Thursday, March 06, 2008

Magic in the Mirrorstone


Short story collections can be hit or miss. Happily my latest read, Magic in the Mirrorstone, was a hit. I enjoyed all fifteen stories in the collection, with only one standing out as “not so great” and only one as really “lukewarm.” The others were a pleasure to read, each so different in tone, style and plot that it was like enjoying a bunch of different dishes at a gourmet dinner. According to the subtitle these are “tales of fantasy.” Fantasy definitely pervades the collection, but the stories can also be considered horror, humor, and science fiction. I think the editor uses the term “fantasy” in the most general of terms. Don’t expect wizards and dragons, at least not in every story. Do expect to be dazzled.

My favorites of the collection were “Have You Ever Seen a Shoggoth” and “Out of Her Element,” and they couldn’t possibly have been more different from the other. In the first, the author pays homage to H.P. Lovecraft as she tells the tale of a frog-like high school loner whose interest in the Outer Gods may help him eke out his revenge on the school bullies. In “Out of Her Element,” set in the nineteenth century, our story’s heroine must make a moral decision when an alchemist suspects he has found the cure for her terminal tuberculosis—though it means the death of another.

I also quite liked “The Jewel of Abandon” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. This is the first piece of her writing I have ever read and it compels me to try more. Imagine you had a magic ring that showed you what anyone was doing at any time. Great, right? Not if it only showed you dark things, or it if twisted reality to seem sinister. And not great if it turned out that the urge to look in the ring was truly addictive. Other stories that won my respect were: “Veronica Brown,”by Sean Manseau, which I found absolutely hilarious, and “Blackwater Baby,” by Tiffany Trent, told from the point of view of a priest who works to keep the fey from taking over our world. I loved this one and intend to read more of the author as soon as possible. (That won’t be overly soon considering the looming stack of books that await my attention.) In fact, I think I need to tie “Blackwater Baby” with my other two favorites of the collection.




Another great read was “The Amulet of Winter” (not to be confused with “The Jewel of Abandon”) about a thief who is sent to steal an amulet and finds himself temporarily thwarted by. . . a librarian! Of course I loved that. Surprisingly the only short story that disappointed me in this collection was the one that had inspired me to pick up the book in the first place, and that was the Holly Black story. I love Holly Black’s books, and I'd expected to love the story. It was well-written, featuring the types of characters I enjoy seeing her depict, but either I didn’t quite get this one or it just didn’t gel for me somehow. That said, it was still a beautiful read. I don’t count it as the lukewarm or the not-so-good, just disappointing.

Despite a few let downs, I’d highly recommend this book, to both teens and adults. It’s been awhile since I have enjoyed a short story collection so much or found so many stories of such high quality.

3 comments:

Steve Berman said...

Thank you for the kind words about the book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Lawrence M. Schoen said...

Hi, there! Lawrence M. Schoen, here, the author of "The Amulet of Winter" from Magic in the Mirrorstone.

I love that librarians are enjoying this book, and especially my story. A couple months back I was privileged to sign copies of the book at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Phiadelphia and meet many many many librarians. The publisher gave away a lot of books, and I was particularly delighted by the librarians who asked me to personalize the book to their library rather than to themselves, as they intended to donate their copy of MitM to their branch.

Librarians rock!

Merideth said...

Karen,

A Fist Full of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is one of my favorite "Urban Fantasy" books ever. If you're looking for more of her writing, I would start there.

Merideth