Friday, March 6, 2009

An Anthology of Faerie Stories & Poems

Faeries, or creatures like them, can be found in almost every culture the world over-- benevolent and terrifying, charming and exasperating, shifting shape from country to country, story to story, and moment to moment. In The Faery Reel, acclaimed anthologists Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have asked some of today’s finest writers of fantastic fiction for short stories and poems that draw on the great wealth of world faery lore and classic faery literature, and update the old tales, or shine a bold new light on them.

These authors, including Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline), Gregory Maguire (Mirror Mirror), Patricia A. McKillip (Ombria in Shadow), Charles de Lint (Waifs and Strays), Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), and Kelly Link (Stranger Things Happen), have contributed stories and poems that make for wonderfully absorbing reading. Charles Vess’s lovely decorations bring each piece to life; as an added bonus, Terri Windling provides an enlightening essay on the history of faery literature.

This companion to the World Fantasy Award-- winner and Locus best-seller The Green Man is edgy, provocative, and thoroughly magical. Like the faeries themselves.
Title: The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm
Editor: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Illustrator: Charles Vess
Start & Finished: 10/11/08- 11/19/08
Published: 2004
Publisher: Viking Penguin Group
Pages: 528 (total)
Genre: Anthology- Fantasy

Whether faeries (also known as fairy, fae, Little People, and an assortment of other names) are real beings or not has been a subject that has been debated for centuries. Scholars, folklorists, and even poets (like W. B. Yeats) the whole world over have wrote and studied the myths of their country mostly as fact and in trying to make sense of them have actually added to the tales. One alchemist divided faeries into elemental groups, a minister wrote that they were actually a step or two below being angels, plus folklorists have added even more over the years too like the Seelie and Unseelie classification. Today, there isn’t as much speculation about the existence in faeries from a scientific standpoint at least but what there is are stories (even Tolkien and Shakespeare wrote about faeries) that have been taken from the research that these people did years ago. They appear in many bestselling author’s works and that is what Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have compiled together in The Faery Reel anthology: stories by bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, and Charles de Lint etc. that have some basis in faerie. These two ladies also have done tremendous research on the myths and legends of faeries too.

Faerie tales, real faerie tales, have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It was only natural that I would move from non-fiction to fictionalized faerie tales! There are faeries in almost every urban fantasy series that I enjoy reading today from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series to a small role that faeries have in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books. Faeries are simply fascinating creatures and it takes a lot of research and talent to bring them to life but the authors in this anthology have it in boatloads.

Title: The Boys of Goose Hill
Author: Charles de Lint
Pages: 4

This collection starts off with the very best medium for fairies: a poem! The Boys of Goose Hill is a poem by author, musician, and folklorist Charles de Lint whom after hearing a traditional Irish song, decided to keep the melody and replace the lyrics. What he came up with was this poem "about a rowdy bunch of fairies."

This wasn't exactly the first time I've read anything by Charles de Lint but it was since I've discovered who he is. This was my first poem by him though and I thought it was beautiful. It could almost rival my favorite poet W.B. Yeats whom was a great lover of fairies himself. I love that de Lint was inspired by a traditional Irish song and it really shows in the lovely lyrical poem. It has that wonderful old feel to it that I've come to expect from people like Yeats and his ilk.

Title: CATNYP
Author: Delia Sherman
Pages: 32

Growing up in Manhattan, Delia Sherman spent as much time as she could at the New York Public Library where she discovered that New York is indeed a magical city. So when a friend suggested that faeries couldn’t possibly find living in a modern city comfortable, it inspired Ms. Sherman to write the story of Neef and her adventures of being a changeling in the faerie world of New York Between. In CATNYP, Neef is challenged to prove that humans know more of love than the faeries do so she heads to the library where she learns how to use the catalog who just happens to be a magic animal- a lion to be exact. She may even find love the old-fashioned way as well.

