The first thing I’d advise on reading this book is not to read it like I did – in one sitting. You get a big bumper 24 stories in this book – and 24 stories in one stretch where none of them are connected directly made for a long read. And I don’t think they were well connected – “magic” and “city” are particularly specific enough themes, especially in the Urban Fantasy genre, to make an anthology out of. Especially if you’re going to throw “fae” in there as well
I think the first story, Street Wizard by Simon R Green is definitely the story I want to turn into a full book or series. Just the idea of low level magical functionaries patrolling London and trying to keep all kinds of magical chaos under control, all with a heavy taste of grittiness, fascinates me. It’s really well written and an intriguing concept. I would really love to see an entire series based around this concept.
I also really liked Wallamellon by Nisi Shawl bringing in elements of a Yoruba or Yoruba derived religion (I don’t know which one, exactly, but they worship Yamaya) as well as a very strong look at race and race relations. It has some excellently compelling characters, a really powerful feel and atmosphere of the story as well as the strength and maturity of protagonist. It was definitely an excellent story
Both The Thief of Precious Things by A. C. Wise and A Voice Like a Hole by A.C Wise were powerful stories. Both were the most beautifully written, The Thief of Precious Things created a stark, impactful setting with almost abstract, alien characters in a truly different dystopia. While A Voice Like a Holewas pretty savage in its language, painting a picture of bleakness and despair really vividly and with an incredible description of broken, beautiful singing I’ve come across.
Alchemy by Lucy Sussex was the most intriguing story, taking place in Ancient Bablyon. There was a real sense of research, I felt the author either really knew their stuff or had spent a long time hitting the books (this assessment, of course, comes from someone whose knowledge of Ancient Babylon would not cover a reasonably large beer bottle). There was an excellent sense of time and place, a really fascinating main character – and an ending and process that went completely against what I would have expected. I particularly liked the different definition of “black magic”.
Curses by Jim Butcher, Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs and The Arcane Art of Misdirection by Carrie Vaughn were all part of larger series (Curses also appeared in Side Jobs. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabualso appeared in, unsurprisingly, Kabu Kabu). In one of those twists, I thought Curses, a fun story about Harry Dresden and the cursed Cubs, far more amusing and entertaining – but that Seeing Eye, a story of a witch and a werewolf facing a coven of dark practitioners was more useful. Didn’t add anything particularly to Harry’s story, same as The Arcane Art of Misdirection didn’t add an awful lot to the Kitty Norville world, while Seeing Eye added some very solid world building to Patricia Brigg’s world.
I also give credit to Paranormal Romance by Christopher Barzak for having a truly novel take on love spells (spouses buying love spells to re-kindle their relationships) and Grand Central Park by Delia Sharman for having a genuinely mundane, intelligent protagonist who is actually overweight and gets by on her knowledge and smarts. And a nod to both Words by Angela Slatter and The Woman Who Walked With Dogs by Mary Rosenblum for bringing some disturbing, snap shot, fairy tale imagery