And Books

THE YOUNG MAGICIANS is a collection of imaginary-world fantasies edited by Lin Carter (for the Ballantine Fantasy Series of the early seventies) running from William Morris (whom Carter has stated in many places he considers the founder of the genre) through Carter himself (I’ve rarely seen an anthology of his he didn’t work himself into). While this was written to showcase stuff not otherwise in print, Ballantine would publish much of it later in the series, including Dunsany’s “Sword of Welleran,” “The Cats of Ulthar” and Clark Ashton Smith’s “Maze of Maal Dweb” but there’s also stuff I haven’t read such as an excerpt from Cabell’s Way of Ecben, a Pusadian short by L. Sprague DeCamp and one in a short-lived series by Henry Kuttner set in the ancient Gobi, plus some less enjoyable work (the only not-in-print Morris Carter could find was a play in verse).
DRAGONS, ELVES AND HEROES is the companion volume tracing pre-Morrisian fantasy, though with Carter’s usual habit of assuming Beowulf and the Shah Nameh constitute early genre fiction. That said, an interesting collection including excerpts from the Gesta Romanum, the Volsungasaga, and Palmerin of England as well as literary work such as Voltaire’s Princess of Babylon (which isn’t up to some of his fantasies, such as Zadig). Like it’s companion, quite enjoyable.
THE MERLIN CONSPIRACY is Diana Wynne Jones’ sequel to Deep Secret in which one of the teen protagonists of the earlier books gets caught up fighting a scheme to subvert the magic of a key world in the multiverse. The mix of magic, teen angst and Old Powers is fun reading, but not up to her best—the sorcerer Romanov is one of Jones’ less interesting Chrestomanci knockoffs and the emotional arcs get short-changed in the finish (Roddy discovers things about her best friend Grundo that should pay off dramatically but they never do).
Jones’ THE GAME is a short but better book (reminiscent of Seven Days of Luke)in which a young girl discovers the relatives she’s staying with routinely hop out into the “mythoverse” where dragons, elves and heroes hang out and where her long-lost parents are languishing in durance vile. Light, but fun.
COLD MAGIC by Kate Elliot is a steampunk fantasy in which the 1800s have both airships and sorcery and where the female protagonist discovers she’s being forced into a marriage of convenience because of an ancient pact between her family and one of the magical clans. This lost me early on—it’s one of those fantasies that spends much more time detailing the world and culture than I have any interest in (not that it’s a bad world, I just find lengthy digressions into worldbuilding uninteresting).
CLOUDS OF WITNESS was Dorothy Sayers’ sequel to Whose Body? in which Lord Peter and his cop buddy Parker try to figure out why Peter’s titled brother has no explanation for why he was found standing over the corpse of his sister’s recently disgraced fiancee. This gives us a good look at Peter’s family, but it’s ultimately a weaker book than the predecessor, spending far too much time on the exact chronology of everyone’s movements on the night in question (a common problem with mysteries of that era). Another problem is that Wimsey’s silly-ass witticisms were a little heavier this time than last.

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  1. Pingback: Dr. Mabuse and Peter Wimsey: Movies and TV | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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