New Magics by Patrick Nielsen Hayden (editor). This is the fantasy companion volume to New Skies, a collection of noteworthy science fiction stories compiled with a younger audience in mind.
Sadly, I wasn’t as impressed with this collection as with the previous volume. Partly, this is a matter of having read some of the stronger stories before (Neil Gaiman’s “Chivalry,” Doyle and Macdonald’s “Stealing God,” Andy Duncan’s “Liza and the Crazy Water Man”), but some of the other stories just failed to grab me. Ellen Kushner’s “Charis” is from the Bordertown shared world series, and doesn’t really stack up to the stories Emma Bull and Will Shetterly wrote there. Susan Palwick’s “Jo’s Hair” fell completely flat for me, because I just don’t care about the subject. And Orson Scott Card’s “Hatrack River” was faintly annoying, for no reason I can really put my finger on. It certainly didn’t inspire me to go out and read the Alvin Maker books.
There’s some very good stuff here– aside from the stories mentioned above, Jane Yolen’s “Mama Gone” is very creepy, and Sherwood Smith’s “Mom and Dad at the Home Front” puts an interesting spin on a classic fantasy trope– and a few things that fall just short– Emma Bull’s “A Bird That Whistles” was good, but felt like more of a John M. Ford sort of story– but it’s not as strong a collection as the other. Which is praising with faint damns, because New Skies was really exceptional.
All in all, it’s a collection well worth owning, for the Introduction by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden, even if you already own all the best stories in another form. And if you know someone who’s just starting to read fantasy, and could use a nice, convenient introduction to the more literary side of the field, this would be an excellent volume to get them.
(Originally posted to The Library of Babel.)