Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

The Way of the Wizard

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Way of the Wizard (2010) 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.

In the Lost Lands – George R.R. Martin
Family Tree – David Barr Kirtley
John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner – Susanna Clarke
Wizard’s Apprentice – Delia Sherman
The Sorcerer Minus – Jeffrey Ford
Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet – C.C. Finlay
Card Sharp – Rajan Khanna
So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen – Genevieve Valentine
The Go-Slow – Nnedi Okorafor
Too Fatal a Poison – Krista Hoeppner Leahy
Jamaica – Orson Scott Card
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Robert Silverberg
The Secret of Calling Rabbits – Wendy N. Wagner
The Wizards of Perfil – Kelly Link
How to Sell the Ponti Bridge – Neil Gaiman
The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories – Christie Yant
Winter Solstice – Mike Resnick
The Trader and the Slave – Cinda Williams Chima
Cerile and the Journeyer – Adam-Troy Castro
Counting the Shapes – Yoon Ha Lee
Endgame – Lev Grossman
Street Wizard – Simon R. Green
Mommy Issues of the Dead – T.A. Pratt
One-Click Banishment – Jeremiah Tolbert
The Ereshkigal Working – Jonathan L. Howard
Feeding the Feral Chidren – David Farland
The Orange-Tree Sacrifice – Vylar Kaftan
Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear – Desirina Boskovich
El Regalo – Peter S. Beagle
The Word of Unbinding – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria – John R. Fultz
The Secret of the Blue Star – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The anthology starts with George R.R. Martin’s story “In the Lost Lands”.

You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys.
But it is better not to.

The queen should have remembered that before sending Jerais to Gray Alys to ask for something she really shouldn’t have. All in all, a good but rather depressing tale. (You’ll see that refrain several times. But that’s the advantage of an anthology: you can skip stories you don’t like.)

In the next story, “Family Tree” by David Barr Kirtley, Simon has escaped his family and built his own home in a tree, but the internecine arguments follow him when he tries to escape. It’s a reminder that it’s important to learn how to say no to your family.

I’d previously read “John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner” by Susanna Clarke in her anthology. It contains many of the things that I liked so much about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

“Well,” said Saint Kentigern, cheerfully. “Let me see what I can do. Saints, such as me, ought always to listen attentively to the prayers of poor, dirty, ragged men, such as you. No matter how offensively those prayers are phrased. You are our special care.”

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?

Jeffrey Ford’s story, “The Sorcerer Minus” was one I didn’t care for. The Sorcerer minus is a jerk. I didn’t really like spending time reading about him.

“Life So Dear or Peace So Sweet” by C.C. Finlay was one of the stories I just gave up on. I kept putting the whole anthology down because I couldn’t get into this one story, so I just moved on.

“Card Sharp” by Rajan Khanna, on the other hand, was a story I very much liked. First, for the idea of a deck of cards being magical and for a card magician calling himself Hoyle. Quentin has a deck of magical cards and one desire: revenge.

Genevieve Valentine’s story, “So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen” just didn’t work for me. I liked the idea of natural magicians being affected by climate change, but the whole environmentalism thing felt heavy-handed.

In “The Go-Slow” by Nnedi Okorafor, Nkem is a famous actor, but he wants to escape. A drive through a Nigerian go-slow where he was only supposed to go from one side of the city to another, leads to another odd attempt on his life.

I’d never read/heard about Ogbanje before. Still not sure I understand, but I still found it interesting.

The story “Too Fatal a Poison” looks at a tale from the Odyssey. Elpenor dies on Circe’s island, and Krista Hoeppner Leahy wonders why.

Also, Odysseus is kind of a jerk.

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Robert Silverberg had another magician–or in this case apprentice sorcerer that I really didn’t like. Gannin Thidrich has become an apprentice to V. Halabant, and falls in love (so he says) with her.

What a jerk.

“The Secret of Calling Rabbits” by Wendy N. Wagner was a good story that I didn’t enjoy. Rugel is a dwarf, who has spent most of his life hiding from the humans who destroyed his village. I think the ending was supposed to be happy, but it didn’t feel that way to me at all.

