The best short stories, especially those which deal with wild, wonderful and fantastical themes, often read like poetry. There’s a certain beauty to the way in which they crystallise their subject, draw us into the very essence of the tale, and then leave us wishing that we could spend much more time inside their fragile, beautifully sculptured worlds. Ellen Klages is one of those writers, and this fantastic and diverse collection reveals Klages at the very height of her powers.
From the charming “The Education of a Witch”, which chronicles a small child’s attachment to her Maleficent doll and the development (perhaps) of some Carrie-like powers, to “Amicae Aeternum”, a gentle sci-fi tale about two best friends who are about to emigrate to another planet, to the rich fairy tale-ish fantasy of “Sponda the Suet Girl”, to the brilliant laugh-out-loud vignette “The Scary Ham”, you’re never quite sure what to expect when one story ends and the other begins. But these four tales are only part of the journey – there’s also the lovely “Gone to the Library”, which perfectly captures that moment in childhood when reading and numbers are both filled with adventure, and the dark Alice in Wonderland gothic of Friday Night at St. Cecilia’s. The historical fantasies “Hey, Presto!” and “Caligo Lane” are wonderful, as is the poignant “Goodnight Moons”, which has a twist in the tail that breaks your heart, but don’t forget “Echoes of Aurora”, “Mrs. Zeno’s Paradox”, or the sublime “Woodsmoke”. And the list doesn’t end there.
In many ways each story is so very different, and Klages doesn’t like to be pinned down by genre. But, in many other ways, they all have something in common – most of Klages protagonists are children (even her adult protagonists don’t seem to have quite abandoned the child inside them) and there is a wonderful innocence-mixed-with-knowingness to her writing, a kind of confidential ‘sitting around the campfire’ kind of storytelling, that not only makes her characters immediately identifiable but also allows her to examine older, more grown up experience through the prism of childhood. There is genuine magic in each one of these stories – even those stories where magic is not an element - and Klages prose is so exquisite that this is the type of book you’ll want to read out loud, just to hear how the words sound on your tongue. Absolutely gorgeous.
WICKED WONDERS / AUTHOR: ELLEN KLAGES / INTRODUCTION: KAREN JOY FOWLER / PUBLISHER: TACHYON PUBLICATIONS / RELEASE DATE: 23RD MAY