When I think of faeries I typically don’t picture them in New York City, nor do I picture them having their own library with rules and their own unique way of doing things but Delia Sherman completely captured my imagination. There is nothing better than a story that includes all of my favorite elements: books, fantasy, and adventure and this one had all that and more. While the author was writing, she realized that not everything she wanted to say would fit into the short story so Neef got her very own book called The Changeling. I will be reading more about Neef and her adventures soon because I loved this glimpse into New York Between.

Title: Elvenbrood
Author: Tanith Lee
Pages: 28

In some legends, the “Lordly Ones” steal away young children they like but Tanith Lee built on the old stories in her short story Elvenbrood. She first got the idea when she was seventeen and noticed that civilization had taken over so much that animals lost their homes and began to live closer to humans than in the past… so why not the faery kind too? What if they lived so close in fact that they’re always watching and can change your luck, (sometimes without your consent) but always for a price?

Beautiful, cruel, and oh so clever are Tanith Lee’s Elvenbrood (or Elvnbrod), the faeries in this story. A very distinguished science fiction/ fantasy author, I had never had the pleasure of reading one of this author’s stories but now I will make sure to seek her out in the future. I’m amazed that she was able to give her characters depth in the few pages that she did but I was left wanting to know more about these Lordly Ones. Then again, we’re always left wondering about the Fair Folk, are we not?

Title: Your Garnet Eyes
Author: Katherine Vaz
Pages: 17

Your Garnet Eyes is about a girl whose mother was a faerie who left her family to go back to the sea and back to the Goddess of the Ocean, Iemanjá (also known as Yemaja or Janaína in Brazil). Teresa tries to help her heartbroken father get over his missing wife by using the faerie enchantments that her mother taught her but something goes wrong. Katherine Vaz is an award-winning author and Harvard professor who has only visited Brazil in her imagination but has enjoyed the legends and myths surrounding their faeries.

This was the first story in the collection that I didn’t really enjoy but that was due more to the disjointed way it was written than the actual content- like the main character doesn’t speak English very well or something. Which makes sense since the story is set in Brazil but I still wasn’t very happy with this one- especially with the abrupt ending. However, I did like Teresa and her father but it was her absent faery mother that I found the most interesting. It makes me wish that the story was told from her point of view before she left her family. The glimpse of a culture so different from my own made me curious to learn more too. I was aware that other cultures had their own faeries but I had never really paid much attention to anything other than those of North America and those of the British Isles of course.

Title: Tengu Mountain
Author: Gregory Frost
Pages: 30

Japan has always had some of the most frightening ghosts and other supernatural beings in their folklore but one of the scariest are their goblins. Fantasy and science fiction author Gregory Frost manages to capture the feel of traditional Japanese folklore while blending in his Western heritage in the short story Tengu Mountain. The story is about a painter named Ando who goes to visit an aunt in the mountains he hasn’t seen in many years but runs into outlaw monks… and the tengu goblins too.

The goblins and demons (which many consider the tengu to be) in folklore have always scared me a little so I was very impressed with the story, especially since Mr. Frost used a lot of the original legend (before the idea of them being protectors) of the tengu in it. For some reason it did remind me of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale but had enough of an exotic flavor that it didn’t become a re-crafting of it. I might try more Japanese influenced stories in the future.

Title: The Faery Handbag
Author: Kelly Link
Pages: 28

Written in less than two days, Kelly Link’s The Faery Handbag won both the Nebula and the Hugo award for Best Novelette in 2005. A young girl named Genevieve narrates the story and she talks about her search for her grandmother’s handbag that faeries and sometimes people live inside, which was lost when her grandmother died.

Even though it is an award-winning story, I found that the “rhythm” of it kind of threw me off and I never was able to really enjoy it. I also think it sounds better than it actually is because the idea of faeries living inside of a handbag immediately brings all sorts of images to mind. I think if Ms. Link had just told the story in chronological order without the flashback scenes and maybe with an actual ending, I might have liked it a bit more. The author has expressed interest in doing a kind of “sequel” to The Faery Handbag someday too.


