that has a terrible cost - and she has to struggle with it while only being a teenager. Safe House, which sees a wizard dealing with the remnants of a horrible magic war, was also fairly good and manages to be both thought-provoking and funny thanks to the excellent narration.
Home is the Haunter was a fun story, though I feel like I've read better stories in a similar vein elsewhere. I didn't get quite enough of a sense of the characters or world to see whether I'd want to read more about them. Dream London Hospital seemed a bit like Neverwhere at first, but instead it's surreal, horrific, and just not all that good. Migration is similar, while The Nursery Corner had a good protagonist paired with a so-so plot and use of magic.
There really wasn't anything mind-blowing or life changing here. That isn't a problem when an anthology as a whole is entertaining, but when it only has a few good stories, it does become an issue. Over all, there were far too few stories that I really enjoyed, and I'm just not sure I feel that reading the ones I did like was worth the cost of admission....more
This was a fairly good collection of vampire stories. The introduction was excellent, and I learned some new and interesting things, especially aboutThis was a fairly good collection of vampire stories. The introduction was excellent, and I learned some new and interesting things, especially about the origins of folklore beliefs in vampires. The collection of stories includes a few folkloric and otherwise "nonfiction" accounts, which was nice, as I've previously encountered references to these things but never actually read them. The fiction stories were generally good. Some were complex and well written, some were actually fairly scary, and some were just fun. The biographical notes that preceded each story were generally pretty interesting, and in some cases have made me want to seek out more works by these authors. I do disagree with the editor and feel that he should have included Carmilla, and perhaps also some of the significant vampire poetry, because though this is a good selection of stories, I can't really consider it a definitive collection of Victorian vampire literature with those absences. Still, I liked this collection and had fun reading the stories it contained. It would be nice to have a companion volume by this or another editor of a similar selection of 20th century vampire fiction, both obscure and popular. The last section of this book does start into the 1900s, but only slightly. Still, if you're looking for a nice selection of vampire stories, this book is a good choice....more
This was an absolutely fantastic anthology. Most of the stories here were wonderful and I think I've got a number of new authors to look into. I couldThis was an absolutely fantastic anthology. Most of the stories here were wonderful and I think I've got a number of new authors to look into. I could go into each story and what I loved about them, but honestly, I just enjoyed almost every single one. There were some nice uses of vampires and fey here, and lots of wizards and witches, as well as less standard things. The stories were very creative and entertaining, and they are in general good examples of why I love urban fantasy so much. All in all, this was a wonderful collection, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes urban fantasy....more
This was an okay anthology, but there really wasn't anything exceptional here. The Percy Jackson story was fun and did a good job of being easy to undThis was an okay anthology, but there really wasn't anything exceptional here. The Percy Jackson story was fun and did a good job of being easy to understand regardless of how much or little knowledge the reader has of the series as a whole. Shannon Hale's story was pretty good, and my main complaint with it is that it isn't longer. I want to see more of the world and characters she's only briefly introduced. The Scout, on the other hand, ran on rather too long for me, and the twist ending didn't really work very well. Rise of the RoboShoes was the sort of childish humor that really doesn't appeal to me, but I'm sure it would be perfect for the target audience. The Dirt on Our Shoes was somewhat clever, but it had a kinda tired Adam and Eve ending to it, and the way the other characters aside from the main two were killed off didn't sit well with me. Plan B was just kinda weird, to be honest. It had potential, but the sudden perspective shift didn't work out too well, since it left some gaps in my picture of what was going on. A Day in the Life was strange. I liked it, but I'm not really sure what it's doing here or what it's trying to say. The Klack Bros. Museum was relatively good. I liked how Oppel tackled an important and disturbing period of history, and the characters were well written and interesting. The Warlords of Recess was clever and funny. It felt a bit like a Doctor Who or Sarah Jane Adventures episode, which was nice. The Ray Bradbury short story was pretty good, but I have to agree with one of the other reviewers here that it probably wouldn't do much for somebody in the target age range. I get that Scieszka wanted to include a Bradbury story since he was his introduction to science fiction, but I feel there are probably better options Scieszka could have chosen. Over all, I don't feel like I wasted my time reading this, but I honestly don't know what drew me to this collection in the first place. It's nowhere near the worst way I've spent a few hours of reading, but it certainly isn't anywhere near the best, either....more
