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2011 Stories 20 - 29

The remainder of THE WAY OF THE WIZARD, edited by John Joseph Adams.

20. Mommy Issues of the Dead by T.A. Pratt  I'm not familiar with Pratt's ongoing fantasy series but based on this short story I have to say I like his main character's style. Marla Mason is no-nonsense and practical. I'd almost call her a female Harry Dresden (but without the snarky pop culture references) if comparisons like that weren't an injustice to the creativity of the author. This particular story apparently takes place early in Marla's career, so I'm pretty sure there weren't any major series spoilers. Marla finds herself on a mission that is set up to be double-crossed and finds an interesting way out of it. I'm intrigued enough by Marla and her city of Felport to want to seek out the novels.

21. One-Click Banishment by Jeremiah Tolbert  So much of wizard-based fiction touches on the disparity between magic and technology and how the former usually disrupts the latter. Tolbert turns that traditional view on its head and imbues his story with magic that works in concert with technology. Of course, it's almost as dangerous when they work together as when one is disrupting the other.  The main character of this story is brash, egotistical, a jerk. But he knows his stuff. He narrates his own story in blog posts, which adds to the modern (as opposed to the urban fantasy) feel. Nicely done.

22. The Ereshkigal Working by Jonathan L. Howard Another introduction to an on-going series I've heard of but not read: the adventures of Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. Cabal, like so many series protagonists these days, is at first blush somewhat unlikeable as a person, but I can see why people are lauding his adventures. This is a fun story. I'm not sure it qualifies as "steampunk," but it has that kind of feel. It also gives a great look at the zombie apocalypse from the magical side.

23. Feeding The Feral Children by David Farland  Revenge is a dish best served from a long distance.  Farland's story starts and ends a little oddly, but in-between it's a strong look at what happens when you cross a wizard.  The main character has the right intentions but kills someone important to the wizard in question. What's impressive is that you get the full force of the wizard's grief without him ever actually appearing in the story.

24. The Orange-Tree Sacrifice
by Vylar Kaftan  This is one of those stories that just doesn't work for me. I "get" it, but I didn't enjoy it. Fans of the style of writers like Warren Ellis will like it, but it's a bit too extreme for me. The story is nominally about a young woman who sacrifices everything in the service of her goddess.

25. Love Is the Spell That Casts Out Fear by Desirina Boskovich  We're all familiar with true stories of kids who create elaborate fantasy worlds to escape from a painful reality. Boskovich takes this concept and runs with it, alternating between the real world and the fantasy and revealing her main character's quiet inner strength even while showing her outer insecurity. Very good story.

26. El Regalo by Peter S. Beagle Sibling rivalry drives a lot of great fiction in a variety of genres. Beagle uses it to good effect in this story, where an older sister is jealous of the secret her younger brother possesses: the ability to do magic. The story development is completely believable, from the scenes where the kids are at odds to the scenes where they defend each other from an outside protagonist. No idea if Beagle intends to return to these characters ever (or if he did, since the story dates from 2006), but I enjoyed getting to know them.

27. The Word of Unbinding by Ursula K. Le Guin  I've been hearing about the Earthsea books for a long time, but have never read them. The editor's note says this is the story that introduced that world, but the story never actually mentions the name. I've read other Le Guin stories that I've enjoyed more than this. Her talent is in full force, but the story just depressed me to no end. The story seems to be an exercise in futility, and while the main character may be content with what happens at the end of the story, I couldn't connect to that feeling.

28. The Thirteen Texts of Arthyria by John R. Fultz  The editor's note introducing this story talks about the theory that sometimes instead of us choosing the book, the book chooses us. Fultz makes that the center of his story, about a man who slowly moves from one reality to another. The question is, which one is real and which one is the fictional construct.  In other hands, this might have been a 500 page novel, but Fultz errs on the side of brevity, allowing us to fill the spaces between.

29. The Secret of the Blue Star
by Marion Zimmer Bradley  I'd almost completely forgotten about the Theives' World anthologies until reading this story. I remember enjoying them. And I enjoyed this story. Bradley posits a kind of magic powered by closely-held secrets, and the jealousies that threaten to reveal those secrets.  I saw the final twist coming, but still enjoyed it.

And there we have it ... I'm finally done analyzing the stories from THE WAY OF THE WIZARD!


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