Eighteen short tales about witches by some of the wickedest names in fantasy make for a rich anthology.
It is inevitable that a collection like this be uneven, but the overall quality is high, even if the stories occasionally suffer from a sameness despite their deeply varied origins. The writers are simply stellar: Ellen Kushner, Frances Hardinge, Charles de Lint, Tanith Lee, Ellen Klages and Holly Black, among others. Neil Gaiman’s contribution is a witchy, weird poem. Garth Nix’s “A Handful of Ashes” features a library and librarian. Delia Sherman’s “The Witch in the Woods” is beautiful and romantic, with deer and bear shape-shifters and no small darkness. Jim Butcher has a Harry Dresden story (“B is for Bigfoot”), and it’s terrific. Jane Yolen makes Hans Christian Andersen’s life a tale itself, and Patricia McKillip’s “Which Witch” makes loud music and crow magic elegantly. The best, however, may be Peter S. Beagle’s “Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” (yes, she is, and she goes back there, too, but not the way she came, in this "Sleeping Beauty" variant).
Readers will find much to enjoy, especially if taken in smaller bites rather than all at once. (about the authors) (Fantasy anthology. 10 & up)