Tag Archives: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic

The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic edited by Mike Ashley

Overview
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Title: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic
Author: Mike Ashley, Steve Rasnic Tem, Richard A. Lupoff, Doug Hornig, Tom Holt, Tim Pratt, Diana Wynne Jones, John Morressy, Clark Ashton Smith, Michael Kurland, Michael Moorcock, Robert Weinberg, Darrell Schweitzer, Ralph Adams Cram, Ursula K. Le Guin, A.C. Benson, Lawrence Schimel, Mike Resnick, Esther M. Friesner, Tim Lebbon, David Sandner, Marion Zimmer Bradley, James Bibby, Louise Cooper & Peter Crowther
Series: Mammoth Books
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Magic, Short story collections
Dates read: 8th January – 7th May 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Anthology
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: “I heard all you field hockey chicks are lesbians,” Curly said, still smiling.

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Synopsis

23 spellbinding tales of sorcery, wizardry and witchcraft.

From Gandalf to Harry Potter, sorcerers and wizards have always enthralled us. It is their power, above all, that we covet – the ultimate wish fulfilment of being able to do whatever we want – to fly, or make ourselves invisible, or to conjure something from nothing.

Here, from some of the most outstanding writers of fantasy, is a wonderfully varied collection of stories which explores the tensions and dilemmas in dealing with magic, from a child’s first struggle to control magical powers to epic clashes between the forces of good and evil.

Thoughts

It took me a little while to seriously get into this collection. But, once I did… I was completely hooked. I quite obviously love fantasy from the books that fill my shelves. But, as I’ve gotten older, I have found that I am drawn again and again to fantasy of a darker bent. Although not all of these short stories suited that desire, they just weren’t that dark… this collection was still seriously brilliant.

The stories in this collection just completely run the gamut. There are some serious, dark and twisted stories. Some that are fun and light. And a few that make you question the state of the world as we know it. All the stories were enjoyable in one way or another, although maybe not as memorable as some of the other short stories that I’ve read.

This is a great little collection. One that is interesting and fun. There was a lot surrounding ideas of chaos throughout, which makes it one of those collections that I’ll probably want to read again. There always seems to be this sense of confusion and intricacy about chaos stories that just makes me want to read them again and again.

<- The Mammoth Book of CthulhuTen Things I Know About the Wizard ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

The Eternal Altercation by Peter Crowther

Overview
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Title: The Eternal Altercation
Author: Peter Crowther
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Magic
Dates read: 7th May 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: And now, here he was, gas can in hand, standing on the town’s edge, looking along its wind-blown Main Street at a clumsy array of buildings that owed more allegiance to an old back-and-white Randolph Scott western than to anything even vaguely reminiscent of the Brave New World promised by the turn of the millennium.

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Synopsis

There is a never ending battle taking place right beneath our very eyes. One that involves trains.

Thoughts

This was a seriously tripped out little short story. It was one that I felt like I couldn’t quite focus on. Not because I wasn’t completely absorbed whilst reading it, but because there was this really unfocused and slightly insane feeling to the story. One that I really enjoyed but makes it quite difficult to write a review.

This story’s sense of chaos was a fantastic ending to a collection which was all about dark magic. One that often employed chaos – after all, that seems to be the root of everything dark in many of these stories. I loved that you ended on this hectic, intense and somewhat confusing short story that seriously made you sit back and think after you turned that final page. It was a great way to end.

This is one of those short stories that no matter how many times I read it, I will probably experience something new. A new epiphany, a new understanding or a new feeling… whatever it is, it will be different each time. And although I don’t want all of my shelves filled with such stories… it is nice to know that I have some that will continue to shock me and pull me in.

<- Last RitesThe Mammoth Book of Dickensian Whodunnits ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Last Rites by Louise Cooper

Overview
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Title: Last Rites
Author: Louise Cooper
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Death, Fantasy, Magic
Dates read: 30th April 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 1994
5th sentence, 74th page: Again the warning gesture, but now the sly humour was back.

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Synopsis

They’re in a world surrounded by chaos. And their leader is about to pass on… who will perform the last rites?

Thoughts

This was a seriously tripped out story. I did enjoy it. But I can’t really remember much of what happened… I suppose many of the more trippy stories that I read are like that though. They have this ethereal quality that makes you feel like you’ve forgotten what you’ve read… even though you only just turned the last page. And it’s kind of suited that a story about chaos does this so well…

I think that this is one short story that I’m going to want to read again and again. It is intriguing and was most certainly enjoyable. But I felt like I was constantly missing things as I went through the story. There were so many symbolic moments interwoven throughout the story and tales of chaos. Moments that may have a little more clarity to them after I read through this story a second time.