This was a pretty good collection over all. I've read a few of the stories before, specifically Chivalry and A Bird That Whistles. Both are quite goodThis was a pretty good collection over all. I've read a few of the stories before, specifically Chivalry and A Bird That Whistles. Both are quite good, though I wonder whether a different Neil Gaiman story might have been a better choice. There was a Bordertown story in here, and has generally been the case with stories from that shared world, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It serves as further proof that I need to track down all the Bordertown stuff sooner or later. Jo's Hair was an interesting story, but it didn't really feel like it fit here. I wouldn't really consider it fantasy, though I did still enjoy it. Not All Wolves was pretty clever, and despite the introduction claiming that these stories are up to the reader to interpret, the moral was fairly obvious. Not that that's a bad thing, in this case, since it dealt with prejudice and racism. Stealing God was very fun and I definitely want to find more of the stories featuring its modern day Templar. Mama Gone was a nice vampire story with an interesting twist to it. I'd be curious to read more stories in this world where the supernatural is so readily acknowledge in what seems to be a Wild West era setting. It was funny to see a Charles DeLint story in here so soon after reading a whole book of his work, and as with those other stories, this one did not disappoint. It was another urban mythic Newford story, and in addition to my enjoyment of the story itself, it was nice to see elements from some of the other Newford stories I've read. Liza and the Crazy Water Man was a cute story and also falls into an odd category of fantasy stories I like that mix a fantasy element with a detailed look at a profession or time period I've never given much thought to, something I quite enjoy. Mom and Dad at the Home Front was a brilliant story, exploring an aspect of portal quest stories such as Narnia that I've never given any consideration too. It's an excellent perspective twist on that classic idea. The last two stories were the only ones to really disappoint. The LeGuin story wasn't bad, and it does make me want to revisit Earthsea. In fact, it did have some clever stuff with its magic. It's just that it wasn't anywhere near as good as the others in this book. The Orson Scott Card story was similar. There was an interesting magic system on display, but a lot of the aspects of the plot and setting were uninteresting or distasteful to me. I definitely won't be looking into the fantasy series that follows on from the story. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun reading this anthology, and as with any good anthology, it's pointed me at some new books and authors to explore....more
This was a mixed anthology. There are some very good stories in here. Emma Bull's "A Bird That Whistles" is the exact sort of mix of music and faerieThis was a mixed anthology. There are some very good stories in here. Emma Bull's "A Bird That Whistles" is the exact sort of mix of music and faerie that I'm very into at the moment, and thus it's probably my favorite. Robert Zelazny's story was also an excellent multidimensional adventure that felt like a science fantasy sword and sorcery tale. Terry Pratchett's story was amusing and I really liked how the narrator's voice. The Sky Sea was short but fun. The Walled Garden and True Believer were both clever stories with thought provoking endings. The Vision was fun, and The Sky Sea showed just a hint of a larger world that would be a lot of fun to explore more of. The other stories were rather disappointing, however. Fifty-Fafty really doesn't feel like it fit here and just wasn't good. Ceres Passing was clever but I found the details of the setting too distracting. Dogfaerie was okay but nothing particularly special. The Diann Wynne Jones story was unfortunately confusing and strange, which especially disappointed me. These lackluster stories were packed into the first half of the anthology, which was almost enough to make me want to stop reading. Fortunately, I ended up continuing and was rewarded with a much better second half. Still, this book could have been much improved by having a different order of stories, and I'm annoyed enough about the disappointing ones to have overall only somewhat enjoyed the collection....more
This was an excellent collection of stories. There are stories from DeLint's various major settings and characters, all of which prove to be fairly inThis was an excellent collection of stories. There are stories from DeLint's various major settings and characters, all of which prove to be fairly interesting. The two stories about vampires are especially good. I sought out this collection specifically to read them again and they are just as good as I remember. The Bordertown stuff was good and has reminded me I need to read the early anthologies in that series. The Newford stories were especially enjoyable. The characters were all well written and it was fun to see small references to different people and places show up in different stories. There's a general focus on the magic of music and art and creativity in general here, and that's something I absolutely love. "Ghosts of Wind and Shadow" is one of my favorites from this collection because it has such important things to say about music. There's also a focus on depicting characters who have troubled pasts, and often troubled presents as well. This could feel a little repetitive at times, but all of these characters were well written and felt like real people, and so I was able to tolerate a degree of similarity in general character concepts. This is advertised as a good introduction to DeLint's work and I have to say it admirably succeed for me. I already have four different books by him that I want to read thanks to this collection. This has definitely become a new favorite book, and I'm optimistic that DeLint will prove to become a favorite author....more
