Nina Kiriki Hoffman


The Thread that Binds the Bones (1993), The Silent Strength of Stones (1995), A Red Heart of Memories (1999), Past the Size of Dreaming (2001), A Fistful of Sky (2002), A Stir of Bones (2003), Firebirds (2003), Spirits that Walk in Shadow (2006), Fall of Light (2009), Ghost Hedgehog (2011), Permeable Borders (2012)

Anthologies: Twice Upon A Time (1999), Earth, Air, Fire, Water (1999), The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002), Swan Sister (2003), Firebirds (2003), The Repentant (2003), Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City (2004), Rotten Relations (2004), The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004), The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection (2004), Maiden, Matron, Crone (2005), Children of Magic (2006), Firebirds Rising (2006), The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007), Better Off Undead (2008), Firebirds Soaring (2009), Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales (2009), The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010), A Fantastic Holiday Season (2014)

Short Stories: A Wolf in Holy Places (2009)


The Thread that Binds the Bones (1993)

I really like Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing. She hasn’t written many novels, but I’ve tried to get my hands on as many of them as I could. The Thread that Binds the Bones is out of print, but my brother found a used copy for my birthday. I saving it for when I had time to enjoy it, but staring at my bookshelves the other night, I decided that I wanted to read something that I was almost certain to enjoy, rather than taking a chance on something new.

This is one of her earlier novels, and I didn’t always find it as strong as some of her later novels (specifically, A Fist Full of Sky which has touches I just love.) However, it has most of the strengths I like about her writing, including strong characters with complex relationships.

Tom has powers he neither understands or wants, and has spent years trying to repress the visions of ghosts that he sees. Unfortunately for him, one act of charity drives him from his comfortable existence to a small troubled town. It is there that he eventually meets Laura Bolte, and their meeting will change not just their own lives, but the lives of Laura’s entire family.

The relationships between characters are my favorite part of her books. Nothing is black and white, no one is good or evil, and everyone has a reason for their actions–their justification for what they do. Although I wasn’t initially sure about the relationship between Tom and Laura, this is magic, so I eventually just accepted it.

The problem I had with this story is that some of the later actions taken by the more troublesome characters seemed, well, out of character and not necessarily believable. Although this is eventually somewhat explained, I still wasn’t sure that I believed one of the more radical conversions–things happened just a little to quickly for me to be comfortable. In my mind, the process should have taken days, rather than hours.

However, as I said earlier, the strength of her stories likes in the complexity of the relationships, and her ability to portray families for what they are: complex organisms where the interactions between members are not always quite what they seem, and the love that families have for each other is something that goes beyond petty bickering and past hurts.

The other thing I especially love about her writing, is her ability to tell a story in a single book. This is coming to be one of my favorite traits in a fantasy writer, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman has it in abundance.
If you are a fan of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing, then you will want to search out this book to read. If you have not read any of her books before, grab this if you stumble upon it, but in the meantime, look into some of her other works, including A Red Heart of Memories, A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones.
Rating: 7/10

The Silent Strength of Stones (1995)

To get it out of the way, the cover shown here? Awesome. The cover on the used copy I received? Awful. So bad that I kept putting off reading The Silent Strength of Stones even though I love Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing. I mean really, a naked woman (who is supposed to be a teenager) standing in a lake making a swoop of sparkly stars representing magic, while a guy and a dog spy on her?


Luckily, the quality of the cover was no reflection of the quality of the content.

This was, I believe, her second book, following The Thread that Binds the Bones. Although the magic is the same, the characters are not. Nick works for his father in the convenience store, and spends his free time wandering around the lake, often watching the summer visitors who stay at the summer cabins and hotels. A strange family moves in, and Nick receives multiple surprises when walks around the river to check out the family in Cabin 5.

First, it’s a good thing Nick is a teenager, and is considering being a private investigator when he grows up, otherwise his spying upon the residents would be a bit creepy. Luckily, she does a good job explaining why he started doing this, so it makes sense. If he were older it would definitely cross the line from quirk to creepy.

Second, I really liked the complex relationship between Nick and Evan. Nick does have issues, and things aren’t always resolved in the best way, the characters are teenagers, and so you expect mistakes as they try and figure things out.

Although Fistful of Sky still remains my favorite Nina Kiriki Hoffman book so far, The Silent Strength of Stones is very good and well worth reading–assuming you can find a copy.
Rating: 7/10

A Red Heart of Memories (1999)

I really like Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing. She reminds me a bit of Charles de Lint, probably because the both write about magic just under the surface of our world. Things are such that if we just looked a tiny bit harder, we’d see the magic too. It’s our world, only it’s magical. And it explains all those things you thought you saw out of the corner of your eye, but never stopped to look.

Matt has been wandering for years; never staying too long in one place, just long enough to make friends and move on to the next place. She also can talk with things. Specifically, created things. No door is barred to her, to machine too complex. But her strange talent and her past mean she is uncomfortable staying in any one place for too long.

Edmund is a witch, who wanders around trying to fix things. People or things, he goes where the Spirit leads him, and this time the Spirit leads him to Matt.

I read A Stir of Bones earlier this year, so I was already familiar with Edmund and Susan, however, A Red Heart of Memories takes place decades after, so it was really like meeting them for the first time. Which we really were, since this was written before A Stir of Bones.

