|edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff|
|DAW Books, 320 pages |
|A review by Todd Richmond|
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "The Strangeness of the Day" tells the tale of a lawyer called to the aftermath of a sorcerer's battle in the suburbs. She's given an unusual task by her client -- hide a women in a glass coffin for the next twenty years -- and don't tell him where she hid it. "Ladykiller," by Rosemary Edghill, relates the story of the death of legend and the birth of a new one. In Lisanne Norman's "The Jewel and the Demon," a thief sets out to steal a gem and gets more than she bargained for.
If one story typifies the kind of story I was expecting from this compilation, John Helfer's "Principles of Warfare" is it. In it, a young boy with potential magical ability is called upon to assist a sorcerer as two armies meet. John DeChancie spreads a bit of his unique humor in "BattleMagic for Morons," poking a bit of fun at all of the books for dummies and morons flooding the market.
"The Miracle of Salamis" by Lois Tilton is more like a piece of Greek mythology, describing the struggle of Sparta and Athens against the invading army of the Great King. Illusions and divinatory magic help turn the tide of battle for them.
Mickey Zucker Reichert writes of a world where magic is a curse, not a gift, in "Alaric's Gift." Ed Gorman's "Rite of Passage" is about a Celtic man gifted with music who wants to be gifted in the arts of war, and, sadly, gets his wish.
"Bright Streets of Air" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman is probably the least appropriate story for this collection. Set in the present day, it's the story of two very different women who are nonetheless friends. Seeking to give her friend the ideal gift, one of the women gives the other a spell of total understanding so that they might know each other better. But, what she doesn't understand is that while her friend loves her, she doesn't want to be her.
In Jane Lindskold's "Hell's Bane," a group of six friends head to the Double Decker, a nightclub with a bottom level that is a direct annex to Hell. "The Fatal Wager" by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is, in her words, a retelling of an Irish myth. A man takes a goddess as his wife, only to lose her when he disobeys her and brags to the King about her. Julie E. Czerneda's "'Ware the Sleeper" shows the terrible cost that magic sometimes invokes, when the Pókukii must summon a god to help defeat their enemies.
The cost of magic is again apparent in Josepha Sherman's "A Matter of Honor." A sorceress-queen must decide how to best help her kingdom. A great spell could destroy the opposing army, but the backlash of the death agonies of the enemy soldiers would kill her as well. While that would solve one problem, leaving her kingdom without a ruler would just cause others. A warlord learns about service in Michelle West's "Warlord." We all know that music itself is powerful magic -- in "Ten for the Devil" by Charles de Lint, a fiddle player must send two warring spirits away and deal with the devil himself.
Overall, the short stories in this compilation are very good, and this is from a person who doesn't normally like short stories. I don't have a problem with stories: just the way the collection is represented. Few of the stories have anything to do with using magic in battle, which is sure to be a disappointment for those basing their purchase on the contents of the back cover. So be warned: these are tales of magic, but not necessarily of combat.
Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.
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