This was a pretty good anthology, with a fair number of great stories in it. Curses was a fun stand alone Dresden Files story and it's reminded me thaThis was a pretty good anthology, with a fair number of great stories in it. Curses was a fun stand alone Dresden Files story and it's reminded me that I really need to get around to reading that series sooner or later. How the Pooka Came to New York City had some nice commentary on the experience of immigrants and made good use of mythology to tell an enjoyable, fairy-tale-esque story. It reminds me of some of the best bits of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. On the Slide was clever, and the main character was quite well written. The Duke of Riverside was enjoyable. I liked that it centered around a gay couple, and it's made me interested in looking into the series it's a part of. Oblivion by Calvin Klein was just kinda weird and uninteresting to me. Probably one of my least favorites. Fairy Gifts was okay. I mostly liked the shifting back and forth between past and present - that's a technique for explaining character backstory that I like. It didn't really get me interested in checking out Briggs' other stuff, though. Picking Up the Pieces was pretty cool. I loved the detailed look at what Berlin right after the fall of the wall was like. The fantasy element was kept fairly mysterious, which worked well here. Underbridge was a lot of fun and pretty clever. Once again, I really liked how the protagonist was written. By the end, I didn't like him much, but he very much felt real. Priced to Sell was great. The idea of real estate for supernatural creatures was really clever, and I hope that Novik writes more about it at some point, because I'd love to explore the concept more. Weston Walks was kinda weird. Some of it reminded me of London Below from Neverwhere. I guess I kinda liked it, but it definitely didn't go where I was expecting. The Projected Girl was okay. Not bad, but it didn't really grab me, and I figured out the main fantasy element relatively early on. Guns for the Dead was really cool and I definitely want to check out the novel it's related to, because the world it shows is really well put together and I want to see more of it. And Go Like This was okay. It didn't really feel like it belonged here, though. Noble Rot was really good and really creepy. It makes me want to read more of Holly Black's work at some point. Daddy Longlegs of the Evening was kinda creepy, but the premise is just a little too odd for me to really get into it. The idea of a man-sized spider is potentially scary, but that it comes from a spider crawling into a kid's brain is just too ridiculous for me to suspend my disbelief. The Skinny Girl was quite weird in a good way. I feel more or less the same about The Colliers' Venus. With both stories, I definitely enjoyed them and the weird stuff that went on, though I am left with a feeling that there might be some hidden meaning that I've managed to miss. King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree was a really fun story. It took me a little while to adjust to the concept of the protagonist being a city (or at least the human version), but once I did, I was hooked. This is another story that reminds me of the better parts of American Gods, and I hope that Bear has written more stuff with the same characters or at least the same concept. (Also, I was once again happy to see a story centered around a gay couple.) Over all, though there were some stories here that I wasn't a big fan of, none of them were really bad, and the good ones were generally excellent. Plus, I discovered some new authors to look into, which is always a good thing....more
This was a far more mixed anthology than I was expecting. There are, to be sure, some excellent stories here. Wildfire in Manhattan is an urban fantasThis was a far more mixed anthology than I was expecting. There are, to be sure, some excellent stories here. Wildfire in Manhattan is an urban fantasy starring Loki and it was great from start to finish. The author seems to have a whole novel with the same conceit, which I definitely want to check out at some point. The Neil Gaiman story was good, though not one of his best. The Stars Are Falling was fairly good. Goblin Lake and A Life in Fiction both examined the relationship between reality and stories and came to two very different conclusions while both being very good stories. The Therapist was excellently creepy and made great use of switching between different points of view. Joe Hill's story was excellent and has definitely made me interested in checking out more of his work. Catch and Release was an incredibly disturbing and well-written story about a serial killer who has taken to leaving his victims alive. Juvenal Nyx is a good vampire story, and I'd love to read more about the main character.
However, there were also some truly awful stories. Fossil Figures tried to be interesting and was just dull and bad. Mallon the Guru was one of many examples of stories in this collection that were just boring nonsense. Far too often, the stories didn't explain enough or just sort of petered out without exploring their concept properly. The two worst stories were definitely Stories and Maiden Flight. I expect better of Michael Moorcock, given his excellently strange Eternal Champion stories, but apparently he's fallen to writing pretentious boring stories about white people doing boring rich white people things. Maiden Flight could have been interesting had there been a strong element of sci-fi or fantasy to it. Instead, there's just the barest hint of something supernatural and it instead goes on far too long. I hate to skip stories in anthologies, but this is one case in which I truly wish I had.