I think the best part of Nina Kiriki Hoffman's writing is her characters. They seem like people you would really like to meet, except that when you think about it, they're the people that you see every day, only you cross the street when you see them coming because they look different, or you don't pay attention to them when you see them at work, maybe because you think they're boring or stuck-up.

I did get a bit confused at one point, when Matt and Edmund visited Abby, Edmund's sister. I didn't quite understand what was happening, or why. However, things were eventually explained, and made sense. But for awhile there it was slow going, as I tried to figure out what was going on.

But for the most part, I really liked A Red Heart of Memories. I didn't think the writing was quite as strong as in A Stir of Bones or A Fistful of Sky, but it is still good, and very enjoyable.

If you have not read anything by Nina Kiriki Hoffman before, this book--or any other--would be a great place to start. Although A Red Heart of Memories and A Stir of Bones contain the same characters, they are complete stories in and of themselves, and can be enjoyed in any order.
Rating: 7/10

Past the Size of Dreaming (2001)

The sequel to A Red Heart of Memories, Past the Size of Dreaming is superior to its predecessor. Which is impressive, because A Red Heart of Memories is very good.

Edmund and Matt and Suki are back at the House, and are gathering together Edmund and Suki's old friends: Julio. Deirdre. The twins. Matt isn't sure why they need to gather everyone together, only that they do.

There were many, many things I like about this story. I like the fact that Matt is getting over her need to run away from those who love her. I like Matt's relationship with Edmund. I like learning about Julio, and who he became. I like the fact that Terry wasn't quite a good person, but that they accepted her as she was. And I loved the surprises (I won't tell you what they are, lest I spoil the story. I'll just say that there were a lot of things I didn't see coming.

Suki was a little easier to deal with in this story, as she slowly learned to be more comfortable with herself. Also, she was far more in the background in this story. Really, the story belong to Matt, Julio, and Deirdre, even though they were in the background for much of the story.

Past the Size of Dreaming is a very good story--it sucked me right in and made me sit down and finish it--no leisurely pace here. The characters are excellent, and I enjoyed learning more about Julio and Deirdre. Less so about the twins, but they were interesting--especially their relationship with their mother.

Most of all I like the house and Nathan, and how they have changed in these stories. The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the way that Nathan's fate was almost an afterthought. I got the feeling that she didn't quite know what to do with him, but didn't want to leave us worrying about his future. Either that or she had plans for another book about Nathan, but hasn't yet gotten around to writing it.

The only drawback to these books is finding them. I picked up my copies from Abe Books, for there are none to be found new. But keep searching, and perhaps if there's enough demand, they'll be republished. (And then maybe I can also find a copy of The Thread that Binds the Bones.)

Although I believe that you could easily read this book without have read A Red Heart of Memories, I think that it would be better to read Past the Size of Dreaming after. Partially because the events seem tied more closely together, and partially because I feel that this is the better book, so you'll want to read it second.
Rating: 9/10

A Stir of Bones (2003)

I really liked A Fistful of Sky, as well as all of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s short stories that I have read in various anthologies, so I put A Stir of Bones on my Christmas wishlist. It’s a very short book–only 211 pages long–so I was saving it for when I didn’t have a lot of time to read.

Well, I had to get my blood drawn, so I grabbed this book to read while I was waiting. Got several chapter read, and then headed back to work. However, after dinner I picked up it back up and couldn't put it back down until I finished it.

In A Stir of Bones, Susan Blackstrom wants to escape. A chance meeting with her childhood friend Julio and his friends allows her a small escape, as well as an adventure. Okay, I realize that's a terrible synopsis, but it's hard to describe without giving anything away. Perhaps it would be better to say that despite the fact that the characters in this story are teenagers, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story--and I tend to find books about teenagers frustrating.

I love the way that Nina Kiriki Hoffman writes. There is something about her mix of characters and storytelling that I find nearly perfect. At times, the writing seems sparse, yet I still feel all the detail and ambiance, as well as the emotions of the characters.

I also really like Susan. She is unhappy, yet more together than any teenager should be. It is also interesting how the story is much dependent upon the time period. In 1981 much of what seems commonplace today was unusual then, or simply would not have happened. In that I am thinking specifically of Susan's mother, and that actions that one would expect her to take would have been, for her at that time and that place, unimaginable.

As we chomp at the bit and expect constant, ever faster progress, it is easy to forget how far we have come in just a few years.

This book is excellent, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books that she has written.

A Fistful of Sky (2004)

At loose ends, I picked up A Fistful of Sky because it was a single book and not a series. (I picked up the first book in a series by Mindy L. Klasky, and was so annoyed by the main character I put it back after 12 pages. Michael says it gets better, but I didn't have the patience.) I started the book sitting at the edge of the sofa, thinking that I'd read through a few pages to see what it was like, but it probably wasn't what I was in the mood for.

Four hours later I was stretched out on the sofa finishing the book.

I can't quite place what it is that I liked so much about this book, except that it drew me in, despite the fact that initially I wasn't sure it was what I was in the mood to read.

Set in a non-specifc current time in Southern California, the main character, Gypsum, comes from a family of true magicians (I have to admit that initially the fact she was called Gypsum annoyed me and made me wonder on earth Nina Kiriki Hoffman was thinking, but it eventually grew on me). Witches whose magic is genetic, and whose strength is variable, even skipping the occasional family member. The book starts in Gyp's adolescence, although the majority of the book takes place when she is twenty.

