Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Fair Folk - ed Marvin Kaye

I approached The Fair Folk knowing nothing about it except it was an anthology of fairy stories, and that it won the World Fantasy Award. Nothing prepared me for how wonderful, delightful, exciting and good these stories were.

The anthology contains 6 stories:
"The Kelpie" by Patricia McKillip - this was one of the more magical stories, as one would expect from McKillip. She sets it in Bohemian London in an enclave of artists. What happens when they go up North, will leave an indelible impression on your mind of the north of England and the old stories of what lives under the waves.

"Except the Queen" by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder. Wow. I want more of this story! They packed what could have been a whole novel into this novella. I want to know more about their world - the Fairy Queen is as cold as you would expect, except....except she is the queen, and what she does is amazing and powerful. And the two sisters and what happens to them - and the little touches of homey magics and herbs and spells, how they find their way in our world - this was a story of Faerie that is stunning.

"UOUS" by Tanith Lee - funny, and twisted in the way only Tanith Lee can pull off. Beware of wishes.....of speaking when you think you are alone. this was the most bittersweet story in the collection, which is much how humans feel after fairies reach over and touch us....

"Grace Notes" by Megan Lindholm - sweet, very sweet. I thought I didn't like the main character at first, but she makes him into a very unlikely modern man hero. This story is what would probably happen to us if we did have a brownie in our home!! I really liked the characters and story here.

"The Gypsies in The Wood" by Kim Newman - Wow. I am still thinking over this story, the ending, the characters. I feel like I stepped into a book, reading this - the characters are so well-developed, and the story is a thrilling, magical re-working of what happens when your children play in the tiniest of woodlots by themselves. Eery, haunting, and scary in places - faeries aren't fun, they have their own lives and this along with "Except the Queen" really give us the sense of danger that comes with fairies. This story has a knock-out ending, and I can't get it out of my head, it was that good. Brilliant.

And last, but not least, Craig Shaw Gardner's "An Embarrassment of Elves" - sheer delight. I laughed out loud in places, and am now wondering if I should pick up one of his novels because I enjoyed this one so much. There are six books in the Ebenezum the Wizard stories, and this is a new short story in that world using all the characters from the novels - Wuntvor is apprentice is hilarious, as are all the companions. And what the elves do with their magic - well, the results are funny, and fun.

This was one of my favourite reads of the year so far. If you haven't read it yet, and are part of the Once Uon a time Challenge, then try to get a copy of this. And if you're not part of the challenge and like fairy stories, I really think you will find something to enjoy in this book. It won the World Fantasy Award for a very good reason - really good fairy stories. And it's not just the fairy aspect, this all were well-written - the stories were complete, characters well-rounded and interesting, and I never knew exactly where the plot was going, so each was a surprise and pulled me in and kept me there.

This one comes highly recommended, Gentle Readers. I will be keeping this one and re-reading it over the years, I think. An instant classic, or it should be!!!


Anonymous said...

This hasn't come across my radar before, but is definitely a book I must search out. I love Lindholm as Robin Hobb, but haven't read anything by her in this guise so this would be a good way in. And Jane Yolen's books for children are wonderful. Anything by her is a must. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

GeraniumCat said...

This sounds good - several writers I like very much (McKillip, Lindholm). I must look out for it. My interest in fairy tales is never far below the surface, and has been rekindled by the Once upon a Time Challenge - I wish it would go on longer!

Kim L said...

This sounds like a great read. I hadn't heard of it before. But I love retold fairy tales.

Rhinoa said...

This sounds like a lovely collection with some great authors. Thanks for letting me know about it as I hadn't heard of it before. I have been reading lots of Ellen Datlow and Terrin Windling anthologies this year you are sure to enjoy as they are full of adult re-tellings of fairy tales from similar authors.

Susan said...

table talk: I came across this book in Locus, the science fiction book publishing magazine - one of the reviewers mentioned it, after it won the World Fantasy Award. I get Locus regularly, because one day I hope to get published as a fantasy writer!! in the meantime, it's the best place to find what's being published in the fantasy world, and get quick reviews.

geraniumcat: I wish the challenge would go on longer too! I have bought so many new-to-me fantasies to read, and now the challenge is about to end! And they don't really fit into many other challenges, do they?

kim l: you should be able to find it, and it's paperback, too, so cheap. The more I think about this collection, the more I love it!

rhinoa: I have read a few of their anthologies; unfortunately a friend of a friend borrowed two and still hasn't returned them, so I 'm in the process of replacing some as well. Later this year I have one of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror by them to read :-) Have you read any of those? I love their anthologies! I'm trying to find a copy of Wood Wife now since everyone seems to love it so....

Nymeth said...

I didn't know Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder had written a story together! That alone would make me want this book. But there's much more than that, of course. I really want this book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Susan :)

Susan said...

nymeth: it's a pleasure, as always, and I knew you would want to read this!