Title: The Price of Glamour
Author: Steve Berman
Pages: 22

If faeries had inhabited Charles Dickens time in London, Steve Berman's The Price of Glamour would be a fairly accurate representation of that time. A fae named Tup Smatterpit is working off his debt (and skimming a little off the top to help buy his freedom) when a mysterious thief starts robbing his fellow Fae and even him blind.

At first, I found Mr. Berman's story confusing and a little odd and yet, I liked it. There were quite a few parts that I just didn't understand since he tosses the reader head-first into the story with no warning but about half way through, it started making sense. Tup and Lind were really interesting characters and the author ends the story in a way that a series about the two could very well be possible. As of last year, Berman was working on novel that would be a continuation of this short story.

Title: The Night Market
Author: Holly Black
Pages: 20

The eighth contribution to The Faery Reel is by the bestselling fantasy author Holly Black and is set in the Philippines. A young girl comes into contact with an enkanto (a nature guardian who can be either good or bad) and becomes cursed so her sister attempts to save her through fair means and foul even if it means going into The Night Market itself to do so.

In a way, Holly Black introduced me to urban fantasy and although I've only read one of her novels, her stories have always intrigued me. Matter of fact, it was because I saw her name listed as a contributor to this anthology that convinced me to read it. The story she wrote though wasn't what I had expected in the least but it was definitely unique. I've heard of tree spirits of course but for some reason, I had never taken any notice of the legends from the Philippines. It felt almost like another world and the story reminded me strongly of the previous Your Garnet Eyes.

Title: Never Never
Author: Bruce Glassco
Pages: 29

J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan has fascinated the child in everyone ever since his play of it was written. Over the years, many more people have taken the wonder that is found only in Neverland and created films as well as more stories. In Never Never, instead of focusing on the boy who never grows up, relatively unknown author Bruce Glassco allows the story to be told from Hook's point of view and it is set in modern times.

Neverland will always be my favorite fictional place which is why I've seen just about every Peter Pan movie and read Barrie's story many times. I was aware that adaptations of Peter Pan, Neverland, Hook, and Tinkerbell existed but Glassco's short story was the first time I had read one. It's a dramatically different telling than I'm used to and at times I wasn't even sure if I liked it or not but by the end, I realized that I fully enjoyed it because Hook isn’t quite the villian that he’s supposed to be. Actually, this is one of my favorite stories in the anthology, even if Peter Pan himself never makes an appearance.

Title: Screaming for Faeries
Author: Ellen Steiber
Pages: 42

Ellen Steiber's short story Screaming for Faeries falls more into the young adult genre than almost any other story in the anthology. In it, a teenager named Cherry discovers that the faeries her little cousin claims to see are actually real and they have an interest in her. Yet somehow she repeatedly disrespects them…

While I liked this one I felt like the faery part of it wasn't actually needed, that the romance angle was the most important part. I also liked how realistically that was portrayed and Cherry was a great character (and her little cousin Annalise was too). I like Steiber's "voice" so I may have to try her latest book A Rumor of Gems which was published in 2005.

Title: Immersed in Matter
Author: Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Pages: 36

Award winning author Nina Kiriki Hoffman delves back into the world she created in the 2003 anthology Firebirds with her short story Immersed in Matter. Owl is one of the few Fae who shapeshifts and talks to animals but he wants nothing more in the world than to be able to get close to horses. However, only humans own the horses nearby and the Fae doesn't like them except for one... and he was Owl's father.

The first story in the anthology to feel incomplete to me was this one and it really is a shame since I was actually enjoying it (I like anything with talking animals, no matter how small their parts are). In the author's note, Hoffman says that she has other stories set in this world and she also attempts to reassure the reader that despite the abrupt ending, everything does turn out well. I think this story could do with a re-write though.

