Earlier this week, I was hit with a fantasy craving.
I needed to read something completely engrossing, something with really cool magic and characters full of surprises. But I didn’t know exactly where to start. Should I try an author I’d never read before? Should I return to an old favorite? Did I want to read fantasy set in our world or another one entirely?
Luckily, there’s a solution to those questions. An anthology! And how convenient for me that an anthology has recently come out containing a huge selection of engrossing, magical, surprising stories. Surely one or two of them would do the trick.
I got Rogues out of the library that very night. I really like the concept of new stories about each author’s rogue-ish and mischievous characters. They’re usually my favorites in Fantasy series, anyways. I only read about five or six of the stories, and started a few others without continuing on, but there were a few I really enjoyed.
Obviously Neil Gaiman’s story, “How The Marquis Got His Coat Back”, was fun. The Marquis de Carabas was easily my favorite character in Neverwhere, and his adventure was funny and twisty. It took us back to the underground and slightly sideways world from the novel, and even introduced us to the Marquis’ brother! The story wasn’t a long one, but it was good to re-visit a character who I sort of consider an old friend. (**** 4 stars)
Michael Swanwick’s “Tawny Petticoats” had a sort of alternate wild-west feel to it. The setting was a futuristic New Orleans, with throwback fashions and some not-quite-human characters. I’ve never read any of Swanwick’s fiction before, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying his story of con men and tricky ladies. There was an interesting take on zombi-fication, which was a little freaky, and the villains weren’t very nice. In fact, even the hustler protagonists weren’t exemplary citizens, but it was fun to root for them and see what would happen. (**** 4 stars)
“Now Showing”, by Connie Willis, was really incredibly strange. It was about college students in such a near future I felt it could be a peek into life ten years from now. There wasn’t much magic to speak of in her story, aside from the enchantment caused by mysterious boys who make you want to listen to them even when they’re being cryptic assholes. In the end I did like the story, even though I was making a really puzzled facial expression the whole time I read it. I then recommended that one of my film-geek friends read it, because I knew she would like the cinematic theme and all the hidden movie references. (*** 3 stars)
As for “A Year And A Day In Old Theradane”, it was my favorite story (of those I read) and another one by an author I’d never tried before. How, exactly, have I made it through 23 and a half years without reading Scott Lynch?!? This situation needs to be rectified ASAP, because I LOVED “A Year And A Day In Old Theradane.” It was EXACTLY the sort of story I wanted to read, and nearly cured my fantasy craving all on its own. The cast of characters was largely female – this deserves an extra huzzah in “high fantasy” literature, where that’s not always the case – and they were all so bloody cool!
This was another heist story of sorts, with lots of entertaining plans and slapstick failures while the fatal clock runs down. The main character and her old crew have sworn off crime after being granted clemency, but they’re getting restless in their retirement. When a wizard battle shatters the serenity of Therandane by causing huge creatures to fall from the sky and into their favorite bar, Amarelle goes and gets herself in trouble. She and her friends have a year and a day to steal an entire street, or an extravagant and powerful woman will ruin them completely. The magic in this story was unique (enchanted mixed drinks, anyone?), the setting was vivid, and I felt like I’d known these characters for years. Next time I want to read some good old fashioned grown-up Fantasy — with creates characters so lively they might walk off the page, and a touch of humor to even the most dire circumstances –I’m absolutely going to try Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series. (***** 5 stars)
I didn’t get a chance to read about half the stories, but there are a few which caught my eye that I’ll surely try to read during my next visit to the library. Some others failed to capture my attention, but the beauty of an anthology is that you can just move one and find something more appealing. I’m not sure that every author gave the roguery prerequisite an equal amount of consideration, but whatever. The stories I read were pretty good, I now have some new authors to read who might soon become favorites, and the fantasy craving was assuaged. So Rogues is worth checking out, for fantasy fans, whether you’re familiar with these authors or not.
(These thoughts were originally posted within a longer fantasy rant at my blog.)