Definitely an enjoyable short story. One that I look forward to reading again in the future. It is the kind of story that will intrigue and enthral. The world of chaos and the questions it raises at the end… well, it was really quite intense.

<- The Last WitchThe Eternal Altercation ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

The Last Witch by James Bibby

Overview
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Title: The Last Witch
Author: James Bibby
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Humour, Magic
Dates read: 26th April 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: Paul stared at it in fury for a few seconds and came within an ace of hurling it against a nearby stone wall.

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Synopsis

Little Sarah is the Last Witch. And all she wants to do is help. But when a reporter gets hold of the story… things might begin to change.

Thoughts

I can’t imagine being the last of my kind. It just seems like a horribly tragic way to be, a completely tragic existence. One that totally plucks at the heart strings. And yet, Bibby’s version of the last witch and the travels that the young girl goes through are kind of funny. Seriously witty and thoroughly enjoyable.

What I enjoyed most about this short story was the ending. The idea that the human race is still evolving, and magic is just the next logical step. And from two young people, the future version of humanity is about to evolve. It’s a nice little theory and a great way to end a story that was really quite funny. I’m not even sure why this story was in a collection about dark magic…

This is a fantastic short story, filled with this sense of hope, laughter and light. Not what I expected to find towards the end of a collection called The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic. But it fit in incredibly well. There was a little darkness and twistiness to the tale. But not much, so it helped to uplift the rest of the collection.

<- The Walker BehindLast Rites ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

The Walker Behind by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Overview
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Title: The Walker Behind
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Magic
Dates read: 20th April 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 1987
5th sentence, 74th page: “At once sir,” said the hag, suddenly turning deferential.

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Synopsis

She can hear the footsteps following her, so she goes to an inn with a bad reputation. It turns out that there is more to the Walker Behind than meets the eye.

Thoughts

I loved the dark, mysterious atmosphere of this short story. I love that there was so much background in this tale that hinted at a whole world behind the pages. Especially in the lead’s life and the ways in which she chose to live it. There was just an intensity and greatness to this story that I found impossible to look away from.

The poetic justice that is reaped out in this story is a little bit graphic, but certainly what I would do if I had any form of power (I don’t, I can dream). The idea that people can’t just get away with their acts of atrocity, and that sometimes those who are not quite evil, but definitely not good come out all the better… it’s a great series of fairly typical tropes that always leave me smiling.

Starting out as a somewhat scary tale and ending as one that had me smiling made this an incredibly little journey to take. Especially when everyone is in quarantine… it was just nice to have the company of a few interesting characters for a few moments.

<- The Wizard of Ashes and RainThe Last Witch ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

The Wizard of Ashes and Rain by David Sandner

Overview
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Title: The Wizard of Ashes and Rain
Author: David Sandner
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Dark fantasy
Dates read: 2nd April 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2001
5th sentence, 74th page: Amanda had stood in the upstairs hallway looking at herself in the full-length mirror.

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Synopsis

Sarah just wants to save her sister from the monster in her dreams. But she has an interfering mother and a whole set of complications as she hunts down the wizard who could help her solve it all.

Thoughts

This story was a little hard to follow at the very beginning. Not in a bad, what the hell is going on way. But there was just so much thrown at you from the very beginning, so it took a while for me to really get my head around what was going on. Yet, even taking that time was an incredibly fun adventure. It was something that swept me off my feet and completely enthralled me. And once I finally clicked as to what was happening? I was even happier.

As an older sister, I know the feeling of doing anything to protect my younger sister. So the fact that through this whole story, Sarah is just running around trying to find a way to keep her baby sister safe… I completely understand that drive. It’s probably why I enjoyed this story so much when it’s not really of the style of storyline that I normally throw myself into.

I enjoyed the short journey that this tale took me on. And the idea of everything coming full circle again and again works so damn well in a short story. There is just something about the sense of things repeating over time that makes me incredibly happy and only seriously works when it’s a short tale. It’s not a technique that I tend to enjoy in a longer length novel.

<- ForeverThe Walker Behind ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Forever by Tim Lebbon

Overview
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Title: Forever
Author: Tim Lebbon
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy
Dates read: 25th March 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2004
5th sentence, 74th page: She swung him southward and jerked him back, blood from his fingers spattering a line across the glacier.

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Synopsis

Nox just wants to escape. To find a freedom and a better life than the slavery in which he’s found himself. But that might not quite be possible… and it may take a miracle to get him out of forever.

