The Magic Shop, edited by Denise Little (DAW, 2004)

There are days when I love theme anthologies. You have a vague idea of what you’re getting, and they approach the same ideas with such a wide variety of styles that there’s usually something for everything. Denise Little has put together some really nice collections in the past few years, and it’s gotten to the point where, if I see her name as editor, I know I’m in for a worthwhile read. The Magic Shop is another such anthology. Once I started, I pretty much read it straight through. As can be inferred from the title, the common element in all of the stories revolves around magic shops that deal in, sell, or are associated with “real” magic, in addition to, or instead of, stage and parlor tricks. This is nothing new; stories about mysterious shops selling magical items have been a staple of the genre for decades. However, it’s still a theme full of potential, as these fifteen stories indicate.
In “Every Little Thing She Does,” Susan Sizemore introduces us to a reluctant hero-turned-bookseller who gets called in to deal with a legendarily dangerous house, and finds more than he bargained for in the feminine charms of his client. P.N. Elrod’s “Tarnished Linings” looks at the oddballs attracted by a magic store, including a part-time computer geek, two college-age Wiccans, a conjured demon, and a teen on the fast track to self-destruction. In “For Whom The Bell Tolled,” by Jody Lynn Nye, the owner of a magical curio shop finds a real surprise in a genuine magical artifact that spells the end to his boredom … and almost an end to his business.
Laura Resnick’s “The Magic Keyboard” offers one starving writer the chance to change her luck, as well as her writing style. But can the objects that once belonged to other writers help her to unlock her true potential? In Bradley H. Sinor’s “Grails,”a favor to a stranger leads one man to a store where he’ll find just what he needs, with no promises as to whether he’ll understand that need. Josepha Sherman’s story, “Mightier Than The Sword?” also features a writer in a jam, and the only thing that can save her is … a cheap ballpoint pen?
Meanwhile, in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “The Assassin’s Dagger,” a corporate troubleshooter for the world’s largest chain of magic stores has to deal with the nasty unfinished business of a new corporate acquisition. Gary Braunbeck turns in a rather moody little piece about true magic and sacrifice in “The Hand Which Graces,”and Rosemary Edghill returns to her popular Bast character in “A Winter’s Tale.” Stories by ElizaBeth Gilligan, Michelle West, Bill McCay, Mel Odom, India Edghill and Von Jocks finish off the book. I really enjoyed The Magic Shop, and can easily recommend just about every story in it.

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