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Warrior Princesses
edited by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough and Martin H. Greenberg
DAW Books, 352 pages

Warrior Princesses
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough wrote the Nebula Award-winning novel The Healer's War. It drew on her experiences as a nurse in Vietnam. She has written the critically acclaimed Nothing Sacred, as well as numerous other novels including a trilogy with Anne McCaffrey. They are The Powers That Be, Power Lines and Power Play. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

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Martin H. Greenberg
Martin H. Greenberg is the most prolific anthologist in publishing history. He has won the Milford Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction Editing and was Editor Guest of Honour at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention. He lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

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Martin H. Greenberg anthologies - 1st of 4 pages

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lela Olszewski

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I received Warrior Princesses on the same day that I picked up Elizabeth Wurtzel's latest book, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. It was an intriguing match. Both books celebrate women who refuse to be constrained by society's rules, even though they know that the result is as likely to be their doom as it is their freedom. Wurtzel's analysis of our fascination with difficult women illuminates the continuing popularity of stories like the ones contained in this anthology.

The majority of the stories are sword and sorcery, with the emphasis on "sword." The remainder range from the heartbreaking urban fantasy "Strays" by Megan Lindholm to Lea M. Day's hilarious story, "Golden Years," outlining the worst possible retirement for a warrior, to Sarah Young's fairy-tale-inspired story, "The Little Landmaid." Settings encompass the globe, with tales of warrior princesses in China, Africa, Central America, and Egypt leavening the expected tales out of Irish and western European myth.

Several of the stories look at the human cost of arranged marriages. "My Princess," by Elizabeth Moon, takes this fairy-tale cliché and turns it inside out in a precisely told tale full of restrained emotion. This princess is a battle-scarred warrior, summoned home in peace time and told to marry and live happily, and demurely, ever after. But marriage isn't everyone's idea of happiness, so she finds another "ever after" that suits her better.

You know from the title that "Twelve-Steppe Program" is comedy. This tale of a Mongol princess's arranged marriage and the ambitious eunuch sent to fetch her doesn't disappoint. More outlandish than Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds, Esther M. Friesner delights the reader with phrases like, "Prince Floats-like-dandelion-fluff-upon-the-scented-waters" (Prince Fluffy, for short) and "a stomach doing the Dance of the Fifty Grasshoppers." In this case, everyone does live happily ever after -- after a bit of judicious subterfuge by the princess and the eunuch.

A child flees her conquered home, willing to give up her humanity in order to seek revenge in Jane Yolan's "Become a Warrior." Revenge themes, once a staple of women warrior stories, have become clichéd, yet in Yolan's skillful hands, the story seems both fresh and mythical. "The Road to Vengeance" by Mickey Zucher Reichert appears to be about revenge, instead illustrating the growing maturity of its heroine in its resolution. And Bruce Holland Rogers' "She Wants Things" is wry and macabre, showing that revenge and just desserts sometimes go perfectly hand in hand.

Other stories worth noting include Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Hunger," about the high cost children pay when they try to please their parents; R. Davis's "One Tree Hill," the only story about true love, though it's not what you expect; and Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch's "Warrior of Ma-at," an intriguing tale about trust and loyalty. Morgan Llywelyn's "Boudicca" and Felicia Dale's "The Sword of Undeath" both illuminate the seduction of battle and power, and the human cost a warrior may be forced to pay.

Megan Lindholm's "Strays" reminded me of Jill Paton Walsh's moving novel, Chance Child. The princess is a dumpster-diving, smart-mouthed kid who is the self-appointed "Queen of the Strays." She spends her time spray-painting the outlines of alley cats hit by cars and avoiding her mother's abusive boyfriend, loved only by the stray cats she cares for. Lindholm is able to convey both the bleakness and horror of her life, as well as the strength, courage, and determination it takes to survive and fight against overwhelming odds. Never has a princess had subjects who loved her more.

A few of the stories, including Bill Ransom's "The Dreamway Princess" and Michael Scott's "Pestilence," feel unfinished, as if they are part of longer works. The one story that doesn't work is, unfortunately, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's "Debriefing the Warrior/Princess." The tone and the subject of the story are at odds: the tone is camp, yet both King Arthur's long awaited return and Princess Diana's death are hardly low comedy. We project our hopes and fears onto the iconic women who die young and tragically, according to Elizabeth Wurtzul, making them both more and less than they really were. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough attempts to join the Arthurian legends to Princess Diana's life and death -- and it's just too great a distance, even for an icon like Princess Di.

Warrior Princesses, another in the long line of Greenberg-edited anthologies, met, and at times exceeded, my expectations. "Strays" is the story that will haunt me the longest, with its spunky, foul-mouthed warrior princess battling against the greatest odds of all. The majority of the stories are fresh and some are surprising, providing a variety of pleasures for the reader.

Table of Contents
My Princess Elizabeth Moon
Marimba: A Retelling Janet Berliner
Hunger Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Boudicca Morgan Llywelyn
Pestilence Michael Scott
Three-Edged Choice Ru Emerson
The Jewel of Locaria Jacey Bedford
Warrior of Ma-at Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch
Common Ground John Helfers
Twelve-Steppe Program Esther M. Friesner
The Road to Vengeance Mickey Zucher Reichert
The Dreamway Princess Bill Ransom
Become a Warrior Jane Yolen
Golden Years Lea M. Day
The Sword of Undeath Felicia Dale
The Little Landmaid Sara Young
She Wants Things Bruce Holland Rogers
One Tree Hill R. Davis
Strays Megan Lindholm
Debriefing the Warrior/Princess Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Copyright © 1998 by Lela Olszewski

Lela Olszewski is an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance, as well as an eclectic mix of other fiction and non-fiction. She is also a librarian with an interest in readers' advisory, and believes fully in Rosenburg's Law: Never apologize for your reading tastes. She has no cats.


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