Title: Undine
Author: Patricia A. McKillip
Pages: 11

Based on the water elementals from mythology who tempt mortals into marrying them, Patricia A. McKillip created her story Undine (also known as Ondine) taking a mythical creature and placing her in modern day. Things don't go quite as she planned once she arrives in our world since there is a drought and the man she finds is an environmentalist!

McKillip is another author who leaves their story feeling slightly unfinished but this time I didn't really mind. I do wish it would have been a little longer because I felt Mike, Undine, and even Angel had a bigger story to tell. Another thing that I liked about the story was the fact that even if it was very short, there were some funny parts to it. I do plan on trying out one of this author's books soon since she uses myths in her fantasy novels often.

Title: The Oakthing
Author: Gregory Maguire
Pages: 25

A critically acclaimed author, Gregory Maguire's novels have delved into the fantasy world of fairy tales and other popular books alike but Oakthing; his short story contribution to this anthology, actually has a fae in it. The oakthing makes its presence known to the Grandmere Meme who was accidentally left behind when the family fled from the oncoming German army.

Like in a few previous stories, the little oakthing has very little to do with the plot, although he (she? it?) does make an interesting additive to the somewhat staid story. Maguire claims that he was inspired by the illustrations of Arthur Rackham's interpretation of the fae creatures and I can see that in his descriptions. I have read almost all of this author's novels but this was the first short story I've ever read. The writing style reminded me of his book Mirror, Mirror but I still couldn't really enjoy The Oakthing (and the smattering bits of French dialogue didn‘t help either).

Title: Foxwife
Author: Hiromi Goto
Pages: 34

Japanese-Canadian author Hiromi Goto brings a bit of Japanese folklore with her story Foxwife which features a type of faerie known as the Kitsune. According to mythology, the kitsune are defined as either zenko (good) or yako (mischievous or malicious) but the majority of them in Goto's story are the latter. Yumeko goes out fishing one day and her punt is tipped over. Once she struggles to shore, she stumbles upon the kitsune and they're not very happy!

Somehow, despite the fact that I've always liked mythology, I have managed to avoid some of the best myths by not being more interested in Japanese legends. I've heard of faery foxes before once or twice but Foxwife was the first story I've read featuring them. I couldn't help but enjoy the easy rhythm of it even if I never was able to figure out the time period or location although it did feel somewhat foreign.

Title: The Dream Eaters
Author: A. M. Dellamonica
Pages: 32

Mo and Peg have to travel into the faery world Kasqueam to get back their friend that the faeries have taken to siphon dreams out of her in A. M. Dellamonica's The Dream Eaters. Building on the stories about the fae abductions and the time distortions while being in a place of faerie, Ms. Dellamonica also conceived that the faeries would be parasites to the humans by stealing their dreams to use as currency. Making this a very chilling, yet great story.

From the first sentence, I automatically knew that this was going to be an interesting and very different story that was obviously set in some kind of different or alternate world (fizz dealer?). While at times a little confusing, both the faerie and the “slow” (real) world were extremely creative. I could easily see the author being able to base a series on these characters!


Title: The Faery Reel
Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 4

The second poem to be featured in The Faery Reel anthology is in fact where the title for the anthology comes from and it is written by an award-winning author as well: Neil Gaiman. In his author’s note, he said that his poem was written with an actual faery reel in mind and is meant to be read aloud, perhaps with the reader’s own faery tune in mind…

Gentle, powerful, and lovely are the three words that first popped into my mind when I read Gaiman’s poem (aloud of course!). He’s another one of the few authors in the anthology I was familiar with because I’ve read his American Gods, Anansi’s Boys, and The Graveyard Book novels but I wasn’t aware that he could write such beautiful poetry too.

