Ellen Datlow

Anthologies: Snow White, Blood Red (1993), Black Thorn, White Rose (1994), Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995), A Wolf at the Door (2000), The Green Man (2002), Swan Sister (2003), The Faery Reel (2004), The Coyote Road (2007), Troll's Eye View (2009), The Beastly Bride (2010), Naked City (2011), Teeth: Vampire Tales (2011), Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (2013)



Year's Best in Fantasy and Horror


Snow White, Blood Red (1993) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I often have a hard time putting down interesting books. Which means that if I’m reading a book I real like before bed, I end up staying up past my bed time instead of falling asleep. One solution is to read non-fiction before bed. The other solution is to read short story anthologies. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high quality anthologies out there. At least, not enough to keep up with the rate at which I can read.

So I decided to go back and reread Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's fantasy anthology Snow White, Blood Red. This book has a whole bunch of things going for it at once: it's edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; it's got stories by Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint; and the stories are retellings or reinventions of folk and fairy tales. Mostly fairy tales in this book.

Plus, a gorgeous cover by Thomas Canty.

For those who are unfamiliar with folk tales and fairy tales, many of the original tales--before they got cleaned up and given to kids--were filled with sex, (in addition to the casual violence of people getting eyes poked out or chopping off bits of feet or being shoved into ovens.)

In other words, these are not stories for children.

Like a Red, Red Rose - Susan Wade
The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep - Charles de Lint
The Frog Prince - Gahan Wilson
Stalking Beans -Nancy Kress
Snow-Drop - Tanith Lee
Little Red - Wendy Wheeler
I Shall Do Thee Mischief in the Wood - Kathe Koja
The Root of the Matter - Gregory Frost
The Princess in the Tower - Elizabeth A. Lynn
Persimmon - Harvey Jacobs
Little Poucet - Steve Rasnic Tem
The Changelings - Melanie Tem
The Springfield Swans - Caroline Stevermer and Ryan Edmonds
Troll Bridge - Neil Gaiman
A Sound, Like Angels Singing - Leonard Rysdyk
Puss - Esther M. Friesner
The Glass Casket - Jack Dann
Knives - Jane Yolen
The Snow Queen - Patricia A. McKillip
Breadcrumbs and Stones - Lisa Goldstein

The Charles de Lint story, "The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep," is one of my favorites. It's a Sophie Etiole stories, however, like all of Charles de Lint's short stories, can be read and enjoyed without knowing anything of Newford. Another favorite is Neil Gaiman's "Troll Bridge." I love the idea of paths that take us off to hands hidden just beyond our sight. And I love the way that we are manipulated by the main character and the story.

I also particularly like Patricia A. McKillip's story "The Snow Queen." I reads to me precisely as a version of the tale involving grown-ups instead of children would read. Except of course that I wasn't really sure about how things would end. Some of these stories end as you would expect if you're familiar with the story, and so go off in unexpected directions, so I wasn't sure where this tale was going.

Jack Dann's story, "The Glass Casket," was another story I really enjoyed.

There were a handful of stories I didn't particularly care for, but there weren't that many. And there were different reasons why I didn't like the stories. Lisa Goldstein's "Breadcrumbs and Stones" is excellent, but I found it terribly depressing. Melanie Tem's story, "The Changelings" bothered me so much I couldn't stand to finish it. (I did vaguely remember how it ended.) It was just too awful.

Also, the stories I liked less tended towards horror. This book is a collection of fantasy and horror (as are many Ellen Datlow-Terri Windling anthologies) so I expected that there were going to be at least one or two stories that I don't care for. So it didn't really bother me.

As best I can tell, this anthology is still available, so if you like short stories, this is an anthology you won't want to miss. However, if you like anthologies, this is probably one you already have sitting on your shelves.

Published by Harper Collins
Rating: 7/10

Black Thorn, White Rose: A Modern Book of Adult Fairytales (1994) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

There were several of these collections in the 90s–and I had the first two if I remember correctly.

