Magic City: Recent Spells
Bright lights, big city... magic spells, witchcraft, wizardry, fairies, devilry, and more. Urban living, at least in fantasy fiction, is full of both magical wonder and dark enchantment. Street kids may have supernatural beings to protect them or have such powers themselves. Brujeria may be part of your way of life. Crimes can be caused (and solved) with occult arts and even a losing sports team's "curse" can be lifted with wizardry. And be careful of what cab you call - it might take you on a journey beyond belief! Some of the best stories of urban enchantment from the last few years is gathered in one volume full of hex appeal and arcane arts.
Short stories are a difficult form to master in any case, but when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy, the author has an even tougher challenge: building an entire world in just a few pages. As with any short-story collection featuring multiple authors, some of the contributions to MAGIC CITY: RECENT SPELLS, edited by Paula Guran, are more successful than others. Ultimately, I think the anthology does a great job of showcasing many different interpretations of ‘urban fantasy’ and gives readers the chance to discover something new.
Some of the stories that I enjoyed the most were the ones set in cities, but not any cities we’re familiar with. I’d love to dive deeper into the world of “In the Stacks” by Scott Lynch, for example, which features a fantastical university where the final exam is returning a book to the highly hostile Living Library. And A.C. Wise’s “The Thief of Precious Things” builds a suspenseful atmosphere in a world where girls turn into foxes and men have shadows full of crows. Stories built off of folklore and superstition are also very engaging, like “Wallamelon,” “Grand Central Park,” and “The Slaughtered Lamb,” which features a werewolf drag queen named Edie. As an animal lover, “Stray Magic” made me teary.
The organization of the collection doesn’t seem to have much rhyme or reason. Given the wide range of the protagonists’ ages, it might have worked to arrange the stories in a way that emphasized growth and the effect aging has on one’s interactions with the paranormal. Many of the stories in this book with YA protagonists succeed because children don’t need to question magic – when they find it, they accept it with all of their hearts, and so the reader does too, saving precious words and valuable space.
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