Title: The Shooter at the Heartrock Waterhole
Author: Bill Congreve
Pages: 31

Bill Congreve, author, editor, and critic extraordinaire set his short story The Shooter at the Heartrock Waterhole in his native Australia where his unnamed main character has been hired by the Department of Agriculture to kill the wildlife surrounding the few waterholes in the desert. The one he is stationed at has a guardian though and she’s not pleased.

Australia has never really held any interest for me story-wise but I did find Mr. Congreve’s descriptions appealing. I found the story itself, less than riveting though and I’m still not sure why. It does feel complete unlike a few of the others in the anthology, but I still wasn’t impressed. However, I was surprised and a little dismayed to hear that the killing of wildlife near the waterholes is an actual real-life practice!

Title: The Annals of Eelin-Ok
Author: Jeffrey Ford
Pages: 25

One of the most creative stories added to the anthology is The Annals of Eelin-Ok by Jeffrey Ford. He has created a race of Fae that live in sandcastles called the Twilmish and while this story could have easily become too silly very easily, Ford manages to make his story seem almost plausible to a degree. It even won the Speculative Literature Foundation Fountain Award beating ten other stories, including Kelly Link's Faery Handbag.

Easily one of the best stories in The Faery Reel was by an author I had never even heard of before. I loved the story and its little character whose life exists almost in fast forward since he is “born” fully-grown when the children leave their sandcastles to go home and then dies when the tide comes in. The story is an autobiography of a life lived well though with adventure, love, and courage. Ford’s “translation” of Eelin-Ok’s annals is reminiscent of John Peterson’s The Littles and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers but with a fresh, modern approach.

Title: De la Tierra
Author: Emma Bull
Pages: 23

A man who is essentially a hitman for a group of faeries comes across his latest target who turns out to be a horned serpent from his native country in Emma Bull’s De la Tierra (translated: Of the Earth). Essentially, the story is about how the modern world is slowly eclipsing the old even in places where superstition and legends had thrived a couple of decades before. One of the pioneers of the urban fantasy genre, Ms. Bull is a fitting contributor to this anthology.




Science fiction and fantasy usually are lumped together all the time but while I like fantasy (especially urban fantasy), science fiction will hardly get a second glance from me. When I realized that this story had sci-fi elements mixed in with the fantasy, I was very disappointed- especially since it’s the last story. Grudgingly, I have to admit that it was good and not at all what I expected.

Title: How to Find Faery
Author: Nan Fry
Pages: 3

The Faery Reel’s finale piece is also a poem called How to Find a Faery by American poet Nan Fry. She said, “When I wrote “How to Find Faery,” I was thinking of those hints of magic that we sense in our ordinary lives, of how such glimpses can transform our view of reality, of how fleeting they are, and of how, ultimately, they come both from within us and from our response to the world.”

Although not on par with Neil Gaiman’s or Charles de Lint’s poems, I enjoyed Nan Fry nonetheless. It was the first time I’ve ever even heard of her but it is very apparent that she is an extremely talented lady. The imagery that her poetry evokes is soothing and quiet but at the same time powerful. A fitting end to the anthology!

Links & Interviews: Delia Sherman (CATNYP), Gregory Frost Tengu excerpt, Kelly Link (The Faery Handbag), Steve Berman (Price of Glamour)

Picture Explanations
Famous Elsie Wright Photo: One of the most notorious cases of photo fakery. Almost an entire page of the introduction talks about how these pictures which gave "proof" that fairies existed.
The Piper of Dreams: A painting by Estella Canziana that was extremely popular during WWI.
Goose Hill boys: Charles Vess' illustration of Charles de Lint's Boys of Goose Hill
Lion: A magic animal in the Between New York library who is the card catalog.
Night scene: The Elvenbrood trick Jack into chasing them into the night.
Offering: A Brazilian custom offering to Iemenja
Tengu: A Japanese supernatural creature that is sometimes worshiped and sometimes considered a goblin
Handbag: Grandma Zofia's faery handbag has a dog guardian inside if you turn the handle one way, in the other is a land of faery
Golden dust: A type of glamour the Fae use to hide what they really look like from humans
Tamarind tree: The enkanto in the story lives in a tamarind tree
Neverland: A map of Neverland
Guitar: Robbie is a talented muscian
Animals: Another Charles Vess’ illustration. This is Owl, Golden and Bruiser
Undine: A type of faery that lives in water
Trees: Arthur Rackham illustration Maguire was influenced by.
Fox: The kitsune in their other form
Dream Eaters Illustration: Charles Vess illustration of Peg, Mo and Dogwood
Faeries: Dancing faeries illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Australia: The Nullarbor Plain that the main character spends most of the story in
Sandcastle: The Twilmish people live in sandcastles
Horned Snake: A mystical figure associated with water