Although this is a coming-of-age story, it isn't an angsty one. Gypsum comes from a crazy family, but despite the craziness, she loves her family, and is close to her siblings--something I particularly enjoyed reading. It's always a nice to read about characters who don't hate their families, while not having perfect, wonderful, and completely unrealistic families.

But what I liked best was Gyp. Anyone who thinks that "Ultimate Fashion Sense" is a curse, is all right in my book. And it was the little things like that, which made the book. The interactions between Gyp and her siblings, her difficult relationship with her powerful mother, and the things she finds important.

It's a wonderful book, and although it may well be a "girl" book, I still highly recommend it.
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: July 2014

Gypsum LaZelle comes from a magical family. At some point when they are young teenagers, most LaZelle’s develop powers, but no one knows what those powers will be, or how the recipient will choose to use them.

One of the things I love so much about this story is Gyp’s complicated relationship with her family.

Live with it? I didn’t know if I could live with what had happened. In my heart there was a broken place. In the image I had of family, there was a broken place.

Well, her family itself is complicated.

Mama said, as she always did when things like that happened, that in her family, it was customary to let the kids fight it out. Dad said maybe that was why she hadn’t spoken with her two older sisters since they were teenagers.

But it’s also good. And Gyp is wonderful.

I liked spying on people. I figured I would be an anthropologist when I grew up; they were the biggest snoops I ever heard of.

I adore her.

“Quit being such a martyr. Do something mean.”

I checked the clock. About twenty minutes after eleven. I couldn’t do math with minutes! But whatever I dropped on her, it would last until around six-thirty, say. “Do you have any plans for this afternoon?”

“Stop stalling!”

“Ultimate Fashion Sense!” I yelled.

I love so much that “Ultimate Fashion Sense” is the meanest thing she could think of off the top of her head.

“Ultimate Fashion Sense? What kind of curse is that?”

“You can’t possibly wear that skirt with that blouse. Those socks!”

She glanced down at herself. “What’s wrong with my socks?”

“Ribbed socks? With plaid? Not midcalf height! Please! Either anklets or knee-highs. And your hair? How can you live with it?”

“What’s wrong with my hair?”

“You can’t go out in public with that hair. Come on.” I grabbed her arm and dragged her upstairs.
“Gyp, what are you doing?”

“I have to cut your hair. It’s imperative. No one should have to live with looking at that any longer.”

I think what I love most about this book is that her family is complicated, but there is no easy resolution to their problems. And although her mother does some pretty awful things at times, she’s not a bad person, and she’s not bad to Gyp. (It also helps that her father will stand up to her mother for her.)

There is another book with many of these characters, but I didn’t like it anywhere near as well as this story. This story hits all my sweet spots and is what I need when I’m feeling down and melancholy.

Also, this book has one of my all time favorite covers. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Ace

Spirits that Walk in Shadow (2006)

I ordered Spirits that Walk in Shadow, but because it’s a trade paperback instead of a mass market paperback, it got put on a different shelf, and I forgot I had it. But my reading binge while home sick reminded me I had another unread Nina Kiriki Hoffman book around somewhere, and I excitedly pulled it from the shelf.

Jaimie is still trying to recover from years of mis-education, but decided that it was time to attempt college. Kim has come to college trying to escape what may have been the worst six month of her entire life. They end up roommates, which may not only save Kim from her depression, but may bring Jaimie back in touch with her extended family, many of whom disowned her for her previous actions. Rugee is a Presence–a household god–who has consented to come to college with Jaimie, presumably to keep an eye on her, and to help her remain on the somewhat straight and narrow.

As with most of her other books, Spirits that Walk in Shadow is set in the same magical world as most of the rest of her books, however, the main character are different from tale to tale. Although some of the secondary characters are the same as previous books, readers should have no difficulty picking up Spirits that Walk in Shadow without having read any of Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s previous books. Which is good, because most of them are out of print and very difficult to find.

Also as with her previous books, her writing and storytelling are sharp. Kim and Jaimie are immediately sympathetic, even though they both have pasts than haunt them.

One other thing I want to note: Like Fistful of Sky, Spirits that Walk in Shadow is a young adult book. What that means in reality is no boinking and no horrible language. What I’ve also come to discover is that young adult tends to mean a higher quality of writing than some of the “adult” fantasy on the shelves. So if you’re looking for Spirits that Walk in Shadow and can’t find it, check the young adult section.

Or do what I do, and just order it on-line. Then you don’t have to feel like you need a kid chaperone to peruse the shelves.
Rating: 7.5/10

Fall of Light (2009)

The first Nina Kiriki Hoffman book I read was Fistful of Sky, which I read in a single sitting and absolutely loved.

Fall of Light is set in the same world was Fistful of Sky, only the main character is Opal, Gyp’s sister, and these events take place a year or so after the events in the first book.

Opal is a special effects make-up artist and this is her second movie working with horror “star” Corvus Weather. Corvus is seven foot two and so gets to play monsters. However, in this story Corvus is less of a monster and more of an unknown, and he’s hoping this part might get him noticed by people will to see more in him than a monster.

Unfortunately, it turns out there may well be a monster in the area–a creature who wants to use the films for his own ends.

First, the bad. I don’t like Opal nearly as well as I like Gyp. She’s not a bad character–not at all–but I kept comparing her to Gyp, and that did her no favors. For once, I think that having read a previous book was a detriment to my enjoyment of this book.

