Delia Sherman

Books: Fantasy | Queer

The Fall of the Kings (2002)


Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995), The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Eighth Annual Collection (1995), The Sandman Book of Dreams (1996), The Essential Bordertown (1998), A Wolf at the Door (2000), The Green Man (2002), Firebirds (2003), The Book of Ballads (2004), The Faery Reel (2004), The Coyote Road (2007), Troll's Eye View (2009), The Beastly Bride (2010), The Way of the Wizard (2010), Naked City (2011), Teeth (2011), Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012), Queen Victoria's Book of Spells (2013), Magic City: Recent Spells (2014), Street Magicks (2016)

The Fall of the Kings with Ellen Kushner (2002)

This book is set in the same world as Swordspoint, about two generations later. The story begins at the University, where Basil St Cloud is a young Doctor of History at the University. It is there that he meets Theron Campion, son of the Mad Duke and heir to Tremontaine.

I liked this book far less than I liked Swordspoint, which means that it's still a good book, although not a great book. What kept it from being great is that I just didn't care as much about the main characters as I did in Swordspoint. I was fond of some of the secondary characters, especially Justis, but I just couldn't get really attached to the main characters. I almost felt as if the author(s) knew that she (they) was (were) going to do bad things to some of the characters, and so didn't want to get too attached, so that she (they) could go through with it.

The other problem I had was that there was just too much sex for my tastes. Sure it may necessary to describe the sexual relationship between characters, because of the relationship between Kings and Wizards in history; I just don't care to read about all the details. Of course it wasn't as bad as I'm making it sound, I just would have preferred more detailed sword fights and fewer detailed sex scenes. (Which right there tells you plenty about me I suppose.)

Tied in, is the fact that when some of the characters made claims of being in love, I just didn't believe it. Lust I could believe. Obsession I could believe. But love? The story would have been far stronger if I could have believed it was a love story. I just didn't.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed the bits about research and scholarship, but then I do work in academia, so that shouldn't come as a huge surprise I suppose.

But, all in all, the book had political intrigue, romantic intrigue, and a fantastic plot, so the it is is well worth reading, despite my misgivings.

Rating: 7/10


The Sandman Book of Dreams (1996) edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer

It took me several months to read this book, not because it was boring, but because I was carrying it back and forth to work to read at lunch, or if I had to go somewhere for an appointment. This means that as I finished the last story in the book, I could barely remember the first story in the book.

I liked B.W. Clough's The Birth Day, a story of the beginning of an idea. I also liked Robert Rodi's An Extra Smidgen of Eternity, which is the second of two stories about Wanda from A Game of You. I liked A Bone Dry Place by Karen Haber, because it had several of the Endless interacting, although the story that tied everything together confused me, even on a second read. One of my favorite stories was Nancy A. Collin's The Mender of Broken Dreams. I quite liked the idea of the creatures of the realm of dream wondering about themselves. I of course loved Steven Brust's Valosag and Elet, but then I tend to love everything that Steven Brust writes, so you'll have to consider the source. One of the stories merits is that it is written as a folktale, and since I love folktales, that made it all the more endearing.

The horror tales were my least favorite. Will Shetterly's Splatter was set during The Doll's House collection in the Collectors, one of the more gruesome tales. The Writer's Child by Tad Williams is disturbing, although everything is alright in the end. But I don't particularly care for horror, so you'd best not take my opinion if you like it yourself. The stories were well written, but they were not anything that I particularly enjoy so take that as you will.

There was so much more that I wanted to say about these stories, but it's been over a month since I finished the collection, so I best say this for now, lest I forget everything.

These were stories written in the world of the Sandman, but they were not written by Neil Gaiman. If you liked Sandman and like short stories, then you'll like this collection. But if you are looking for more of Neil Gaiman's writing, or know little or nothing of The Sandman, then this collection is probably not for you.

Published by Harper Torch

The Essential Bordertown (1998) edited by Terri Windling & Delia Sherman

Essential BordertownThe Essential Bordertown is a collection of short stories set in Bordertown, the land between our world and Faerie. The stories are written with a teenage audiences in mind, with primarily teenage characters, and parts of a "traveler's guide" appearing before each chapter.

