Review: Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane / Editor: Jon Oliver / Publisher: Solaris / Release Date: Out Now
More and more often now, we’re starting to see something new when it comes to anthologies. The editor has become the DJ, mixing stories and talented writers to create a smooth work sampled from lots of sources. When it works, you get a reading experience that is more than a collection of stories on a single theme; you get a fine blend of ideas. Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane is fifteen stories that combine the themes of Magic and the modern, alongside horror and loss. It’s a cleverly compiled collection, filled with gems.
Highlights include Audrey Niffenegger’s tale, The Wrong Fairie, which features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s father and is a cunning little Victorian fairy tale with just the right amount of creepiness to work. Niffenegger is better known for her novel, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and though she’s perhaps the biggest name on the cover, the collection is packed with brilliant authors. Department 19 author Will Hill gives us Shuffle, a cracking little tale about a street magician with a broken past, unstoppable word cannon Dan Abnett contributes a topical tale of politics and conspiracy called Dirty Tricks, which not only show’s off the authors flexibility, it changes the pace of the anthology nicely, making the rest of the stories blend in well.
Other notable entries include Christopher Fowler’s splendidly horrid piece, The Baby. Fans of Fowler will be aware as to how visceral and strange his work can be, and this is no exception. If you’ve never read his work before, you’re in for a treat. On the other hand, we also have nicely understated tales with a strong, post-modern magic feel, such as Sarah Lotz’s If I die, Kill my cat, a tale of the public sector, outsourcing and shamanism which is almost strange enough to be true.
Urban Fantasy fans, horror fans and people who like a good spooky story over the winter months should take a look at this; it’s a rare short story collection that contains no low points, and Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane is filled with good tales.