Now, onto the good. This is still a very good book. I believe that if I hadn’t been wanting Opal to be Gyp (which I shouldn’t have done, but what can I say? I love Fistful of Sky) I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. So I’d say the failure in this instance was on the part of the reader, not on the part of the write.

Additionally, like most of her books, although this is set in the same world as other books, you can easily read this book without having any other books set in this world–or even books written by Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

If you loved Fistful of Sky, read this, but remember that this is not Gyp. If you have not read Fistful of Sky or anything else by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, you can easily read and enjoy this book.
Rating: 7/10

Ghost Hedgehog (2011)

Jack is in fifth grade and can see ghosts.

Unfortunately for him, when his fifth-grade teacher dies, he discovers that ghosts can also see him, and attach themselves to him.

I love Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s writing and stories.

I love even better that eBooks can make these stories available without having to stumble upon an anthology that may or may not contain a story by authors I love. I can’t say that Amazon has made is easy for me to find these stories, but the store is getting better, and the fact that they’re available at all is pretty wonderful as far as I’m concerned.

This is a stand alone story (as many of her stories are) so if you were looking for an introduction to her style, you could certainly do so here.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Tor

Permeable Borders (2012)

I love reading Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I love both her long and short stories, though the fact she writes so many short stories makes me love her a teeny bit more.

Thus, I was delighted to find this collection of her short stories.

I’d read several of these stories in other anthologies, but even those I enjoyed re-reading.

Several stories revisit the same characters, others stand by themselves, following the theme of the anthology in which they were originally published, yet fitting well into this anthology.

In the later category is the story, “How I Came to Marry a Herpetologist” which, like several other stories, turns the usual fairy tale on upside down. It takes the story “The Fairies” by Charles Perrault and looks at what happened to other girl, after the story ended.

The story “Switched” was another twist on an old fairy tale–initially I stopped reading the story, fearing the turn it was taking, but it ended up being one I quite enjoyed.

The stories in the section “Finding Each Other” focus on two characters: Matt and Edmund. Each tale can be read by itself, but together, the follow the progression of the characters.

The section “Finding Home” may have been my favorite. I very much liked both “Key Signatures” and “The Weight of Wishes.”

One odd thing happened while I was reading these stories–several times I had to stop and remember who I was reading, because some of these stories felt very much like they could be Charles de Lint stories–which as far as I am concerned is a huge compliment, since he is one of my favorite writers.

If you have not read Nina Kiriki Hoffman, this would be a good place to be introduced to her writing.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Fairwood Press



Earth, Air, Fire, Water (1999) edited by Margaret Weis

Burning Bright - Tanya Huff
The Fire of a Found Heart - Linda P. Baker
The Forge of Creation - Carrie Channell
How Golf Shaped Scotland - Bruce Holland Rogers
The Giant's Love - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Family Secrets - Robyn McGrew
Dvergertal (Intercourse with a Dwarf) - Nancy Varian Berberick
An Elemental Conversation - Donald J. Bingle
Water Baby - Michelle West
Only As Safe - Mark Garland and Lawrence Schimel  
Out of Hot Water - Jane Lindskold
Strange Creatures - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Sons of Thunder - Edward Carmien





Twice Upon A Time (1999) edited by Denise Little

Fairy tales seen from another perspective--the wife of the giant from the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The hunter in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf who appears in multiple tales.

This book is hit and miss. Some of the stories are excellent, others are so-so. The idea of retold fairy tales is an excellent one, unfortunately not all the stories in this collection were able to pull it off as well as it should be done.

(What I found interesting is that although no single story was a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, they still managed to show up in several different tales.)

Spinning a Yarn - Jody Lynn Nye
How I Came To Marry a Herpetologist - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Puck in Boots, the True Story - Connie Hirsch
Case #285B - Ester M. Friesner
Beanstalk Incident - Jane Lindskold
Gilly the Goose Girl - Nancy Springer
Fifi's Tale - Alan Rodgers
Thy Golden Stair - Richard Parks
True Love (Or the Many Brides of Prince Charming) - Todd Fahnestock And Giles Custer
Savior - John Helfers
Wolf at the Door - Lupita Shepard
Castle and Jack - Tim Waggoner
Baron Boscov's Bastard - Jacey Bedford
Emperor's New (And Improved) Clothes - Leslie What
One Fairy Tale, Hard-Boiled - P. Andrew Miller
Feeding Frenzy or the Further Adventures of The Frog Prince - Josepha Sherman
A Leg Up or the Constant Tin Soldier (Gonzo Version) - Gary A. Braunbeck
Mrs. Myrtle Montegrande vs. the Vegetable Stalker/Slayer - Elizabeth Ann Scarborough


Of the rest of the tales, some were good, some less so. I'd pick it up if I saw it used, but I don't think it's worth the $6.99 cover price.
Rating: 5/10

The Green Man : Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Going Wodwo (poem) - Neil Gaiman
Grand Central Park - Delia Sherman
Daphne - Michael Cadnum
Somewhere in My Mind There is a Painting Box - Charles de Lint
Among the Leaves So Green - Tanith Lee
Song of the Cailleach Bheur (poem) - Jane Yolen
Hunter's Moon - Patricia A. McKillip
Charlie's Away - Midori Snyder
A World Painted by Birds - Katherine Vaz
Grounded - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Overlooking - Carol Emshwiller
Fie, Fi, Fo, Fum - Gregory Maguire
Joshua Tree - Emma Bull
Ali anugne o chash (the boy who was) - Carolyn Dunn
Remnants - Kathe Koja
The Pagodas of Ciboure - M. Shayne Bell
The Green Man (poem) - Bill Lewis
The Green Word - Jeffrey Ford

Published by Viking

The Repentant (2003) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Brian Thomsen

I love short stories, so I tend to pick up anthologies when I come across them–assuming they look even remotely interesting. The Repentant looked particularly interesting, since it had several authors I particularly like: Tanya Huff, P.N. Elrod, and especially Nina Kiriki Hoffman. And the theme was also one that interested me: supernatural creatures.

