Although Berkley Books first published Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy in 2007, I found a copy in my local Barnes & Noble this year.
The find surprised me, as I’d thought the usual first shelf-life of anthologies is similar to that of magazines. With a discounted price, Big Names in the authors’ list, and a versatile fantasy staple as the theme, I couldn’t pass up buying a copy of this anthology, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.
The names I immediately recognized were Neil Gaiman, Peter S. Beagle, Nancy Kress, and of course, Orson Scott Card. With the other fourteen authors, each wrote a short story (some novella-length) involving a magic-user that one could call a “wizard”, even if the term would need to be used loosely.
While not all the stories impressed me, the ones that did easily justify the book’s use of shelf space. Garth Nix deserves a few gold stars for “Holly and Iron”, in which he cleverly entwined the legends of King Arthur, Robin Hood, Odin, and who knows what else into teen chick lit.
The most stars, however, would go to Elizabeth Hand‘s “Winter’s Wife” and Card’s “Stonefather”.
In “Winter Wife”, the loving description of Maine coastland and the characters’ clear needs for family and purpose cemented my emotional attachment, while the hints and descriptions of Icelandic folklore triggered my curiosity.
“Stonefather” is the concluding and possibly best story in the anthology. From Card’s usual clear and bittersweet prose arises a new fairy-tale. As with many fairy-tales, parts of the plot are predictable yet still worth reading for the reassurance that the gravest injustices will be righted in the end.