Jonathan Strahan

Books: Fantasy


Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012)

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.

Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund tells of Malou, who volunteers at a no-kill shelter. When her friend Jeremy sends over a sad-looking, white-furred dog from the regular shelter, she can't believe he thought it was a golden retriever pup, nor can she believe when it seems like the pup is talking to her.

Payment Due by Frances Hardinge. Caroline lives with her Gran, but ends up looking out for her grandmother, when men come to impound her possessions. Caroline isn't so much coming into her own as she is looking out for her gran.

Garth Nix‘s story, A Handful of Ashes was, like every other story of his I've read, very good. Mari is working her way through school as a sizar. Unfortunately, like all poor children everywhere, the rich kids don't like the poor scholarship kids, and so try to make their lives a living hell. In Mari's case, however, this group of girls may succeed in more than making the lives of the sizars hell. I really liked this story.

Holly Black‘s story "Little Gods" was different from many of the other stories, in that there didn't seem to be any true witchcraft, but instead a teen wanting wicca to be something more. I have to say that at a couple points I was a little worried, but Ellery seemed more than capable of holding her own.

I love everything Charles de Lint writes. "Barrio Girls" is no exception. Ruby and Vida want magic, but when they find it, things turn out badly (as they often do) but I adore how things worked out.

"Felidis" by Tanith Lee had several interesting twists, but the best part was the cat woman. I didn't have tons of sympathy for the main character, but very much enjoyed Felidis.

I'm sorry. As much as I love Neil Gaiman, that doesn't help me enjoy poetry. "Witch Work" was wasted on me.

Ellen Klages' story "The Education of a Witch" is of a little girl who sees Snow White and falls in love with Maleficent. It's actually rather disturbing.

Elle Kushner is another who seems incapable of writing a story I don't love. "The Threefold World" is the story of Elias Lönnrot becoming a great Finnish scholar. It is very similar in some ways to Jane Yolen's story, "Anderson's Witch" in that both take historical figures and imagine how they came to study and write about the other realms. Both stories are very very good.

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

Patricia A. McKillip's story "Which Witch" was cute, but in my opinion one of the weaker stories in this collection. That said, this is an amazingly strong collection, so the story is good, just not great.

"The Carved Forest" by Tim Pratt did not head where I was expecting, but that's okay, because I like where it went. Carlos needs to rescue his sister Maria from the town witch–only Maria doesn't want to leave, and the witch doesn't want her to go, so does she really need rescued?

M. Rickert's story, "Burning Castles" was not a bad story, but it was one I did not enjoy. Again, the magic seems to be something a young teen wants more than something that actually exists. I feel terrible for Marissa, and don't think everything is okay for her by the end of the story.

Isobelle Carmody's story, "The Stone Witch" starts off as one story, then becomes another story entirely, when a woman is seated next to a child on a flight.

Jim Butcher‘s story, "B Is for Bigfoot" is actually the prequel of a story I read earlier this fall. Bigfoot hires Harry Dresden to look out for his son. I like this story a lot better than the story that comes after it.

I kinda wish the anthology had ended with Peter S. Beagle‘s story, "Great-Grandmother in the Cellar." It's a very strong story, that is a lovely twist on Sleeping Beauty.

The final story is Margo Lanagan's story, "Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow." A grandmother goes halfway around the world for the birth of her first grandchild. But when she arrives, things are not what she was expecting. This was not a bad story, but it wasn't anywhere close to my favorite.

Published by Random House

Rating: 9/10