The Salem Trial by Jody Lynn Nye
Lycanthrope Summer by Jeff Grubb
The Den Mother by Edo Van Belkom
Brothers in the Flesh by Fiona Patton
Heat by Jean Rabe
She Dwelleth in the Cold of the Moon by James Lowder
Scleratus by Tanya Huff
Slaughter by P.N. Elrod
A Hollywood Tradition by Brian M. Thomsen
The Devil You Know  by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Intercession  by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The Recall of Cthulhu by Tom Dupree
Redeemed by Allen C. Kupfer

As expected, I loved the Nina Kiriki Hoffman story. Here's the first paragraph.

When Dominic Cross was nine, he watched a monster his father summoned from the netherworld escape its ensorcelled circle, kill both his parents, and devour them.

The demon then decided to adopt the boy and see to his magical training. However, the boy has to survive on his own, and learns to navigate the world. The idea behind the story was fascinating, and as always I loved Nina Kiriki Hoffman's writing. She always goes places I don't expect, and resolves her stories in ways I wouldn't have guessed. The anthology was worth buying for this story alone.


Although there were a couple of stories I didn't like, overall, it was a strong anthology with a variety of interesting and well written stories. Although I have to admit that when I see them name Martin H. Greenburg on an anthology, I'm pretty certain of liking the majority of stories.
Rating: 8/10

Firebirds (2003) edited by Sharyn November

Cotillion - Delia Sherman
The Baby In The Night Deposit Box - Megan Whalen Turner
Beauty - Sherwood Smith
Mariposa - Nancy Springer
Max Mondrosch - Lloyd Alexander
The Fall Of Ys - Meredith Ann Pierce
Medusa - Michael Cadnum
The Black Fox - Emma Bull ; Illustrations By Charles Vess
Byndley - Patricia A. Mckillip
The Lady Of The Ice Garden - Kara Dalkey
Hope Chest - Garth Nix
Chasing The Wind - Elizabeth E. Wein
Little Dot - Diana Wynne Jones
Remember Me - Nancy Farmer
Flotsam - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Flying Woman - Laurel Winter

Published by Firebird

Swan Sister (2003) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I don’t think I’ve come across a short story collection put together by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling that I didn’t like, and Swan Sister is no exception to the rule.

The stories are fairy tales retold, by a variety of authors--many some of my favorites.

Greenkid - Jane Yolen
Golden Fur - Midori Snyder
Chambers of the Hear - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Little Red and the Big Bad - Will Shetterly
The Fish's Story - Pat York
The Children of Tilford Fortune - Christopher Rowe
The Girl in the Attic - Lois Metzger
The Harm that Sang - Gregory Frost
A Life in Minature - Bruce Coville
Lupe - Kathe Koja
Awake - Tanith Lee
Inventing Aladdin - Neil Gaiman
My Swan SIster - Katherine Vaz


Nina Kiriki Hoffman once again reminds me why I love her writing so much as she retells the story of Bluebeard in "Chambers of the Heart" from the point of view of the young bride. I love how she manages to tell an entire tale in only a short story. "Chambers of the Heart" was probably the story that kept closest to the original tale, of a man who murders his brides and keeps their bodies in the basement. Yet knowing the tale made the story no less compelling.


All in all, there wasn't a weak story in this collection.

Like A Wolf at the Door, this is a collection for children and young adults. However, the stories are so well written that adults should find them just as appealing. If you like folk and fairy tales, I highly recommend this collection.
Rating: 9/10

The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm (2004) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Any time I see a fantasy anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, I’ll often as not pick it up, because I know that it’s going to be good. Usually very good. This volume however, has the added bonus of poems by both Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman.

Needless to say I snatched it up--even thought it was in hardback--when I came across it.

These faery tales are based not upon the fairies of Disney but upon the faery of folktales. As they say in the introduction:

In this book about our good neighbors, we've asked a number of our favorite writers to travel into the Twilight Realm (an ancient name for the land of Faerie) and to bring back stories of faeries and the hapless mortals who cross their path. "No butterfly-winged sprites," we pleaded. "Read the old folktales, journey farther afield, find some of the less explored paths through the Realm.

It would be hard for me not to love this book.