These are fairy tales retold–some with a change in the point of view, some retold in a modern setting, and some hewing only rather loosely the tales upon which they were based.

Words Like Pale Stones - Nancy Kress
Stronger than Time - Patricia C. Wrede
Somnus's Fair Maid - Ann Elizaneth Downer
The Frog King, or Iron Henry - Daniel Quinn
Near-Beauty - M.E. Beckett
Ogre - Michael Kandel
Can't Catch Me - Michael Cadnum
Journeybread Recipe - Lawrence Schimel
The Brown Bear of Norway - Isabel Cole
The Goose Girl - Tim Wynne-Jones
Tattercoats - Midori Snyder
Granny Rumple - Jane Yolen
The Sawing Boys - Howard Waldorp
Godson - Roger Zelazny
Ashputtle - Peter Straub
Silver and Gold - Ellen Steiber
Sweet Bruising Skin - Storm Constantine
The Black Swan - Susan Wade

I think my favorite story in the collection may be Roger Zelazny’s “Godson” which retells a tale that’s not particularly common, but one of my favorites. A boy has Death for his Godfather, and his godfather gives him gifts to use–with some stipulations. I very much like the twists that were put upon this story–especially the bicycle.

Another story I particularly liked was Jane Yolen’s “Granny Rumple”, though I’m not sure that like or enjoy are the proper terms for a story that’s a retelling of Rumplestilskin–told from the point-of-view of the widow of the man who helped the foolish girl.

“The Sawing Boys” by Howard Waldrop was another I particularly liked, primarily for the use of Prohibition Era slang. Well, that and the fact it just plain made me laugh.

So here we are walking down this (pardon the expression) road and we are looking for a phone and a mechanically inclined individual, and we are not having such a hot time of it.

Please note that these are adult fairy tales. They are in the most part true to the original tales, but most adults would find those inappropriate for children.

Published by Wildside Press
Rating: 7/10

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Ruby Slippers - Susan Wade
The Beast - Tanith Lee
Masterpiece - Garry Kilworth
Summer Wind - Nancy Kress
This Century of Sleep, or Briar Rose Beneath the Sea - Farida S. T. Shapiro
The Crossing - Joyce Carol Oates
Roach in Loafers - Roberta Lannes
Naked Little Men - Michael Cadnum
Brother Bear - Lisa Goldstein
The Emperor Who had Never Seen a Dragon - John Brunner
Billy Fearless - Nancy A Collins
The Death of Koshchei the Deathless - Gene Wolfe
The Real Princess - Susan Palwick
The Huntsman's Story - Milbre Burch
After Push Comes to Shove - Milbre Burch
Hansel and Grettel - Gahan Wilson
Match Girl - Anne Bishop
Waking the Prince - Kathe Koja
The Fox Wife - Ellen Steiber
The White Road - Neil Gaiman
The Traveler and the Tale - Jane Yolen
The Printer's Daughter - Delia Sherman

Published by Harper Collins

A Wolf at the Door (2000) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love folk tales and fairy tales, and I love the idea of stories that have been told and retold, and then finally captured on paper. The problem of course, is finding an author who is good at translating stories from an oral tradition into something that works well written.

There's something wonderful about a well-told short story, and I think that the best short stories in the world are folk and fairy tales.

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are very good at finding authors who can take these stories and retell them, and they always put together wonderful anthologies. They brought together thirteen writers for this collection of retold fairy tales.

Conder Elephant - Jane Yolen
The Months of Manhattan - Delia Sherman
Instructions - Neil Gaiman
Mrs Big: "Jack and the Beanstalk" Retold - Michael Cadnum
Falada: The Goose Girls Horse - Nancy Farmer
A Wolf at the Door - Tanith Lee
Ali Baba and the Forty Aliens - Janeen Webb
Swans - Kelly Link
The Kingdom of the Melting Glances - Katherine Vaz
Hansel's Eyes - Garth Nix
Becoming Charise - Kathe Koja
The Seven Stage and Comeback - Gergory Maguire
The Twelve Dancing Princesses - Patricia A. McKillip

Although one or two of the stories I found to be just okay, others were nothing short of excellent. It also seems as if the stories were I liked the best were towards the end of the book. For me the collection started out okay, and then got better and better the more I read.

