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

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3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,206 ratings  ·  254 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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Karen
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mir
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a few exceptions (aren't there always?) a very solid collection of Victorian-set fantasy.

Fiona
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's very unfortunate timing that I'm rating this right after Ellen Datlow won the 2018 Locus Award for best Editor; it's incredibly well deserved, she's introduced me to some of my favourite authors, and I love her collections almost without exception. This is just a blip, so if you're new to her this is definitely not a representative review!

Unfortunately this was a case of reader meets book that is absolutely not for her. Luckily it was a buddy-read with Lena and Holly from Spells, Space & Sc
...more
Laurie
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Lena
E7F0775C-A524-4626-A99C-2F49DFB8392E.jpg
The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren ★★★★★
This was the best story by far! A vicious supernatural story of madness, murder, and social chasms that is layered in meaning.

3F05988C-3F85-4811-9493-78A9B343897B.jpg
Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss ★★★★☆
This is Goss dabbling in Victorian literature, feminism, mystery, and happy endings. The germ of something that would become her Athena Club series.

F29366D9-929C-4486-A38F-89288F70CD82.jpg
The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh ★★★★☆
"Underneath the tintype she wrote Mine."
A hard angry young woman uses British Voodo
...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
Lady H
Jan 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2020
It kills me to have to rate this book so low, because I truly expected to love these stories. Gaslamp fantasy sounded like something that was tailored specifically to my interests in magic and Victorian England, but sadly most of the stories in this collection were dry, boring, or utterly unimaginative; I truly struggled to get through most of them. There are only two stories in here that I can actually say I liked, and even those would not make it to any favorites list.

"Queen Victoria's Book o
...more
Alison Stegert
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of Victorian fiction, Fantasy lovers, faerie aficionados
According to Amazon, Gaslamp fantasy is "historical fantasy set in a magical version of the Nineteenth Century." While its first cousin Steampunk emphasizes mechanics, science and steam power, Gaslamp plays with magical possibilities. Check out my exposé of the genre on my website.

This anthology includes spinoffs of Dickens and references to real people of the Victorian era. Queen Vicki herself gets a cameo in at least two stories. One of her prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli, stars in The Jewe
...more
Beth Cato
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this anthology at World Fantasy Con in 2014 and had it signed by editor Ellen Datlow. Though this was one of my favorite acquisitions there, it ended up buried in my to-read pile. What a shame, because wow, this book is a treasure. Not only does it capture the essence of gaslamp fantasy by showing the diversity of the subgenre, but the stories are GOOD. I had two stories that I didn't really connect with, but the others were above-average and full of wow. My absolute favorites wee "Th ...more
ᴥ Irena ᴥ
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alex MacFarlane
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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
Marina
This anthology is a perfect collection for all 19th century/Gaslamp fantasy lovers. Most of the stories are amazing, and they cover all the reasons I adore the Victorian period for - fairy phenomena, spiritual seances, the industrial revolution, queen Victoria, sideshows, and many well-known real/fictional characters (the Bronte sisters, Scrooge, even Sherlock Holmes), in 18 exciting stories by some of the most amazing fantasy/steampunk authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Theodora Goss, Gregory ...more
Jasmine
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Raquel Evans
The first story was interesting, but I didn't really like the direction it took. The second story I didn't enjoy at all so I just skimmed to find out the ending, which was less than inspiring.

I hate to give up on all the other authors in this anthology based on two stories, but I just really don't feel like reading this book anymore.
Anna
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Three stars because this is clearly meant to include something for everyone with a wide range of styles which meant there are some which I really enjoyed and I’ll reread and others where I found myself skipping through because the styles just aren’t my thing for example - fiction where each character is named after a famous Victorian character so you’re constantly pulled out of the world.
Kira
A solid anthology. There was quite a bit of care with the stories selected and I liked that the authors were able to explain their work at the end.
Melissa
Having slowly made my way through this anthology over the course of three (!) calendar years, I have confirmed to myself that I am truly a gaslamp fantasy fan; this is one of my sweet spots. Steampunk, though technically falling under the gaslamp label, is not so much my thing. Though I did end up quite liking the steampunk story in this volume, I still had a hard time getting into it.

Anyways... this was no exception to the rule of anthologies - a few duds are unavoidable, but overall it tipped
...more
Angela
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
A.T.
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Juushika
18 Gaslamp stories, about the supernatural, otherworldly, and fantastic in or concerning Victorian England. Collections like these are worth reading for Windling's introductions alone--they're lovingly crafted, insightful overviews from someone who's spent a lifetime studying fantasy fiction. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells doesn't quite live up to that introduction: the intent is there, but the stories frequently fail to reflect contemporary fantasy elements (there's a remarkable ...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
Amy
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
ambyr
A look into the less savory aspects of the Victorian era, with some very satisfyingly creepy tales. I particularly liked the slow-build menace of "The Memory Book," the mixture of tragedy and triumph in "Phosphorous," and the voice and use of history in "Mr. Splitfoot." "La Reine D’Enfer" was fun to listen to in audio, with excellent dialect, and "Estella Saves the Village" let the collection end on a welcome note of happiness.

Weak notes for me were "Briar Rose," with its excessively blatant sym
...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
Shawn Thrasher
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Upon reflection, I enjoyed this book of short stories far more than I thought I was doing while reading it. I think my main annoyance was that the title "gaslamp fantasy" meant one thing to me (Nesbit, Diana Wynne Jones, Caroline Stevermer) but the majority of the stories weren't like that at all. There were some real stinkers (the plague of the anthology) but I ended up liking some of the stories immensely. Delia Sherman's story, from which the anthology took its name, was delightful; I wanted ...more
Michelle Hoogterp
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
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1,304 followers
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
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