The Boys of Goose Hill - Charles de Lint
Catnyp - Delia Sherman
Elvenbrood - Tanith Lee
Your Garnet Eyes - Katherine Vaz
Tengu Mountain - Gregory Frost
THe Faery Handbag - Kelly Link
The Price of Glamour - Steve Berman
The Night Market - Holly Black
Never Never - Bruce Glassco
SCreaming for Aferies - Ellen Steiber
Immersed in Matter - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Undine - Patricia A. McKillip
The Oakthing - Gregory Maguire
Foxwife - Hiromi Goto
The Dream Eaters - A. W. Dellamonico
The Faery Reel - Neil Gaiman
The Shooter at the Heartrock Waterhole - Bill Congreve
The Annals of Eelin-OK - Jeffrey Ford
De La Tierra - Emma Bull
How to Find Faery - Nan Fry


All in all an excellent anthology. But I hardly expected anything less.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Viking

Rotten Relations (2004) edited by Denise Little

Rotten RelationsI was really disappointed in this collection. I had, as the song goes, high hopes, but was, in the end, let down.

I picked up the book because the idea of it sounded great: villains from fairy tales and literature telling their side of the story (much like Gregory Maguire's Wicked I believe.)

As with Twice Upon a Time, we got stories based on the same tales, several times, when there are so many other stories out there besides Cinderella, and I can only take so much of Cinderella.

Home for the Holidays - Pauline J. Alma         
With A Face Only a Mother Could Love - Jenn Reese
Switched - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Trick of the Tricksters Tricked - Josepha Sherman
Thrice Told - Von Jocks
Dynasty - Bill Mccay
Serpent's Tooth - Susan P. and Bradley H. Sinor
Mirror, Mirror - Jacey Bedford
After The Ball - Pamela Luzier
Peggy Plain - Devon Monk
Healthcliff's Notes - David Bischoff
Cuckoo's Egg - Jody Lynn Nye
Rapunzel, the True Story - Robert Sheckley
Among The Stars - Susan Sizemore
King of Shreds and Patches - P.N. Elrod

There are some good stories in this collection, such as Josepha Sherman's The Trick of the Trickster's Tricked, where we get to see the wife of Iktome, Spider, and what she's learned, living with a trickster for so long. Josepha Sherman got the Trickster tale tone perfectly. I also liked Von Jocks Thrice Told, which reminded me of a story I heard on Selected Shorts. However many of the stories came across as half-hearted attempts of the evil-doer to justify their actions.

No offense, but there's enough of that in the news and media, I don't need it in my fantasy.
Rating: 3/10

Little Red Riding Hood in the Big Bad City (2004) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers

Mallificent - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Last Day Of The Rest - Russell Davis
Jack And The B.S. - Tanya Huff
Panhandler - Alan Dean Foster
Trading Fours With The Moldy Figs - Jean Rabe
Signs Are Hazy, Ask Again Later - Fiona Patton
Puss In D.C. - Pamela Sargent
A Faust Films Production - Janeen Webb
Brownie Points - Elizabeth Gilligan
After The Flowering - Janet Berliner
Little Red In The 'Hood - Irene Radford
Exterminary - Patricia Lee Macomber
The Nightingale - Dena Bain Taylor
Meet Mr. Hamlin - Bill Willingham
If You Only Knew My Name - David Niall Wilson
Keeping It Real - Jody Lynn Nye
The Rose Garden - Michelle West

Published by DAW


The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventeenth Annual Collection (2004) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Kij Johnson  - At the Mouth of the River of Bees
Sara Maitland  - Why I Became a Plumber
M. Rickert  - Bread and Bombs
George Saunders  - The Red Bow
Vandana Singh  - The Wife
Lucius Shepard  - Only Partly Here
Steve Rasnic Tem  - Bone
Laird Barron  - Old Virginia
Neil Gaiman  - A Study in Emerald
Nathan Ballingrud  - You Go Where It Takes You
Dean Francis Alfar  - L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)
Stephen King  - Harvey's Dream
Ursula K. Le Guin  - Woeful Tales from Mahigul
Karen Joy Fowler  - King Rat
Kelly Link  - The Hortlak
Brian Hodge  - With Acknowledgments to Sun Tzu
Richard Butner  - Ash City Stomp
Michael Swanwick  - King Dragon
Patrick O'Leary  - Invisible Geese: A Theory
Patrick O'Leary  - The Perfect City
Peter Crowther  - Bedfordshire
Adam Corbin Fusco  - N007-JK1
Marc Laidlaw  - Cell Call
Philip Raines and Harvey Wells  - The Fishie
Dale Bailey  - Hunger: A Confession
Scott Emerson Bull  - Mr. Sly Stops for a Cup of Joe
Megan Whalen Turner  - The Baby in the Night Deposit Box
Paul LaFarge  - Lamentation over the Destruction of Ur
Mike O'Driscoll  - The Silence of the Falling Stars
Jon Woodward  - At the Mythical Beast
Paolo Bacigalupi  - The Fluted Girl
Kevin Brockmeier  - The Brief History of the Dead
Nina Kiriki Hoffman  - Flotsam
Dan Chaon  - The Bees
Glen Hirshberg  - Dancing Men
Theodora Goss  - Lily, with Clouds
Karen Traviss  - The Man Who Did Nothing
Shelley Jackson  - Husband
Michael Marshall Smith  - Open Doors
Benjamin Rosenbaum  - The Valley of the Giants
Thomas Ligotti  - Purity
Maureen F. McHugh  - Ancestor Money
Terry Bisson  - Almost Home
Daphne Gottlieb  - Final Girl II: The Frame

Published by St. Martin's Griffin

Maiden, Matron, Crone (2005) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes

I try to pick up fantasy anthologies when I see them, since chances are they won’t be there the next time I look. I picked up Maiden, Matron, Crone while ago, but saved it to read during the school year, because short story collections are much easier to put down than books.

