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Apprentice Fantastic Mass Market Paperback – November 5, 2002
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Among the more interesting pieces is the opening story, Michelle West's "The Augustine Painters." The central conceit here is quite interesting: certain people are artists with the ability to paint probable futures. This can be used for such purposes as avoiding accidents, or for more weighty business such as planning war strategies. I thought that idea nice, and I liked the heroine, a talented apprentice named Camille who must face a danger that may have consumed her friend and senior apprentice. But the story didn't quite cohere for me: it's a long story but I think it would have benefited from even greater length. It's followed by probably the best story in the book, Charles de Lint's "Sign Here", a story all in dialogue that takes a different look at the bargains possible when dealing with the devil for a soul. Esther Friesner's "Homework" is silly and feather-light but rather fun, about a dark lord and his bratty nephew, and the noble Prince Gallantine who must oppose them. David D. Levine has published only a few stories, but a couple have been good enough to put his name on my list of young writers to watch. His "Zauberschrift" is interesting but a bit over-long, and not quite convincing, as a former apprentice returns to the town of his youth to try to clean up a mess left by his old master.
Most of the remaining stories were unmemorable, at best. The occasional nice idea or engaging character was overwhelmed by clumsy writing, or faltering plot logic, or an excess of sentimentality. This does not rank as one of the stronger original anthologies around.