Delia Sherman's story, The Months of Manhattan is a retelling of one of my favorite folk tales, and although the moral remains the same--always try to have something nice to say--I was somewhat disappointed by the change in the ending. I thought that Janeen Webb's Ali Baba and the Forty Aliens did a better job modifying a familiar story without making it a bit too neat and pat. And considering some of the other stories in this collection, I'm not quite certain why the The Months of Manhattan ended the way it did.

I was quite pleased by Katherine Vaz's The Kingdom of the Melting Glances, as it was based upon stories that had not heard before. The stories are, I believe, of Hispanic tradition, and most of my folktale collections are European or Asian, so I will definitely need to search for some new collections to read.

Although I don't have much of a ear for poetry, I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's poem Instructions, which was a compilation of the secrets from different stories. A Wolf at the Door, the story from which the title of the anthology was taken, was very good--especially the twist.

And I really liked Garth Nix's Hansel's Eyes. It was one of the tales that kept closely to what I like best about folk and fairy tales--the fact that things aren't always neat and nice.

Not that I think the purpose of these stories is necessarily to scare us, as much as it is to make us pay attention to what is happening around us.
Rating: 7/10

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

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 Heart - 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

The collection opens with Jane Yolen's story "Greenkid." I cannot at all think of a specific story from which this tale strung, yet it contains multiple elements of folk and fairy tales, especially the idea of never sharing your name with a faerie, for names give such creatures power over you.

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.

In other other direction, Wil Shetterly's "Little Red and the Big Bad" was as far from a traditional folk tale as you can get, yet he managed to completely recreate the feel and idea of the original tale--especially in the ending.

"The Girl in the Attic" by Lois Metzger kept the feel of a fairy tale, with its step-mother / step-daughter relationship, however, I loved the way the story turned out.

I know why Katherine Vaz's story "My Swan Sister" was last--because by the end my eyes were too blurry with tears to continue on. Very impressive for a story only twelve pages long. Although this story deviated the most from the traditional fairy tale, it was still excellent. And I particularly like how the story made me see and feel the idea of experiencing each day to its fullest.

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

And I wasn't let down. Tengu Mountain by Gregory Frost was perfect. It reminded me of any number of Japanese folktales without actually being any one of them.

Catnyp by Delia Sherman I quite liked; it reminded me a bit of a Charles de Lint story. In Catnyp, Faerie exists parallel to our world, and includes a New York Public Library that reminds me a bit of Terry Pratchett's library, only without the L-Space.

The Price of Glamour by Steve Berman was the type of tale I like best--not set in this time, and not really set in this reality. I don't have anything against fantasy set in our time and our reality (I do love Charles de Lint after all!) It's just that for me tales set in other realities are more of an escape. And often I really want to escape from this reality.

Bruce Glassco's Never Never is fantastic. I'd never thought about how Hook felt about the part he had to play in Never Never land before, and why he was so bitter about it.

One of my favorite stories was The Dream Eaters by A.M. Dellamonica. Part faerie tale, part hard boiled detective tale, it combines my favorite types of stories. I was, however, a little confused by her faerie and how time ran there.

All in all an excellent anthology. But I hardly expected anything less.

Published by Viking
Rating: 8/10

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.

