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Clockwork Phoenix 2
edited by Mike Allen
Norilana Books, 296 pages

Clockwork Phoenix 2
Mike Allen
Mike Allen was born in 1969 in Minneapolis and his family settled in Roanoke, Virginia. He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from Virginia Tech and made his first short story sale to a small press magazine in 1992. At present, he works as a reporter for the Roanoke newspaper.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Clockwork Phoenix 2
SF Site Review: Clockwork Phoenix
SF Site Review: Mythic 2
SF Site Review: Journey to Kailash
SF Site Review: Mythic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Inside the cover of Clockwork Phoenix 2 there's a list of blurbs about the first volume of the anthology series. Among them is a phrase taken from my own review. (Although the publisher didn't deem it necessary to mention my name, only that of the web site where the review had appeared.) It says that the book contains "top-notch fiction irrespective of genre labels."

Can I make the same statement concerning the second volume? Yes and no.

First of all the cross-genre nature of the previous instalment, ranging from fantasy to SF and horror, is missing. With only two specific exceptions, here we have just a collection of fantasy stories, period. Nothing wrong with it, mind you, but one of the main attractions of the first volume -- variety -- is lost.

Furthermore, the number of good stories in volume 2 is considerably lower, much to the dismay of the readers who found the series so promising. Again, don't get me wrong, the book includes a few excellent tales that I'm going to mention and praise them in a moment, but those represent a minority of the fifteen tales therein.

The two real stand-outs come from Mary Robinette Kowal (a relatively newcomer) and Tanith Lee (a genre veteran). Kowal contributes "At the Edge of Dying," a beautiful and quite original piece, full of pathos and very imaginative, developing the concept that being close to death enhances the strength of the spells thrown by sorcerers, whereas Lee confirms her extraordinary talent as a storyteller in "The Pain of Glass," a perfect story where a bride-to-be becomes first sand and then glass in the shape of a delicate wine vessel. A veritable masterpiece which constitutes the highlight of the volume.

Marie Brennan's "Once a Goddess" is the well told, compelling and compassionate portrait of a girl formerly acting as a goddess' avatar, trying to fit again in a normal life. "Angel Dust" by Ian McHugh is an enjoyable fairy tale for adults featuring minotaurs, angels and statues becoming live. In "The Secret History of Mirrors," Catherynne M. Valente explores the origin and the meaning of mirrors in her well-known writing style. Beautiful musical wording and rich, gorgeous phrases cover a very thin plot which crumbles gently as you touch it.

Finally, the only two non-fantasy tales are worth mentioning. Steve Rasnic Tem's "When We Moved On" is a poetic tale of magic... the magic of daily life. Moving out of an old house full of both happy and sad family memories becomes the sign of how life is wearing out while things are lost, forgotten or left behind. Barbara Krasnoff's delicate and "Rosemary, That's For Remembrance" runs on the same wavelength describing old ladies at a beauty parlour, who wonder who and what they have become.

Volume three is already in the works. Let's hope for the best.

Copyright © 2009 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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