Title: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells
Author: Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, Delia Sherman, Jeffrey Ford, Genevieve Valentine, Maureen McHugh, Kathe Koja, Elizabeth Wein, Elizabeth Bear, James P. Blaylock, Kaaron Warren, Leanna Renee Hieber, Dale Bailey, Veronica Schanoes, Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, Caroline Stevermer, Jane Yolen, Gregory Maguire, Tanith Lee & Theodora Goss
In: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, Gaslamp, Short story collections
Dates read: 8th June – 6th November 2019
5th sentence, 74th page: The sisters and I said nothing to one another, as I speak no German and they no English, but we watched the flames together until they seemed satisfied and departed, I know not where.
Gaslamp fantasy, or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. Many wonderful novels, such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, ower their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers, including Jane Austen, the Brontes, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature from and inspired by this period.
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves neo-Victorian fiction and modern fantasists using vintage settings, characters, and themes. Their approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen- and Trollope- inspired works known as fantasy of manners. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, main-stream, and young-adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century enhance (or cursed!) with magic.
This is an absolutely brilliant collection. One that I didn’t want to put down and introduced me to a whole new genre. It’s my first ever Gaslamp collection, and although I found some of the stories throughout a little weird and intense… I also loved the vast majority of them. Enough so that I plan to read this again and again in the future.
I was expecting a pretty simple and balanced collection. I really wasn’t expecting such a convoluted and twisted set of stories. But, as I’ve often found in life, it’s those unexpected surprises are the best and most exciting aspects of life. They’re the moments that you don’t want to forget because they were unplanned. And this anthology kind of felt like that.
I tend to read a lot of short stories late at night. Or when I’m just needing a quick little break from the many complexities of my PhD. This is not the collection that does that for me. It’s seriously intense, completely unexpected and very full on. The kind of short stories that you want to read when you have your concentrating brain working… not when it’s late at night and you just want some easy entertainment…