One Odd Shoe - Pat Murphy
Coyote Woman - Carolyn Dunn
Wagers of Gold Mountain - Steve Berman
The Listeners - Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Realer than You - Christopher Barzak
The Fiddler of Bayou Teche - Delia Sherman
A Tale for the Short Days - Richard Bowes
Friday Night at St. Cecilia's - Ellen Klages
The Fortune Teller - Patricia A. McKillip
How Raven Made his Bride - Theodora Goss
Crow Roads - Charles de Lint
The Chamber of Music Animals - Katharine Vaz
Uncle Bob's Visits - Caroline Stevermer
Uncle Tompa - Midori Snyder
Cat of the World - Michael Cadnum
Honored Guest - Ellen Kushner
Always the Same Story - Elizabeth E. Wein
The Senorita and the Cactus Thorn - Kim Antieau
Black Rock Blues - Will Shetterly
The Constable of Abal - Holly Black
God Clown - Carol Emshwiller
The Other Labyrinnth - Jedediah Berry
The Dreaming Wind - Jeffery Ford
Kwaku Anansi Walks the World's Web - Jane Yolen
The Evolution of Trickster Stories Amount the Dogs of North Park after the Change - Kij Johnson

For those who are Charles de Lint fans, “Crow Roads” is not a Newford tale, but an excellent story nevertheless, of a girl dreaming to escape her small, restrictive life. There is little more I can cay, other than as expected, this was an excellent story.

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.

I didn’t recognize “Honored Guest” as an Ellen Kushner story initially, until the dialog started to feel familiar and the name Campion came up. Then I belatedly realized that was the Ellen Kushner story. In a way, almost wish I hadn’t recognized the name, because part of me felt the story was stronger for not being tied to that world.

But only a very small part of me.

Besides those there, all the stories in this collection were good, and most were excellent. I especially enjoyed “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman, which is somewhat of a deal with the devil story, except it’s not really the devil, though for all he does, he may as well be acting in the devil’s stead.

Another deal with the Devil story was Holly Black’s “A Reversal of Fortune.” Despite the gross out bits (considering eating candy all day is enough to make me feel ill), was an excellent story.

Some other favorites were Richard Bowes’ “A Tale for Short Days” where a trickster comes back again and again to revisit one family. “Black Rock Blues” by Will Shetterly was one story where the trickster was the main character who did the outwitting rather than being outwitted, as was Elizabeth E. Wein’s “Always the Same Story.”

Another favorite was “The Constable of Abal” by Kelly Link. The story ranged near and far and I was never quite sure where it was going, but that was ok because I was glad to be along for the ride.

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.

Published by Viking
Rating: 9/10

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 Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People (2010) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

“Island Lake” by E. Catherine Tobler
“The Puma’s Daughter” by Tanith Lee
“Map of Seventeen” by Christopher Barzak
“The Selkie Speaks” by Delia Sherman
“Bear’s Bride” by Johanna Sinisalo
“The Abominable Child’s Tale” by Carol Emshwiller
“The Hikikomori” by Hiromi Goto
“The Comeuppance of Creegus Maxin” by Gregory Frost
“Ganesha” by Jeffrey Ford
“The Elephant’s Bride” by Jane Yolen
“The Children of Cadmus” by Ellen Kushner
“The White Doe Mourns Her Childhood” by Jeanine Hall Gailey
“The White Doe’s Love Song” by Jeanine Hall Gailey
“The White Doe Decides” by Jeanine Hall Gailey
“Coyote and Valorosa” by Terra L. Gearheart
“One Thin Dime” by Stewart Moore
“The Monkey Bride” by Midori Snyder
“Pishaach” by Shweta Narayan
“The Salamander Fire” by Marly Youmans
“The Margay’s Children” by Richard Bowes
“Thumbleriggery and Fledglings” by Steve Berman
“The Flock” by Lucius Shepard
“The Children of the Shark God” by Peter Beagle
“Rosina” by Nan Fry

Viking Books for Young Readers

Naked City (2011) edited by Ellen Datlow

This collection of urban fantasy stories has several of my favorite authors, so it was a no-brainer to get. The bad thing is that I’ve been reading this collection for several months, so I now have no idea what the stories at the start of the anthology were about, which is dangerous, because it means I may end up accidentally rereading several of them.

