Book Review #15: 6 More Short Stories from Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells-An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

Posted on March 11, 2014 «
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Story Fifteen: “We Without Us Were Shadows” by Catherynne M. Valente

I really struggled with this short story. I tried to clear my mind and not recall how much I disliked Valente’s novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. But I just couldn’t escape into this story with the Bronte children. I find it very difficult to connect with Valente’s writing style which reminds me of some of the classic novels I was forced to read in high school and college. As a result, I can’t say I particularly liked this story.

Story Sixteen: “The Vital Importance of the Superficial” by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer

I adored this story told in letters. There was an intriguing mystery and great character development that kept me turning the pages. I found the about the story section enlightening as it was wonderful to learn how Ms. Kushner and Ms. Stevermer met and how this story came into being. Learning the history as to why this story is told in letters won’t spoil it, so skip ahead to that part and take it in. I think the reader will appreciate the story even more.

Story Seventeen: “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown” by Jane Yolen

I was not a fan of this story. It felt weird and disconnected. I don’t feel I know enough of the history of the British Monarchy and its relationships with the Prime Ministers, much less any except for the most recent Prime Ministers, to appreciate this story about Queen Victoria and Disraeli.

Story Eighteen: “The Twigs He Left Behind” by Gregory Maguire

Maguire has a distinct writing style and its been ages since I tackled Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked so it took a bit of time to settle into the story. It was also difficult for me to separate all the other movie versions of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol from my mind especially the one starring Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchett. As a result, this was a middle of the road story for me. I liked the thought of Scrooge being married and sharing his wealth, although not in the fashion one might imagine, and little Tiny Tim having a special gift.

Story Nineteen: “Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee

I read this story with a lot of starts and stops. I had a hard time connecting with it and felt like, as a reader, I was being held a distance from the story. Almost like I was examining as a doctor would a specimen. There are some parallels to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is a classic I truly enjoyed. I think there is perhaps a deeper meaning in the first few pages with the story of the parade that I missed and as a result, the story fell flat for me.

Story Twenty: “Estella Saves the Village” by Theodora Goss

The only downside I can see to Gaslamp fantasy is the consistency to which this group of authors reach back to Dickens. In my short life I have been forced to read Great Expectations twice so when I started reading this short story I already had a strong distaste for it. Moving past the connections to Great Expectations, as a reader, I liked the concept of why the Village was important and how it was created.

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