New Magics, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor, 2004)

In the same spirit as Hayden’s previous YA anthology for Tor, New Skies (which covered science fiction), New Magics collects some of the very best fantasy short stories from the last two decades.

Neil Gaiman’s “Chivalry” is a clever, wry look at where the Holy Grail might have ended up in modern times, as well as the noble knight who still seeks it. How can anyone defeat the Grail’s new guardian, a kind old woman with an eye for propriety? “Charis” is an all-too-rare story by Ellen Kushner, reprinted from the excellent Borderland series (edited by Terri Windling). In a city on the edge of the modern world, where humans and elves mingle in a magical, musical, unpredictable town, just about anything can, and does happen. Susan Palwick tackles a truly unusual subject, as she mixes fantasy and literary speculation in “Jo’s Hair,” a subtle piece that follows the chopped-off hair (and the money paid for it) of the main heroine of Little Women.

Debra Doyle and James McDonald tell a story of Peter Crossman, modern-day Knight Templar, in “Stealing God.” Part detective story, part spy story, it’s a sharp and quirky adventure. Jane Yolen’s “Mama Gone” is a short, creepy piece about a woman turned into a vampire, and how it affects the family she’s left behind. Charles de Lint gives us another tale of the mythical North American city Newford, in “The Bone Woman,” in which the mysteries of the titular character are explored, and revealed. Ever wonder what happens to the parents left behind when children go off to some magical land to have great adventures? In Sherwood Smith’s “Mom and Dad at the Home Front,” a mother and father struggle with how much freedom to allow their wayward children, and whether they have the right to protect them from their dreams. Emma Bull’s “A Bird That Whistles” serves as a prequel to her classic War For The Oaks, detailing an important emotional turning point for one of the book’s main characters.

Stories by Harry Turtledove, Andy Duncan, Orson Scott Card, and Ursula K. LeGuin round out this excellent collection of top-notch authors and fantastic stories. Some of these stories have never been reprinted before, and they come from such diverse sources that it’s worth picking up this anthology just to have them all in the same place.

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