“The Wizards of Perfil” by Kelly Link is another story I’d read previously, in another anthology. Onion and Halsa are chosen (or not) to become apprentices to the wizards of Perfil. This story made more sense to me the second time through, but it’s still rather depressing.

“How to Sell the Ponti Bridge” by Neil Gaiman. I don’t know why I’m so fond of story about rogues. I don’t like them very much in real life (at least I don’t like the ones I’ve met) but they’re so fun to read about.

“The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories” by Christie Yant was another depressing tale. Just not for me I suppose.

Mike Resnick’s tale about Merlin, “Winter Solstice” was another thoroughly depressing ta’e. Merlin lives backwards in time, so other people’s memories are his future. He also seems to be developing dementia.

In The Trader and the Slave by Cinda Williams Chima, Linda is an enslaved enchanter. Garlock is her master, and a Trader, but the deal is never in the client’s favor. I liked this one despite the horridness of the slavery.

Cerile and the Journeyer by Adam-Troy Castro was another depressing story. I liked the Baba Yaga-esque bits of the desert and forest and wall appearing, but jeesh. Be happy with what you have.

In “Counting the Shapes” by Yoon Ha Lee, Biantha’s magic is based upon mathematics. It’s an interesting–if confusing–idea.

I did like the king, though.

“Considering the current state of affairs, I’d have to declare a chain of succession down to the apprentice cook. If anyone survives, they can argue over it. My advisors can rule by council until then.”

I didn’t much care for “Endgame” by Lev Grossman, mostly because it seemed like such a waste to use magic for nothing more than playing games.

“Street Wizard” by Simon R. Green didn’t disappoint, even though it’s not a John Taylor story. He rarely fails to make me laugh, such as with a passage like this.

I make a stop at the biggest Chinese Christian Church in London, and chat with the invisible Chinese demon that guards the place from trouble-makers and unbelievers. It enjoys the irony of protecting a Church that officially doesn’t believe in it. And since it gets to eat anyone who tries to break in, it’s quite happy. The Chinese have always been a very practical people.

“Mommy Issues of the Dead” by T.A. Pratt is a Marla Mason story, from when Marla was learning to be a better sorceror.

“One-Click Banishment” by Jeremiah Tolbert took an idea that I’ve been espousing for years and years.

And then the doc runs back to legal-speak standard bullshit. One paragraph of pure contractual evil buried in legal cruft. Clever. Nobody ever reads the user agreement text before checking the box and continuing. I’ve heard people joke that we were giving away our souls in the damned things, but I’d never seen anyone actually try it.

Of course, my theory is that companies aren’t greedy–they only take a little portion of your soul every time you read through without clicking. But with as much software as I’ve installed in my life, I’m sure I’m in hock.

I’ve actually had Johannes Cabal the Necromancer on my wish list for awhile. “The Ereshkigal Working” by Jonathan L. Howard is a short story set before the novel. I’m well-known for my dislike of zombies, but this did amuse me.

“Feeding the Feral Chidren” by David Farland was another strike out for me. Huang Fa wants to gain Yan’s hand in marraige as well as her love, but upon his return to her, he falls afoul of a magician.

I shouldn’t have liked “The Orange-Tree Sacrifice” by Vylar Kaftan. Magicians are torturing a girl to death, but little do they know, she dedicated her death to the Goddess. But I found it very hopeful.

“Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear” by Desirina Boskovich. Also not for me.

“El Regalo” by Peter S. Beagle was a nice relief after the darker stories. Angie is terribly annoyed by her younger brother Marvyn, age 8. When Marvyn becomes a witch, he gets even more annoying, but sometimes useful.

The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin was another interesting albeit terribly depressing story.

Festin is trapped by an evil wizard who seeks to overwhelm and destroy the territory Festing protects.

“The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria” by John R. Fultz was also not for me. It felt far more like a schizophrenic break than a fantasy story, which felt–not fun.

“The Secret of the Blue Star” by Marion Zimmer Bradley I’ve read several times before, and now I really really want to re-read “Thieves’ World” even though Lythande is nowhere near to my favorite character from that series.

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.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Prime Books



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