Curses - Jim Butcher
How the Pooka Came to New York City - Delia Sherman
On the Slide - Richard Bowes
The Duke of Riverside - Ellen Kushner
Oblivious by Calvin Klein - Christopher Fowler
Fairy Gifts - Patricia Briggs
Picking up the Pieces - Pat Cadigan
Underbridge - Peter S. Beagle
Priced to Sell - Naomi Novik
The Bricks of Gelecek - Matthew Kressel
Weston Walks - Kit Reed
The Projected Girl - Lavie Tidhar
The Way Station - Nathan Ballingrud
Guns for the Dead - Melissa Marr
And Go Like This - John Crowley
Noble Rot - Holly Black
Dady Longlegs of the Evening - Jeffrey Ford
The Skinny Girl - Lucis Shepard
The Colliers' Venus - Caitlan R Kiernan
King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree - Elizabeth Bear

First up was Jim Butcher‘s Harry Dresden story “Cursed.” I’ve become frustrated by the Dresden Files series the past couple books, so a nice short story about baseball was a pleasant change. Harry is asked to find out about a possible curse on the Chicago Cubs.

Delia Sherman‘s story was next, “How the Pooka Came to New York City.” It’s 1855 and tells how a pooka came to NY with a human, Liam O’Casey.

Worth the cost of the anthology alone was Ellen Kushner‘s “The Duke of Riverside.” I love Swordspoint, and the chance to read more about St. Vier and Alec met? Bliss.

I love Christopher Fowler‘s Bryant & May mystery series. This is an unrelated stand-alone story about, well… in theory it’s about a hold up, but it isn’t. Not really.

Patricia Briggs story “Fairy Gifts” is a vampire story, but it’s not one of those vampire stories. It’s of a boy who was forced to become a vampire, and more.

Pat Cadigan’s story “Picking Up the Pieces” was another story about fairy, but it’s also about family, and a woman looking after her sister.

Peter S. Beagle‘s story, “Underbridge” was unexpectedly dark, almost more horror than fantasy. It’s about a troll. And it isn’t a nice troll.

Naomi Novik, who wrote the Temeraire series, has a non-dragon entry–another vampire story, only this one about the problems of the housing market in New York city.

I’m not certain I’d classify Matthew Kressel’s story, “The Bricks of Gelecek” as urban fantasy. It’s not a modern setting, and it’s not especially urban. It is interesting and depressing.

Lavie Tidhar’s story, “The Projected Girl” was meloncholy. A boy discovers a magician’s diary, and wants to learn more about the magician and the trick he reads about in the book.

Holly Black’s story “Noble Rot” is a ghoul love story. Really.

The last story in the anthology is Elizabeth Bear’s “King Pole, Gallows Pole, Bottle Tree.” It’s a story of Las Vegas and memory and magic. It’s also extremely good.

Although there were several stories I didn’t care for, I believe that was more a matter of personal taste than quality. And the stories I did like, I liked very much.

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: 8/10

Teeth: Vampire Tales (2011) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

This is an Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling anthology, so as always, there are fascinating bits of folklore.

Rice, not garlic, was the most effective means of keeping Chinese vampires at bay, for they had a strange compulsion to count. Throwing rice at the ghost compelled it to stop; it would not move again until each grain was counted.

“Things to Know About Being Dead” by Genevieve Valentine
“All Smiles” by Steve Berman
“Gap Year” by Christopher Barzak
“Bloody Sunrise” by Neil Gaiman
“Flying” by Delia Sherman
“Vampire Weather” by Garth Nix
“Late Bloomer” by Suzy McKee Charnas
“The List of Definite Endings” by Kaaron Warren
“Best Friends Forever” by Cecil Castellucci
“Sit the Dead” by Jeffrey Ford
“Sunbleached” by Nathan Ballingrud
“Baby” by Kathe Koja
“In the Future When All's Well” by Catherynne M. Valente
“Transition” by Melissa Marr
“History” by Ellen Kushner
“The Perfect Dinner Party” by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
“Slice of Life” by Lucius Shepard
“My Generation” by Emma Bull
“Why Light?” by Tanith Lee

“Things to Know About Being Dead” by Genevieve Valentine is the story of a young, just turned, Jiang-shi (vampire) and her grandmother, who is the only one who knows what’s happening. This story was sweet and sad and wonderful, and one of my favorites.