Some of the stories in this collection were good, some were so-so, and a couple were quite excellent. And there weren't any stories that I absolutely hated, which is always a good thing. The best part of this collection, however, is that if focused on female characters, and for the most part strong female characters.

A Lingering Scent of Bacon - Brenda Cooper
A Choice of Ending - Tanya Huff
Strikes of the Heart - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Misery and Woe - Jean Rabe
In Sight - Charles de Lint
The Gift - Jody Lynn Nye
Bearing Life - Devon Monk
Advice from a Young Witch to an Old Priestess - Rosemary Edghill
The Three Gems of the Fianna - Fiona Patton
The Things She Handed Down - Russell Davis
Seeking Gold - Jane Lindskold
Opening Her Door - Alexander B. Potter
The Unicorn Hunt - Michelle West

Some of the stories in this collection were good, some were so-so, and a couple were quite excellent. And there weren't any stories that I absolutely hated, which is always a good thing. The best part of this collection, however, is that if focused on female characters, and for the most part strong female characters.

The excellent category started with Nina Kirki Hoffman's story "Strikes of the Heart." From what I have read, Nina Kirki Hoffman has been very good about writing good and unusual stories. It's always good to come across the unexpected, and so far her stories have all been just that. In this story, a young woman discovers that her grandmother's magic is failing and that she is the only one who can take her place and protect the land.

Rating: 6/10

Children of Magic (2006) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes

As I have mentioned on many previous occasions, I am a huge fan of short stories. Occasionally I have been disappointed, but for the most part the anthologies I have read have good, especially the one edited by Martin H. Greenberg.

The theme of Children of Magic is (as you would guess from the title) children with magic and the ability to change the world around them. The major problem with this review, however, is that I only read a one or two stories at a time, and then left the book on the headboard for a few weeks while I was reading something else (anthologies are good for that). So it actually took me several months to read Children of Magic as it dropped to the bottom of the pile in favor of whatever I was currently reading during the day (or sometimes something more boring, to put me to sleep.)

Mr. Death Goes to Washington - Alan Dead Foster
Nethan's Magic - Jody Lynn Nye
Touching Faith - Alexander B Potter
The Horses of the High Hills - Brenda Cooper
An End to all Things - Karina Sumner-Smith
After School Specials - Tanya Huff
Titan - Sarah A. Hoyt
Shades of Truth - Jana Paniccia
The Winter of Our Discontent - Nancy Holder
The Rustle of Wings - Ruth Stuart
Basic Magic - Jean Rabe
Fever Waking - Jane Lindskold
Starchild Wondersmith - Louise Marley
Far from the Tree - Melissa Lee Shaw
The Weight of Wishes - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Trade - Fiona Patton
Shahira - Michelle West


So if you like anthologies, you may want to pick up this collection. Or you could wait and see if any of these stories ends up in a “Year’s Best” collection.
Rating: 6/10

Firebirds Rising (2006) edited by Sharyn November

Huntress - Tamora Pierce
Unwrapping - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Real Thing - Alison Goodman
Little (Grrl) Lost - Charles de Lint
I’ll Give you My Word - Diana Wynn Jones
In the House of the Seven Librarians - Ellen Klages
Wintermoon Wish - Sharon Shinn
The Wizards of Perfil - Kelly Link
Jack O’Lantern - Patricia A. McKillip
Quill - Carol Emshwiller
Blood Roses - Francesca Lia Block
Hives - Kara Dalkey
Perception - Alan Dean Foster
The House on the Planet - Tanith Lee
Cousins - Pamela Dean
What Used to be Good Still Is - Emma Bull

This is a collection of fantasy, urban fantasy (minus the boinking) and science fiction. Interestingly, I didn’t mind most of the science fiction too much, though they weren’t my favorite stories in the collection.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Firebird

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love short stories. Aside from collections by Charles de Lint, I best love anthologies by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling best. Their books are like comfort food, and I save them up for when I’m sick or feeling low.

In the same vein as The Green Man and The Faerie Reel, Datlow and Windling have this time collected stories about tricksters, and they’ve got some of my favorite authors in this collection: Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.


As with many of her stories, Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s “The Listeners” is a dark at times, but it’s the dark of the truths from which we all try to hide, rather than from imaginary monsters. And of course being a trickster tale, all’s well that ends well.


If like short story collections, or trickster tales, then you will want to read The Coyote Road. It has stories from many of my favorite writers, and as with all their collections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I’ll be on the lookout.
Rating: 9/10

Better Off Undead (2008) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Daniel M. Hoyt

Anthologies edited by Martin H. Greenberg are usually ones I can pick up knowing that I’ll like the majority of stories within.

This volume? Not so much. There were a handful of stories I thought were good, but for the most part? Meh.

A Grain of Salt - Sarah A. Hoyt
The Poet Gnawreate and the Taxman - Dave Freer
The Infernal Revenus Service - Laura Resnick
Mummy Knows Best - Esther M. Friesner
Genius Loci - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Ah, Yehz - Alan Dean Foster
Gamma Ray versus Death - Carrie Vaughn
Museum Hauntings - Irene Radford
My Teras Have Been My Meat - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
The Perfect Man - Fran LaPlaca
Two All Beef Patties - Jay Lake
That Saturday - Devon Monk
Walking Fossil - Robert A. Hoyt
Night Shifted - Kate Paulk
Twelve Stepping in the Dark - Rebecca Lickiss
Gobble, Gobble, One of Us - Charles Edgar Quinn
Bump in the Night - Amanda S. Green
Separation Anxiety - S.M. Stirling


As always, I liked the story by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, “My Tears Have Been My Meat.” Sometimes dead isn’t always dead, and your friends and enemies are hard to tell.