Bordertown strikes me as a cross between Sanctuary of Thieves' World and the world created by Charles de Lint. It's the area where faerie and the world of humans meets, and it's a strange place where neither magic or technology works properly, and although there are some places where elves and humans meet and get along, there are roving gangs of elves and humans who rule different parts of town, and woe to the opposite race who wanders into their territory.

Some of my favorite authors contributed to this anthology: Charles de Lint, Steven Brust, Ellen Kushner.

I particularly liked Charles de Lint's story "May This Be Your Last Sorrow", but then I think that he has his own magic in that he is able to write the most wonderful short stories.  

Although all the stories in this anthology were good, I did like some more than others. As I mentioned, I particularly enjoyed Charles de Lint's "May this Be Your Last Sorrow". I also very much liked Carloline Stevermer's story "Rag", whose characters were adults, but they were adults deal with the friendships of childhood and adolescence. The story "Half Life" by Donnard Sturgis was particularly good–I had no idea where the story was going, and was pleased with how it ended.And Delia Sherman's story "Socks" was also particularly good, although there was much that was unresolved.

As a whole, the anthology was pretty good. Unlike Thieves World the authors didn't write each others characters, but they did have a shared world, which did tie the stories together, making it something more than a simple anthology.  

I would love to read the original Borderland anthologies, however, they're out of print and I'll have to find them used if I want them. But I do recommend The Essential Bordertown to anyone who likes anthologies or any fan of the Charles de Lint.

Rating: 8/10

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

Published by Harper Collins

The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Eighth AnnualCollection (1995) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Young Woman in a Garden by Delia Sherman

Published by St Martins Press

Silver Birch, Blood Moon (1999) edited by by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Publisher: Avon Books

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.

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.

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

Black Heart, Ivory Bones (2000) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Publisher: Eos

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

Published by Viking

Firebirds (2003) edited by Sharyn November

Published by Firebird

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.

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.

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

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: Charlesde Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.

Besides those there, all the stories in this collection were good,and most were excellent. I especially enjoyed "The Fiddler of BayouTeche" by Delia Sherman, which is somewhat of a deal with the devilstory, except it's not really the devil, though for all he does, he mayas well be acting in the devil's stead.

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 theircollections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I'll beon the lookout.

Rating: 9/10

The Book of Ballads (2004) by Charles Vess

 Publisher: Tor Books  

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

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

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

Viking Books for Young Readers

The Way of the Wizard (2010) edited by John Joseph Adams

way_of_the_wizardI love anthologies. They give me an escape in bite size pieces that won't keep me up past my bed time on a work night, and they also often a wonderful introduction to authors I have not read previously.

This anthology focuses upon wizards of all sorts, doing wizardly things, though not very many evil wizards.

Delia Sherman's story was "Wizard's Apprentice" was another story I'd read previously, but enjoyed just as well the second time through. I like how I thought it was going in one direction, but it then veered off someplace else completely. Also, what's not to like about an evil wizard running a used book store?

There were multiple stories I didn't care for, but on the whole, I found it a good and enjoyable collection. After all, I don't have to read the stories I don't like.

Published by Prime Books

Rating: 7/10

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012) edited by Jonathan Strahan

This is a lovely YA anthology, with some amazing stories by some of my favorite authors. I didn't love all the stories, but none of them were bad. The theme is young witches coming of age, but the stories are far greater than that.

"The Witch in the Wood" by Delia Sherman tells of a young woman meeting her true love, and how she breaks his enchantment.

Published by Random House

Rating: 9/10

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

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.

Published by Tor

Magic City: Recent Spells (2014) edited by Paula Guran

"Grand Central Park" by Delia Sherman starts like this:

When I was little, I used to wonder why the sidewalk trees had iron fences around them. Even a city kid could see they were pretty weedy looking trees. I wondered what they'd done to be caged up like that, and whether it might be dangerous to get too close to them.

With a start like that, how can you resist?

All in all this is a marvelous collection, that I highly recommend.

Published by Prime Books

Rating: 8.5/10

Street Magicks (2016) edited by Paula Guran

Street MagicksI believe it took me less than a year to finish this anthology. Hopefully this is a new trend for me.

An interesting collection, although there were a lot of stories that were not for me.

Published by Prime Books

Rating: 7/10