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Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Courts of the Fey" Anthology

Title:  Courts of the Fey anthology
Editors:  Martin H. Greenberg & Russell Davis

Authors:  Lilith Saintcrow, Sarah Hoyt, Mary Robinette Kowal, Paul Crilley, Rob Thurman, Jenifer Ruth, Kerrie Hughes, Dean Wesley Smith, J. A. Pitts, Jane Lindskold, Amber Benson, & Michelle Sagara

Plot Type:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Daw, 2011

     This is one of the better anthologies that I've read recently, with its collection of 12 short stories about life in the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts of the faerie world. Listed below are the authors and titles along with the first line(s) from each story and a very brief comment. The best stories are by Saintcrow, Kowal, Thurman, Hughes, Lindskold, and Sagara.        

"Gallow's Rescue, by Lilith Saintcrow 
Ratings: (Violence-3; Sensuality-0; Humor-1)
Opening Sentence: "He sat straight up in bed, the marks normal humans would mistake for tribal tattoos writhing on his arms."
     Gallow, a Fae widower, tries to make amends for his poor treatment of his lost loveRobin Ragged, the faerie sister of his dead human wifeby risking his life to save her from the hounds of the Unwinter Faerie King. Nice story, with a "to-be-continued" ending.

"An Answer from the North," by Sarah Hoyt (aka Elise Hyatt, Sarah D'Almeida)
Ratings: (Violence-1; Sensuality-0; Humor-1)
Opening Sentence: "Along the perfect corridors of the glittering palace of air and light, the intruder came striding."
     A faerie king seeks help from his former lover (now, his enemy) when a human man enters his palace uninvited, making demands and threatening to destroy his kingdom. 

"Goodhouse Keeping," by Mary Robinette Kowal 
Ratings: (Violence-4; Sensuality-0; Humor-3)
Opening Sentence: "The door to Grace's home office was open, the computer screen glowing with welcome."
     Grace, the human foster daughter of the faerie queen, must take action, along with her resident brownies and hobgoblins, to save a human womana goodwifewho is threatened by a bogeyman disguised as her human boyfriend. This story has more violence than most of the rest.

"The Song of the Wind," by Paul Crilley 
Ratings: (Violence-2; Sensuality-0; Humor-1)
Opening Sentence: "The trees used to sing to me, a private song of autumn winds and gray chill."
     A poet who has lost his ability to write accepts a favor from a faerie and discovers that it's really a curse. This is the shortest story in the book.

"First Ball...Last Call," by Rob Thurman  
Ratings: (Violence-4; Sensuality-0; Humor-3)
Opening Sentence: "When the world ended, the very first thought I had was of my first dance."
     Have you ever listened to Garrison Keillor's "Lives of the Cowboys"sketches in which long-time partners Dusty and Lefty ride their horses out on the range and ramble on about various topics? Imagine that those same laconic cowboys were riding across a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of the creatures responsible for destroying the world as we know it. This is a wonderful story about brotherhood, and it's got a great twist right in the middle. 

"Beauty," by Jenifer Ruth 
Ratings: (Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-1)
Opening Sentence: "It's funny. Most of my kind can't see the wonder in this new human world. They're blind to anything that they don't control."
     A Leanan Sidhe female heads to Las Vegas in search of a new source of nourishment: an artistic soul. Not the best story in the book due to clumsy handling of the first person point of view.

"Pennyroyal," by Kerrie Hughes 
Ratings: (Violence-3; Sensuality-1; Humor-2)
Opening Sentence: "I was afraid and angry as I lay face down in the grass with blood filling my mouth."
     Contrary to its opening sentence, this is a charming story about a young Seelie girl who runs away to the human world to escape a forced move to the Unseelie Court. She discovers that the human world is cruel and that the faerie world is best, regardless of which part you are required to inhabit.  

"Unlocked Gate," by Dean Wesley Smith 
Ratings: (Violence-3; Sensuality-0; Humor-2)
Opening Sentence: "Cindy Kemp would have sworn on her dead uncle's favorite Chevy, even bet that she wouldn't go shopping for an entire week, that the color green couldn't be drained from anything. Especially beer."
     A barmaid has a run-in with a green-stealing leprechaun and some other magical beings on St. Patrick's Day and learns some new information about her own destiny. This story has more humans in its cast of characters than the rest of the stories in the book. It also sounds like the beginning of a yet-to-be-told longer story.

"Mushroom Clouds and Fairy Wings," by J. A. Pitts 
Ratings: (Violence-1; Sensuality-0; Humor-2)
Opening Sentence: "Molly woke repeating some of the words the Hound Master used when one of the young pups got a little too nippy."
     Molly, a young human woman raised by the faerie queen, is sent to the mortal world to bring back a human child, but she encounters a destroyed, post-apocalyptic world in which her life mimics that of Dorothy on her way to Oz when she stumbles across Sir Reginald, her very own "tin" man.

"Hunting the Unicorn," by Jane Lindskold 
Ratings: (Violence-3; Sensuality-3; Humor-2)
Opening Sentence: "Black moon against a white sky. The scent of dried rosebuds fills the air. It is a lovely night for a unicorn hunt."
     The young champions of opposing faerie courts compete against one another to capture a unicorn. The lovely Blackrose of the Unseelie is armed with multiple weapons and a fierce (if miniature) dragon, while the handsome Sundeath of the Seelie has only a knife, a rope, and a harp. As the two join forces to hunt together, they discover something more valuable than a priceless unicorn. Beautifully written, this is one of the best stories in the book. Here is the description of Sundeath's Rope and Net of Gentle Persuasion: "...woven from...a father's love, sunlight on water, the breeze ruffling a kitten's furall strong, all gentle, and all nearly impossible to touch." (p. 198) This is the longest story in the book.

"The Green Man," by Amber Benson 
Ratings: (Violence-4; Sensuality-4; Humor-0)
Opening Sentence: "The night was a living thing, black and squalid, its ragged inhalations enfolding the girl like a muted chorus as she made her way through the wood, her eyes busily scanning the ground for exposed tree roots and other obstacles."
    In this dark fairy tale, a Snow-White-type character asks the faeries for their help in defying and defeating her evil step-mother. This story is the most violent, with its graphic scenes of child abuse (but, like all good fairy tales, it does have a happy ending). 

"Anne," by Michelle Sagara 
Ratings: (Violence-2; Sensuality-1; Humor-2)
Opening Sentence: "He has come, as he often comes these days, to one of four bars around the corner from the large educational institution in which he spends most of his waking time."
     This is one of the best stories in the book, as we follow a college professor who has developed a strange relationship with a barmaid in a local tavern. Neither one is honest (at the outset, anyhow) about his or her true identity, and the plot is filled with twists and turns.

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