“All Smiles” by Steve Berman tells of a young boy running away from reform school who learns the hard way that vampires exist.

“Gap Year” by Christopher Barzak is Loretta’s story, and how sometimes childhood friends aren’t the friends you think they are.

“Bloody Sunrise” by Neil Gaiman is a poem, and I’m a heathen and just don’t get poetry. (Apologies to all my friends who are poets.)

“Flying” by Delia Sherman was another favorite story. A young trapeze artist and her parents have to stop touring when she develops Leukemia, but Lenka misses the circus and wants more than anything to return.

“Vampire Weather” by Garth Nix was a story I had not read before. Vampirism has become an epidemic, but Amos belongs to a secluded religious community that stubbornly clings to the “old ways”. For some reason, when I first read this, I thought it ended differently than it actually did.

“Late Bloomer” by Suzy McKee Charnas follows Josh, who just can’t seem to find his place and what he is supposed to do with his life. Perhaps, being a vampire isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It had a lovely line that made me think:

Odette snarled silently, showing a gleam of fang (Josh looked away; he hated thinking about where those teeth had been).

“The List of Definite Endings” by Kaaron Warren is Claudia’s story, and how she tries to find a different path. This was another story I especially enjoyed.

“Best Friends Forever” by Cecil Castellucci was another sad story, of illness and dying. But it also tells of friendship, and how friends can save and change each other.

“Sit the Dead” by Jeffrey Ford was an… odd story. Luke wants to be with Darlene, but there are certain things her family does that he has to do when someone dies, and Darlene asks Luke to sit with the dead with her Uncle Sfortunado.

“Sunbleached” by Nathan Ballingrud was definitely horror, and as such, one of the stories I didn’t like. Joshua has trapped a vampire under their house, and wants it to turn him.

“Baby” by Kathe Koja is another story in the horror genre. Another not for me.

“In the Future When All’s Well” by Catherynne M. Valente tells of a future time when suddenly, for reasons no one can figure out, people are turning into vampires. Especially teenagers.

“Transition” by Melissa Marr is another look at the downsides of being a vampire–the possessiveness and the inability to kill the vampire who turned you being two big downsides.

“History” by Ellen Kushner is the story of a history student in love with a vampire, and her frustration with his inability to remember events she desperately wants to know more about.

As always, she writes lines that I love:

He did have a cold once, for a couple of hours. He said he picked it up on the street. And that people should be forced to wear tags on their collars saying, DON’T BITE ME I’M DISEASED.

So in theory, people with allergies could keep themselves from being bitten by vampires, by pretending to have colds. That amuses me to no end.

“The Perfect Dinner Party” by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black is disturbing and creepy and again looks at the downsides of never growing older. Especially if you’re a child when you were turned. This story was disturbing, but I quite liked it.

“Slice of Life” by Lucius Shepard was another story that disturbed me. What would you be willing to do for you friend, and how can you be sure your friends love you for who you are, not just what you can do for them.

“My Generation” by Emma Bull is another poem.

“Why Light?” by Tanith Lee is the final story, and one I particularly liked. These vampires are born and not made, but different traits have different strengths.

As expected, this was a very good anthology, and although I didn’t like the horror or the poetry, that’s a failing of mine, not the anthology.

