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Magic City: Recent Spells by Paula Guran

Magic City: Recent Spells

by Paula Guran (Editor)

Other authors: Christopher Barzak (Contributor), Elizabeth Bear (Contributor), Holly Black (Contributor), Patricia Briggs (Contributor), Emma Bull (Contributor)22 more, Jim Butcher (Contributor), Joseph Corsentino (Cover artist), Charles de Lint (Contributor), Amanda Downum (Contributor), Alan Dean Foster (Contributor), Simon R. Green (Contributor), Caitlín R. Kiernan (Contributor), Nancy Kress (Contributor), Marc Laidlaw (Contributor), Scott Lynch (Contributor), Jonathan Maberry (Contributor), Nnedi Okorafor (Contributor), Diana Peterfreund (Contributor), Mary Rosenblum (Contributor), Nisi Shawl (Contributor), Delia Sherman (Contributor), John Shirley (Contributor), Angela Slatter (Contributor), Lucy Sussex (Contributor), Catherynne M. Valente (Contributor), Carrie Vaughn (Contributor), A. C. Wise (Contributor)

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From the introduction: "Are these stories 'urban fantasy'? Well, that's a term that started out defining one thing, was accidentally applied to something else, and is now changing yet again..."
The stories here represent the 'one thing,' the 'something else' and maybe have a few extras thrown in. Personally, I prefer the original - but this is a pretty good mix.

** “Street Wizard,” Simon R. Green
Not so much a story as an introduction to what 'urban fantasy' is about. A night in the life of a 'street wizard' - a civil servant tasked with keeping the streets of London's Soho reasonably safe.

*** “Paranormal Romance,” Christopher Barzak
A modern-day witch who specializes in patching up others' romance was never had luck in love, herself. But when her mother insists on setting her up on a blind date, events unroll in a slightly unexpected and rather cute way.

** “Grand Central Park,” Delia Sherman
A modern fairy-tale designed to boost the self-esteem of nerdy young teens. An overweight young woman encounters the Queen of Fairies in Central Park, and relies on her knowledge of fairy lore to get her out of a sticky dilemma.

** “Spellcaster 2.0,” Jonathan Maberry
A team of grad students and their professor plan a dramatic presentation of their new subscription database of information on spells, myth and folklore. However, their academic skepticism is shot to hell by some unexpected phenomena. Not enough story, too much polemic.

**** “Wallamelon,” Nisi Shawl
Just about here, this collection picks up some speed... I believe this is the first story I've read by Nisi Shawl, and it's very nicely done - the characters and setting really come alive. This is a small-scale story of four poor children in a run-down Detroit neighborhood who take on a gardening project when they find some watermelons growing in an abandoned lot. But it shifts into a tale of magic and power - and then again into a story of growing up and the pain & loss of realizing that sometimes best friends are not forever.

*** “-30-,” Caitlín R. Kiernan
A writer sells her 'soul,' in bits and pieces, in return for commercially successful writing. It's a classic theme, and I'm not sure this iteration of it adds anything strikingly new, but it's still well-done, and the details of the setting will be enjoyed by anyone who knows Providence, as I do...

*** “Seeing Eye,” Patricia Briggs
A cop, who happens to be a werewolf, shows up at the door of a witch, asking for help. His brother has been captured by a dangerous coven, and he needs supernatural assistance to try to rescue him. The witch's powers are strong - but she's also blind. Together, however, they make a good team. A short adventure that seems like it could very easily be the start to a series of paranormal adventures.

*** “Stone Man,” Nancy Kress
A re-read; previously read in the 'Wizards' anthology. Under stress, a boy discovers he has heretofore-unknown magical powers. it loses him a friend, but gains him a new group of friends and a mission in life... Not Kress' best, but not bad.

**** “In the Stacks,” Scott Lynch
A renowned school for wizards has the largest collection of grimoires known to man. Strange things happen when you collect that many spells in one place - and the final exam features just one task: return a library book to the shelves. Fun and funny; a must for Scott Lynch's fans.

*** “A Voice Like a Hole,” Catherynne M. Valente
This is supposed to be a 'Borderland' story, but, at least for me, it just doesn't have the feel of the original stories. It's an OK story, but the magic wasn't there. Two runaway girls are on a downward spiral, and make it to the Border. But their transportation is just a bit too deus ex machina, and doesn't fit with the original...

*** “The Arcane Art of Misdirection,” Carrie Vaughn
Nice bit of supernatural adventure here... A blackjack dealer teams up with the casino's performing magician to catch a con using black magic to cheat. Another one that seems like it could be the introduction to a series.

*** “Thief of Precious Things,” A.C. Wise
The world presented here reminded me a lot of Ian McDonald's 'Out on Blue Six' - which is a rather unusual book to be reminded of. A surreal and post-apocalyptic land, where humans attempt to regain technology, and war against vying tribes of creatures of myth...