Thoughts

There was something quite heartbreaking about this short story. At first it doesn’t seem so. But at the end? Wow. Talk about tearing someone down and systematically destroying them. Letting them hope, just so that when they find out there is nothing to hope for… it’s all the more bitter and devastating. This tale seriously punched me in the heart.

Normally I love stories that have this sense of hope in the darkest of moments. Especially when that hope is about breaking free of slavery and killing. But, sadly, there are hints throughout that his hope is seriously misplaced. Particularly when the little spies keep on finding their way out of the woodworks to report on his hopes and dreams.

I honestly don’t have enough words for how intense and intriguing this story is. How heartbreaking the ending is. There is something about this story that manages to not only draw you in, but also that helps to make you experience a whole slew of emotions. Just like good writing should.

<- In the Realm of DragonsThe Wizard of Ashes and Rain ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

In the Realm of Dragons by Esther M. Friesner

Overview
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Title: In the Realm of Dragons
Author: Esther M. Friesner
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, DragonsLGBTQIMagic
Dates read: 9th March 2020
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 1997
5th sentence, 74th page: Ryan sat at his father’s feet and looked up to see a taut jawline, a gaze fixed and fastened on Uncle Graham and Bill.

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Synopsis

Ryan is trying to honour the memory of his estranged Uncle. Clutching a dragon figurine, he travels into the city to find the men who tore his life apart.

Thoughts

I actually really, really enjoyed this short story. Not only was it about the ostracization which can occur to an individual because of their LGBTQI+ status, the hatred towards minorities and the need for one person to make amends, it is also about dragons. Which I love. So the combination took me straight to my little happy place.

For starters, I loved that there was a blurring of lines between reality and imagination. Even at the end of this story, you’re not entirely sure if the dragons was there in reality, or whether it was all just hopeful imagination and revenge. There was great, powerful imagery with the use of dragons and figurines. The flicking back and forth between memory and present. Reality and dreams. I loved this mystic quality and the way it created an amazingly powerful storyline.

I also loved that this story featured a homosexual man. It was the cause of all of his tragedies, but it was nice to have a story that realistically and deeply investigated how ostracization due to your sexual orientation can destroy a life. Can rip and tear it apart in a way that is unexpected, powerful and potent. And, obviously, very tragically.

<- DisillusionedForever ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Disillusioned by Lawrence Schimel & Mike Resnick

Overview
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Title: Disillusioned
Author: Lawrence Schimel & Mike Resnick
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Magic
Dates read: 5th March 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 1995
5th sentence, 74th page: Vivian sighed, wishing she were elsewhere, but she displayed no outward sign of her boredom, laughing along with the other assembled members of the Thirteen Families.

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Synopsis

The world is run by those with powerful magic. Members of the Thirteen Families. But, when do the illusions end and reality begin? When does it become something much, much more?

Thoughts

This is a great story that reminds us – even when we get everything that we want, it might not be what we actually need. Vivian manages to rise to the top of her society, she uses all of her cunning and intelligence. Yet, once she’s there… there is nothing. No feeling of excitement no feeling of accomplishment. Just. Total. Disillusionment.

I found this short story quite a poignant reminder – sometimes the thing that you are working towards (power, prestige) isn’t necessarily what you need to be happy. Sometimes it is just empty and meaningless. Especially if you have a split moment in which you realise that it is all just an illusion. A figment of reality that is constructed by others.

This story is a little bit funny, a little bit dark and definitely one that will draw you in from the very beginning. It is intriguing and engaging. And not one that I am likely to forget anytime soon.

<- The Closed WindowIn the Realm of Dragons ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

The Closed Window by A.C. Benson

Overview
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Title: The Closed Window
Author: A.C. Benson
In: The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic (Mike Ashley)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Dark fantasy, Magic
Dates read: 12th February 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 1903
5th sentence, 74th page: In the evening, after they had dined, Roland had let his fancy rove in talk.

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Synopsis

The closed window is a potent short story that will haunt your subconscious.

Thoughts

I really liked this short story. Although I don’t really know why I did so. There was just something that was powerful and fun about the storyline. Something that drew me in and made it kind of hard to move beyond the storyline.

As much as I loved this story, I’m still not entirely sure what this was truly about. Whilst reading the story I felt like I completely understood what I was reading and what I was loving. But, as soon as I turned that final page… I’m not entirely sure what it was that I enjoyed so much. Which is more than a little confusing.

Although I can’t really say much about the actual storyline and why I loved it so much. There was a dark, haunting quality about this story that I absolutely adored. Something that made you want to curl up under your blanket, stick your nose in the book and just not come up for air for a little while…

<- The Bones of the EarthDisillusioned ->

Image source: Hachette Australia