And… that was about it. Like I said, most of the stories were meh, and some I actually disliked, but if you come across any of the above in another anthology, I highly recommend them.
Rating: 5/10

Firebirds Soaring (2009) edited by Sharyn November

Kingmaker - Nancy Springer
A Ticket to Ride - Nancy Farmer
A Thousand Tails - Christopher Barzak
All Under Heaven - Chris Roberson
Singing On a Star - Ellen Klages
Egg Magic - Louise Marley
Flatland - Kara Dalkey
Dolly the Dog-Soldier - Candas Jane Dorsey
Ferryman - Margo Lanagan
The Ghosts of Strangers - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Twilight Tales - Jo Walton
The Dignity He's Due - Carol Emshwiller
Power and Magic - Marly Youmans
Courtship - Sherwood Smith
Little Red - Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
The Myth of Fenix - Laurel Winter
Fear and Loathing in Lalanna - Nick O'Donohoe
Bone-Chewer's Legacy - Clare Bell
Something Worth Doing - Elizabeth E. Wein

Published by Firebird

Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales (2009) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

"Wizard’s Apprentice" by Delia Sherman
"An Unwelcome Guest" by Garth Nix
"Faery Tales" by Wendy Froud
"Rags and Riches" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"Up the Down Beanstalk: A Wife Remembers" by Peter S. Beagle
"The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces" by Ellen Kushner
"Puss in Boots, the Sequel" by Joseph Stanton
"The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Holly Black
"Troll" by Jane Yolen
"Castle Othello" by Nancy Farmer
"‘Skin" by Michael Cadnum
"A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente
"Molly" by Midori Snyder
"Observing the Formalities" by Neil Gaiman
"The Cinderella Game" by Kelly Link

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers


The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told (2010) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & John Helfers

I wouldn’t say the best necessarily, but it’s not a bad selection of stories. And the fact that I got to read it for free probably helped.

Appetite for Murder - Simon R. Green
Star of David - Patricia Briggs
If Vanity Doesn't Kill Me - Michael Stackpole
Grave-Robbed - P.N. Elrod
The Judgement - Anne Perry
Surprise Special Guest Appearance by... - Carole Nelson Douglas
Occupational Hazard - Mike Resnick
She's Not There - Steve Perry
Hostile Takeover - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Doppelgangster - Laura Resnick
The Necromancer's Apprentice - Lillian Stewart Carl
The Night of their Lives - Max Allen Collins
Road Dogs - Norman Partridge
Ninja Rats on Harleys - Elizabeth A. Vaughan
Stalked - Kelley Armstrong
Corpse Vision - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
The Unicron Hunt - Michelle West


I love Nina Kirki Hoffman‘s stories, so stumbling across on is always a pleasure. Terry is a witch, and although she practices some black magic, she still lives with her mother (although she is forbidden to practice in the house). She sells spells and makes plenty of money, but just doesn’t want live alone, and aside from her magic practice, she gets along fine with her mother. As with all her stories, I love the various twists.


There were a couple other stories in the collection, but I didn’t love or hate them, so all in all, this was a pretty strong collection.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Skyhorse Publishing

A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories (2014) edited by Kevin J. Anderson & Kieth J. Olexa

Fantastic Holiday SeasonI picked this collection up solely for the Patricia Briggs story, but once I saw some of the other authors, read through the stories that interested me (but skipped the ones that didn’t grab me after a page or two).

“Naughty & Nice” by Kevin J. Anderson
“Close Knit” by Nina Kirki Hoffman
“Astronaut Nick” by Brad R. Torgersen
“The Longest Night” by Mercedes Lackey
“Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebels of Hayberry” by Quincy J. Allen
“Midnight Trains” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“A Christmas Feast” by Jonathan Maberry
“A World Done In by Great Granny’s Grateful Pie” by Ken Scholes
“Santa’s Mortuary” by Heather Graham
“Yes, Virginia2097c, There is a Santa Claus” by Sam Knight
“Christmas Eve at Harvey Wallbanger’s” by Mike Resnick
“The Atmosphere for Miracles” by David Boop
“A Sufficiently Advanced Christmas” by Eric James Stone
“Unappreciated Gifts” by Patricia Briggs


“Close Knit” by Nina Kirki Hoffman is a story about family and magic and relationships and learning to do what is right and correct.

In his parents’ house, he was in his mother’s power, which made it hard to move out.

He had been hoping the split with Melissa was temporary, hoping he’d move home to her and the kids in a week. It had stretched into months.

I really so enjoy her stories.


This is a decent collection with something for everything, even if all the stories don’t appeal to everyone.
Rating: 8/10

Published by WordFire Press


Short Stories


A Wolf in Holy Places (2009)

A Wolf in Holy PlacesThis is a story of gods and men and how Loki tricked the dwarves.

It’s sad and feels much like a Norse myth.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Kiriki Publications


A website for Nina Kiriki Hoffman