readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

Under My Hat: Tales From the Cauldron – Jonathan Strahan, ed.

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*** “Stray Magic”, Diana Peterfreund
A sentimental and cute story with a message – about a kindly animal shelter worker, and the magical dog that comes into her care.

*** “Payment Due”, Frances Hardinge
After an uncaring agent repossesses her grandmother’s belongings, a young witch decides to take revenge into her own hands. A sense of street justice and a vein of real creepiness runs through this.

*** “A Handful of Ashes”, Garth Nix
A tale of a plot to overthrow the administration of a witches’ college comes with a message about bullying and sticking up for oneself. Definitely one for Harry Potter fans.

**** “Little Gods”, Holly Black
I’m sure that many people who were drawn to pick up this book will be able to relate to this story of a young woman who’s just joined a Wiccan coven. The message here, as I see it, is that although religion may disappoint, there’s true magic to be found in friendship.

*** “Barrio Girls”, Charles de Lint
A couple of bad-ass young women get their revenge on the witch who did them a bad turn. Brings new meaning to the term, ‘killing them with kindness.’

**** “Felidis”, Tanith Lee
Lovely, classic-feeling fairy tale of a young man, out to seek his fortune, who meets an unusual cat lady (in multiple senses) in the woods.

*** “Witch Work”, Neil Gaiman
a poem

*** “The Education of a Witch”, Ellen Klages
You can read this for free, here: https://archive.org/details/489684-th…
Previously read in: “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 7″ – In this exploration of sibling jealousy, a young girl takes Disney’s Maleficent as a role model – with unexpectedly dramatic results. I can’t say I can’t relate…”

*** “The Threefold World”, Ellen Kushner
Not so much a story, as an introduction to Elias Lönnrot, the 19th-century Finn who created the definitive collection of his country’s folklore, the Kalevala. It’s also an argument in favor of folklorists, and the importance of myth – even non-canonical, overlooked stories and legends.

**** “The Witch in the Wood”, Delia Sherman
A fairy tale in the classic style, telling the story of a lonely woman who uses her inherited magic to cure an enchanted prince. The traditional elements are presented in a fresh and unique way, creating a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

**** “Which Witch”, Patricia A. McKillip
I challenge anyone to read this story and not wish they were a part of the rock band described. This tale would fit in really well with Terri Windling’s ‘Bordertown’ series. However, the plot elements are very slight, and cry out for further development…

** “The Carved Forest”, Tim Pratt
In search of his rebellious teen sister, a young man discovers a witch who holds a truly creepy secret about his town. Some nice imagery here, but deducting a star for the truly annoying message that young people should have to wait until they’re 18 to make any responsible decisions about their lives.

*** “Burning Castles”, M. Rickert
A teenager sabotages her free-spirited mother’s new relationship. Does she have reason, or is it just jealousy? Disturbing and ambiguous – and sad, either way.

** “The Stone Witch”, Isobelle Carmody
Well-crafted tale, but points deducted for the assumption that anyone who chooses to remain independent and child-free must be a ‘damaged’ person in some way, who needs to be ‘fixed’ by the insertion of a needy child into their life.

*** “Andersen’s Witch”, Jane Yolen
Beautifully written, like everything Yolen does. She’s one of the few who could legitimately tackle a fairytale about the life of Hans Christian Andersen himself. However, points deducted for the totally unnecessary insertion of Jesus.

** “B Is for Bigfoot”, Jim Butcher
This is a story about standing up to bullies in school and sticking up for yourself. The supernatural elements are wholly gratuitous.

**** “Great-Grandmother in the Cellar”, Peter S. Beagle
Previously read in: “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 7” “Excellent, traditional-feeling fantasy story. A young woman is cast into a magical sleep by her no-good suitor, and her brother must call on his deceased but magical great-grandmother to help remedy the situation.”

**** “Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow”, Margo Lanagan
A fairy godmother (or, more accurately, witchy grandmother) comes to bestow magical gifts upon a newborn child – but finds more than she bargained for. Very nicely done; great imagery here. Classic fairytale elements are seamlessly woven in to a contemporary story.

3.16 average equals 3 stars.

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