BOOK REVIEW: FEARSOME MAGICS / AUTHOR:GARETH NIX, TONY BALLANTYNE, K.J. PARKER, FRANCES HARDINGE / PUBLISHER: SOLARIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Editors don’t get nearly enough credit. A vital part of the creation process of any novel, we tend to give the writer all of the credit and pay little regard to the person who makes sure the work is the best it can be. Jonathan Strahan is an editor who has been up for a Hugo Award for his short fiction editing many times and seeing his name on the cover of a collection of short stories is a very good sign indeed; Strahan knows how to bring together lots of different tales to create the literary equivalent of a top notch dance remix.
Fearsome Magics brings together 14 short tales with the broad themes of magic and fear. Highlights include Grigori’s Solution by Isobelle Carmody; a tale that is one of the more mundane sorts of magic - that of numbers. It is full of a gentle sort of fear, however, and revolves around the discovery of a most terrible equation and how humanity deals with an impossible thing that effects them all.
Tony Ballantyne’s Dream London Hospital is interestingly surreal and quite amusing. On Skybolt Mountain, by Justina Robson, is equally entertaining but also bitter and sweet. Garth Nix’s contribution, Home is the Haunter, is a superb lesson in world building as well as a rollicking tale of knights, puppet wizards, ancient hags, and a huge cannon. Why-isn’t-she-better-known fantasy author Frances Hardinge produced a charming little tale called Devil’s Bridge for this collection. It features a lonely girl with the supernatural ability to create a bridge that will take you anywhere. Despite its brevity, the story is jam packed with stunning ideas and fantastically engaging writing that will really capture the imagination and sets the tone for the entire anthology.
Most of these tales are of the sort with a solid twist and the majority have some sort of a fantasy setting, though there is a smattering of magic in the real world-style stories. The common thread throughout is quirky, twisty tales in which magic is neither a help nor hindrance; it’s simply an added complication to already difficult lives. Though the stories themselves are very different from each other, the theme remains strong throughout and the quality consistent.
Over all, Fearsome Magics is the sort of collection you can easily dip into and pull out an enjoyable tale; a cracking collection from someone who is a master at assembling these sort of things.
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