Over all, while there were some outstanding stories here, I'm honestly not sure I can say I really enjoyed reading the whole book. The good doesn't do quite enough to outshine the bad. The big draw for me was Neil Gaiman's name on the cover, and I guess the lesson I've learned is that while that's a good sign when he's the author, it isn't always a guarantee of top quality when he's only the editor....more
This was an excellent collection. I really enjoyed the majority of the stories, and even the ones I didn't enjoy that much were still average rather tThis was an excellent collection. I really enjoyed the majority of the stories, and even the ones I didn't enjoy that much were still average rather than bad or, in one case, too disturbing for my tastes. I will say that I'm not sure how I feel about calling this a collection of the best fantasy stories, since the editor seems to have a fairly loose definition of fantasy. It would perhaps be better called The Best British Speculative Fiction or some such. However, I'm actually kinda glad to see the wide variety of genres presented here. I also really like the way the book is organized, with adjacent stories having some sort of loose connection in terms of theme or plot elements so that there's a natural flow from one story to the next. This made the wide range of genres seem natural rather than jarring. I've definitely found a few authors I want to look into further. I think my favorite stories were The Wheel of Fortune and The Island of Peter Pandora, the latter being an absolutely brilliant reworking of Peter Pan. All in all I had a lot of fun with this anthology and I look forward to seeing what the 2014 volume contains....more
This was a pretty good collection of stories, and as with Smoke and Mirrors, there was definitely some stuff in here that's going to stick with me forThis was a pretty good collection of stories, and as with Smoke and Mirrors, there was definitely some stuff in here that's going to stick with me for a while. A Study in Emerald was amazing and I really wish there was more stories set in the Lovecraft/Holmes mashup Gaiman has created here. The world is fascinating and the conflict he presents is one I'd love to follow all the way to the end. October in the Chair was fun, though I question the need for the framing device, interesting though it might have been. Forbidden Brides... was a fun look at Gothic fiction and the act of writing in general. Closing Time and Bitter Grounds were two stories where I didn't fully follow the plot, but I really liked the atmosphere. Bitter Grounds makes me want to look for more fantasy stories set in New Orleans. Other People was quite clever. Keepsakes and Treasures was fun more for the characters of Smith and Alice than it was for the story it told. Strange Little Girls and Vampire Tarot were both pretty interesting, and I kinda want to try writing something like them. Locks, The Problem of Susan, and Instructions were brilliant and really show Gaiman's talent for telling stories about telling stories. Feeders and Eaters was a nice horrific story. Goliath was very different from what Gaiman usually writes generically, but I liked it much better than his attempts at sci-fi in Smoke and Mirrors. Sunbird was good though I've read it before somewhere. And the American Gods novella was pretty good and presents a nice twist on the Beowulf story. It does make me feel like Gaiman had intended to write a true sequel to American Gods soon after the novella, and I wonder what happened there. The other stuff wasn't as memorable or interesting to me, but overall I definitely liked this collection. Part of me wants to say that Smoke and Mirrors wins out slightly, but they're both well worth reading and serve as good introductions to Gaiman's style and work....more
This was generally a fairly good collection of stories and poems. I didn't like everything here, but there was a lot of really good stuff and even theThis was generally a fairly good collection of stories and poems. I didn't like everything here, but there was a lot of really good stuff and even the bad stuff wasn't terrible - it just didn't grab me. The story hidden in the introduction is definitely going to stick with me for a while. I also really liked Troll Bridge, Don't Ask Jack, Virus, We Can Get Them For You Wholesale, One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock, and Sweeper of Dreams. There are a few stories that I enjoyed that I've read before in other places. Most of the others were still enjoyable to a degree, and didn't totally feel like wastes of space, but I simply didn't enjoy them as much. In a few cases, it felt like there was something clever that Gaiman was doing that I didn't quite get. For example, I generally like Murder Mysteries but I'm not sure what the frame narrative is there for. In general, the stories I enjoyed the most were the ones that had an overt fantastic element that was at least somewhat explained, in the sense that it was clear what sort of magical thing or situation I was dealing with. Thus I'm glad that Gaiman's fiction overall follows this trend. I feel a bit like this might be a good starting place for people who want to try Neil Gaiman's work, since it gives a good sampling of the sort of stuff he writes without requiring an investment in a novel length plot. I did overall enjoy reading this, and I look forward to his second short story collection when I get to it....more
Out of the issues I've read, this is probably the one with the highest number of stories I've really enjoyed. There were one or two that didn't reallyOut of the issues I've read, this is probably the one with the highest number of stories I've really enjoyed. There were one or two that didn't really work for me (mainly The Miracle Cure, though the Slug story was only okay). However, the majority of the stories were very good. Oh Give Me A Home had well-written characters and was a good look at the problems of big agriculture companies like Monsanto. The Year of the Rat was an excellent story that reminded me of The Things They Carried, though with a sci-fi twist. I'm not starving for more from this world, but I wouldn't say no to another story set there. Kormak the Lucky was a clever addition to a few Viking stories and legends, and I appreciate the way the author tied the historical material to the mythology. I also liked the variety in the different elves portrayed and the dark elves were especially interesting - I'd like to see more of them. In The Mountains of Frozen Fire did an excellent job of combining a good range of pulp genres into one story and I'd certainly love to see the hinted at vampire story featuring the same protagonist. The Color of Sand was nice and heartwarming. Plus the sandcats and the magic system are pretty neat. The Woman Who Married the Snow was pretty good. I loved The Heartsmith's Daughters. It's nice to see modern things written in the style of a fairy tale. The Nambu Egg was interesting, though I admit to being intrigued more by the setting than by the plot. Over all, this was an excellent issue and well worth picking up....more