16 comments:

  1. A lovely review of our work. Thanks for enjoying it and, more so, for creating possibly the most beautifully illustrated literary review page I've ever seen.
    Sincerely,
    Gregory Frost

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  2. Wow! There are some great authors in here and I'm going to have to check this one out. Plus, I think that books with faries are interesting to read.

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  3. This sounds like a great anthology. I need to get it!

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  4. Hmm, this looks like an interesting collection. I've read Maguire's Wicked (hated it) and Gaiman's Good Omens and Smoke & Mirrors (loved them).

    The three Gaiman books you listed, Jen, are the next three on my "to be read" list for him, Anansi Boys, American Gods and Graveyard Book. How was Anansi Boys? Did you review it? I must have missed it.

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  5. That's a great review of this book, Tink! I really need to read it one of these days!

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  6. Oh super review. I've never seen an anthology reviewed so thoroughly. As soon as I saw the title Holly Black came to mind and I see she has a story here too. Wonderful lineup. I went straight to Amazon and ordered my copy.

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  7. Lovely review! I love all the art you included. I need to get myself a copy of this book. I always enjoy Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow's anthologies and I'm sure this will be no exception. Plus, so many authors I like contributed!

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  8. Wow, that sounds terrific! I love the way you illustrate your reviews.

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  9. Gregory Frost: Thank you so much! I really enjoyed your contribution.

    Samantha: This was a great anthology, one of the best I've ever read!

    Lenore: I hope you do!

    Paxton: I loved Wicked! I read it soon after it was first released but I still haven't seen the musical.

    Ellen Datlow: Thanks so much for editing such a great anthology! I've been reading anything with your name on it for some years now.

    Kailana: Thank you, I'd love to hear what you think about it if you do get around to reading it.

    SciFiGuy: Thank you! This is how I do most anthology reviews and since they take so long, it's also why I don't do very many of them lol. I really hope you enjoy this one!

    Nymeth: I just know that you'll love this!

    Naida: Thanks!

    Bookfool: Sometimes its a pain but I really love the finished look lol. Thank you!

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  10. This is a wonderful review, Jen, and very thorough! I love stories about the fae and will definitely have to pick this one up. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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  11. Thanks for the detailed review. :) I've had this book on my own Mt TBR for awhile now but you've got me wanting to read it more and more now. I think I'll make it my next anthology read after my current which I've only got 2-3 more stories. (I sorta read these things long term and keep the book on my nightstand.)

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  12. What a great review :) I have had a copy of this for a year or two and am hoping to finally get around to reading it this year. It has a great selection of authors and is edited by my favourite editors so what's not to love.

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  13. Thanks for posting a link to this review. I have a new anthology to check out! I never knew fairies were that popular in poetry. I guess I haven't been paying close enough attention...darn it...sometimes I want to smack myself upside the head.

    great review.

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  14. Wendy: Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Cherie: I sometimes keep them as my long-term read too but mostly just biographies instead.

    Rhinoa: Aw, thanks! That was exactly my reasoning for picking it up :)

    Serena: You're welcome! Oh faeries have always been popular in poetry but they're really making a comeback lately. Thanks :)

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