Published by Harper Collins
Rating: 8/10

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013) edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

queen-victorias-book-of-spellsQueen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Delia Sherman
The Fairy Enterprise by Jeffrey Ford
From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire) by Genevieve Valentine
The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh
La Reine d’Enfer by Kathe Koja
For the Briar Rose by Elizabeth Wein
The Governess by Elizabeth Bear
Smithfield by James P. Blaylock
The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren
Charged by Leanna Renee Hieber
Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey
Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes
We Without Us Were Shadows by Catherynne M. Valente
The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer
The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown by Jane Yolen
A Few Twigs He Left Behind by Gregory Maguire
Their Monstrous Minds by Tanith Lee
Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss

I love anthologies and I love historical fiction. So this should have been an automatic win for me.

Instead it was a two-plus year slog that I finally forced myself to finish.

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Delia Sherman is the story of an historical researcher looking for new material on the beloved queen, when she discovers hidden material under Victoria’s childhood sleep book.

From the moment her father, the Duke of Kent, died, when Victoria was eight months old, to the moment she became queen of England at eighteen, her mother and Sir John Conroy, her mother’s treasurer and secretary, oversaw every aspect of her life. They developed something they called the Kensington System, after the palace King George IV had given them to live in, designed to keep the young princess safe from infection, accident, and making her own decisions.

The Fairy Enterprise by Jeffrey Ford. A man wants to make fairies. From corpses.

From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire) by Genevieve Valentine. The catalog of the Great Exhibit of London.

Though robbed of much of her power outside the lands of her people, Salome is still presented veiled and shackled, and behind a guarded partition past which ladies and children shall expressly not be admitted, to preserve their moral character.

Interspersed with letters from Walter to his brother and from a Miss Hammond, which perhaps shows why there was a fire.

For the Briar Rose by Elizabeth Wein. I believe I was stuck on this story for several months, reading a few sentences and then switching to something else.

The Governess by Elizabeth Bear. This is an interesting twist on a fairy tale with which I am familiar.

The B____ children are named Charity, Constance, and Simon. Girls are expected to embody virtues, but boys may be themselves.

Smithfield by James P. Blaylock.

The desire to kill time is a criminal offence since we have little enough of it on this earth, but I very much wished to murder twelve hours of it in order to be about my business.

The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren.

You know that some believe that a miasma causes cholera. I believe it is the water, and that there is one source which can be guaranteed to be full of infection. It’s the Broad Street water pump. Dr John Snow has spoken of it, but he is slow to action.”


Charged by Leanna Renee Hieber.

Of all my saints, Edison, in particular, engaged me. As if I were a fisherman, he called me to abandon my nets and come follow him.… I’ve read every word my prophet has written, followed his every move, patent, and innovation. I studied his contemporaries. I puzzled over Tesla’s alternating current versus Edison’s direct. The former individual is a madman. But my prophet is a cool and capable businessman. I’m a man of particular taste, and I like the word direct. It feels right. When one is talking about a conduit of energy, the matter should flow directly from source to target. To alternate is to be inconstant. I am a director.

Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey. A reconstruction of the Fox sisters, notorious mediums.

Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes.

The pathways the Bryant and May matchwomen take home from the factory every night are marked by piles of phosphorescent vomit.

Theosophists believed that sickness, suffering, deformity, and poverty were punishments for sins committed in a past life. This belief can be dressed as God’s will, or as social Darwinism, but it comes to the same thing. It is a reassuring thought to those whose lives are not thoroughly saturated with such suffering.

It’s easy to forget how the people who indulged in afternoon tea rituals, admired clockwork-powered inventions, and wore shapely and beautiful corsets and bustles profited from the death and suffering of others every time they lit a candle. It’s easy to forget how many of them resolutely believed in social Darwinism and in the essential inferiority of all nonwhite people (among whom they counted the Irish), among other vile things.

The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer.

Without exactly saying so directly, I assured him I would do no such thing. Miss Prism’s Academy trained us well for some situations, and saying no without ever using the word was a large part of our curriculum.

The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown by Jane Yolen.

“She wanted to be God,” the queen mused.

“Why would anyone want to be God? It’s a terrible occupation.”

Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss. Imagine the characters from your favorite Vistorian novels all gathered together in one town.

Published by Tor