From Publishers Weekly
In this all-original anthology, the editors, longtime partners in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, bring together mostly new fantasy writers, most of them contributors to previous Datlow/Windling books and perhaps forming a distinct "school." Call it American magic realism. In most stories, a departure from (usually) contemporary reality is taken for granted, with no one asking questions or expressing wonder. In Jeffrey Ford's "The Night Whiskey," a small town holds a lottery to see who gets to drink magic wine made from a bush that only grows in corpses. The drunken winners are then ritually knocked out of the trees into which they climb while communing with ancestral ghosts. Why? It merely is. While Ford can make this approach work, the book's weakness is that many of the stories are poetic at the expense of sense. There is, however, an outstanding opener by Delia Sherman, plus good work by Peter S. Beagle, Lucius Shepard, Catherynne Valente and Paul Di Filippo. (Dec.)
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The organizing conceit of this story anthology, which is as concerned with style as with plot, is that it presents a circle of like-minded writers similar to a nineteenth-century Parisian literary salon's habitues. The notion proves accidentally apt, for, like a little magazine devoted to writers who agree with its stance, the book is variable in readability more than quality. The contribution deliberately fraught with Shakespearean coinages and obsolete words, for example, is more show-off than showpiece. Most of the rest are more concerned with plot and characterization. Fortunately, the best comes first: Delia Sherman's "La Fee Verte," reporting a young prostitute's encounters with an older one who is clairvoyant; set in Paris around the Franco-Prussian War, it is solid historical fiction and superb realistic fantasy with a touch of glistening grunge. Peter S. Beagle's old salt's tale "Chandail," Gregory Maguire's delirious World War I death scene "Nottamun Town," Lucius Shepard's West Indian ghost story "The Lepidopterist," and Paul Di Filippo's post-Katrina natural-disaster scenario "Femaville 29" all pleasingly blend stylization and substance. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved