Overall Rating of the Anthology: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
1. Walpurgis Afternoon – Delia Sherman
A couple wake up in the morning to find that a Victorian townhouse has sprung up on the empty plot next door. But that is not the only strange thing about their new neighbours.
A horticolutralist and an AI researcher who are also a witches? Sounds cool, but the story was all over the place and didn’t work for me.
2. Nightside – Mercedes Lackey
There’s a strange creature ripping up people in New York and consuming their souls. Dara and her vampire friend Andre are determined to stop it.
Andre the vampire’s way of talking is way too stilted and purply and the final fight was just meh. I also didn’t care much about any of the characters.
3. The Cold Blacksmith – Elizabeth Bear
Weyland is a lonely blacksmith, waiting for his wife Olrun to keep her promise and come back to him. Instead, a young woman comes to his shop and demands that he mend her broken heart.
I liked the mythology aspect, and how it read like a fairytale, with a glass heart that needs fixing.
4. Basement Magic – Ellen Klages
Mary Louise’s mother died when she was very young. Her father is distant and her stepmother does not like her much. The only friend she has is Ruby, the housemaid, who shows her the power of magic.
I liked the idea but somehow, the story didn’t work well for me, mostly because Mary Louise didn’t come to life in the story.
5. Mirage and Magia – Tanith Lee
A strange woman moves into the city. She only leaves her house in masks and every time she does, she takes a young man with her. She releases them the next day, but they’re not the same.
Interesting setting and a really cool story. The ending screwed this up for me. It was too… neat, too classic, I didn’t care for it much.
6. Lessons with Miss Gray – Theodora Goss
A group of girls answers a newspaper ad that offers lessons in magic. And Miss Gray does not disappoint. But magic comes at a price.
I would love some lessons with Miss Gray myself. Making dreams in eggshells? Sounds cool. However, I had a hard time keeping track of the gils. Emma and Rose seemed pretty much alike to me, only the others were distinctive.
7. The World is Cruel, My Daughter – Cory Skerry
A retelling of Rapunzel from the perspective of the witch.
This was a geat story, full of fairy-tale qualities but with its own character. I loved that the witch is so complex. She does evil deeds, but she clearly loves Rapunzel.
8. Ill Met in Ulthar – T.A. Prat
There’s an asylum for psychics and Marla Mason is called in on a particularly nasty case of a psychic about to rip a hole in the fabric of the universe.
A mad psychic who pulls everyone around him into his own world, that of a pulp fantasy novel and one hell of an awesome heroine determined to ruin his day. This story was fun.
9. The Witch’s Headstone – Neil Gaiman
In a graveyard, among the ghosts, lives a boy called Nobody Owens. Close to the graveyard, in unconsecrated ground, a witch is buried and Bod is determined to help her get a tombstone.
Nobody Owens is so sweet. And I like the graveyard world. It’s a nice little story.
10. Boris Chernevsky’s Hands – Jane Yolen
Boris is part of a circus famous across the galaxy. The son of the Famous Flying Chernevskys and nephew to a talented juggler, he has just one problem: he is utterly inept at either juggling or trapeze. But then an old woman shows up in his trailer and offers him new hands.
Meh. Not my style. I like Baba Yaga stories overall and I liked the descriptions of her and her hut in this one, but… just not for me.
11. Bloodlines – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The women of the family inherit magical powers, but our protagonist, while being a daughter of the family, has only weak ones. She is only one step above poor Jacinta, who is a bastard and powerless. And she is far from beautiful, talented Elena, who is out to hurt the boyfriend who left her.
This story had an interesting premise. I really liked the setting and the description of the magic rituals.
12. The Way Wind – Andre Norton
L’Estal is a dreary place where people are sent to exile. There is magic on the road, which means they can never go back. One day, a young girl walks into the town with the Way Wind and sets up her market stall selling herbs.
Ugh the prose in this one is soooo purple. It was really hard getting through this story. It not only has weird prose, the story doesn’t really work for me either. Girls walks into town, gives magical flowers to people, leaves with these people. Only it takes forever.
13. Poor Little Saturday – Madeleine L’Engle
There is a deserted plantation home where a witch lives with a young girl, two cats, a panther and a camel.
An okay story but not entirely my thing. The characters just didn’t have much space to come to life, particularly the young girl, Alexandra.
14. The Only Way to Fly – Nancy Holder
A witch is on her way to a pensioner’s home for witches thinking wistfully about her past.
I liked the idea of witches flying on a plane, going to an old people’s home. Despite the idea, the story was just okay. Nothing special about it.
15. Skin Deep – Richard Parks
Ceren is a young wise woman. She inherited her position from her grandmother, as well as her house and her collection of skins. When she puts them on, Ceren can become someone else.
I liked Ceren and the whole skin business is interesting and really creepy.
16. The Robbery – Cynthia Ward
A GP’s home has been robbed again. She knows who it was but noone wants to work against the town’s golden boy. So she takes matters into her own hand and knots some knots.
A nice little story and I liked the concept of magic knots.
17. Marlboros and Magic – Linda Robertson
Demeter Alcmedi lives in a pensioner’s home and she’s not happy. She doesn’t have any friends there and she’s not allowed to smoke. So she does a spell that goes awry.
It was an interesting premise but spell was kinda ridiculous and the humour didn’t entirely work for me.
18. Magic Carpets – Leslie What
Two sisters live in an abusive household. Their father hits them and their mother sleeps most of the time, drunk. The only friendly face is their neighbour.
This story is okay but to be honest, it’s pretty forgettable.
19. The Ground Whereon She Stands – Leah Bobet
A woman wakes up one day to flowers growing wherever she walks. It is a spell sent by her neighbou Alice, who is in love with her.
I liked the spell, it is beautifully described, too. But the relationship between the protagonist and Alice doesn’t come to life and neither does Alice. We don’t get to know much about her.
20. Afterward – Don Webb
A computer programmer admits she is a black witch and the town she lives in starts a witchhunt.
That’s pretty much it. I liked that she was not a “good” witch and not your typicall evil black magic witch either. But I would have liked more out of this story. I particularly disliked the ending.
21. April in Paris – Ursula K. LeGuin
A french scientist of the 1500s accidentally summons a professor from the 1960s through a magic spell. And he doesn’t stop there.
The characters were just too… whiny. I didn’t care for them at all. And the ending is too neat, with both of them summoning the perfect wife for them from some remote time? Didn’t like that at all.
22. The Goosle – Margo Lanagan
A retelling of Hansel and Gretel.
This story manages to be even darker than the fairy tale original. The descriptions are graphic, the world bleak and poor Hansel is ill-treated by everyone. A good story.
23. Catskin – Kelly Link
A witch dies and her youngest takes her hairbrush, a white cat and her revenge to the witch that killed her.
Not my cup of tea. It was just too confusing. It reads like a fairy tale but not one I particularly liked. There’s too much happening. People turning into cats by wearing catskins, witches giving birth to houses, children being buried beneath houses… just too weird.
Like most anthologies, a mixed bunch. Some great ones, some that just weren’t for me.