**** “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” Holly Black
Now, this one technically isn't a 'Bordertown' story - but it's got the feel down pat. It's about perfect. It's set in New York City, with the characters from 'Tithe' - elf/human romance, characters working in a coffee shop, all the drama of trying to find - and more difficult, to believe in - love.

*** “Snake Charmer,” Amanda Downum
A phoenix-like dragon and ancient voodoo powers meet in a modern goth club, at the change of a magical tide. Nice, but it feels a bit like a brief glimpse into a larger world.

*** “The Slaughtered Lamb,” Elizabeth Bear
I'm pretty sure I read this one before. It was originally published in 2012. A drag queen has an encounter with the Wild Hunt in New York City, and events conspire to convince her to accept her werewolf nature - which she's hidden for years. If only the real 'Slaughtered Lamb' pub was as cool as the one here...

**** “The Woman Who Walked with Dogs,” Mary Rosenblum”
Rosenblum is a bit of an underrated author. I was introduced to her by the excellent Del Rey Discovery series, which published two excellent novels by her. Since then, I haven't kept up with her work - and I think I should have! This is a very enjoyable story about a rebellious teenager and a 'crazy' old neighbor woman... and a bunch of invisible dogs. You, too, will want one after you read this.

*** “Words,” Angela Slatter
A writer goes all Pied Piper on the children of her annoying busybody neighbors. A bit of wishful thinking here? I very much like the portrayal of the (here, literal) magic of writing.

*** “Dog Boys,” Charles de Lint
It's DeLint-y. On his first day at a new high school, a boy from out-of-state gets caught up in a gang war between the Mexicans and the Native Americans. Two kinds of traditional magic duke it out, and the kid gets adopted into a mystical tribe, and a date with the cute girl too. Aww.

*** “Alchemy,” Lucy Sussex
Very nice, rather quiet piece, about a brilliant woman perfumer in ancient Babylon, and the powerful immortal who's drawn to her, and offers her assistance in her goals. Strong themes of self-reliance and personal ethics twine through a bittersweet strain of 'what might have been.'

*** “Curses,” Jim Butcher
A Harry Dresden supernatural investigation. One for the baseball fans; but mildly amusing for anyone.

*** “De la Tierra,” Emma Bull
What if aliens had the same prejudices against immigrants that many Americans do? And what if they trained human immigrants to do their dirty work for them? Draws some nice parallels; makes a point without being too preachy.

*** “Stray Magic,” Diana Peterfreund
Previously read in the 'Under My Hat' anthology. A sentimental and cute story with a message - about a kindly animal shelter worker, and the magical dog that comes into her care.

**** “Kabu Kabu,” Nnedi Okorafor
Every have one of those days where everything goes crazy? Ngozi does, when she hails an African gypsy cab to try to get to the airport to get to her sister's wedding in Nigeria. OK, the story has a serious failing in the lead character's unchallenged assumption that one MIGHT, even possibly, be able to show up at an American airport 15 minutes or even half an hour before scheduled takeoff, and have any chance of boarding a flight. But the wild ride through African folklore makes it all worth while.

**** “Pearlywhite” Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley
A long story about some street kids, their 'familiar' spirits, and a serial killer. A well-crafted horror story.

Advance copy provided by NetGalley. Many thanks for the opportunity to read; as always, my opinions are my own.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Sadly, the stories are not brand new (never before published) for this anthology, but there are a lot of good stories in here. ( )
  Schlyne | Nov 12, 2015 |
This anthology took me a long time to read, because I kept putting it off. None of the stories captured my attention. They were so BORING. There are much better anthologies out there! ( )
  lesindy | Nov 1, 2014 |
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 Hole was 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 Kabu also 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

Read More ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Jul 11, 2014 |
Loosely themed collection on magic and the city, though some of them stretch for the city. Authors include: Elizabeth Bear (werewolf drag queen), Holly Black (fairies in a coffee shop), Patricia Briggs (werewolf, but not part of her main werewolf series; blind witch meets werewolf seeking to save his brother and literal sparks fly), Emma Bull (hit man going after magical immigrants, some sort of message about immigration), Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden investigates the White Sox curse), Nancy Kress (delinquent discovers his magic powers, saves day), Nnedi Okafor & Alan Dean Foster (stressed lawyer gets in the wrong Nigerian cab, or maybe the right one, and goes unexpected places), and Catherynne Valente (Bordertown). I was in it for the Briggs and Butcher, and the stories were good examples of their abilities, so fans shouldn’t hesitate. ( )
  rivkat | Jun 28, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Guran, PaulaEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barzak, ChristopherContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bear, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Black, HollyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Briggs, PatriciaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bull, EmmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Butcher, JimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corsentino, JosephCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Lint, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Downum, AmandaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foster, Alan DeanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Green, Simon R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kiernan, Caitlín R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kress, NancyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Laidlaw, MarcContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maberry, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Okorafor, NnediContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peterfreund, DianaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenblum, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shawl, NisiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sherman, DeliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shirley, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slatter, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sussex, LucyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valente, Catherynne M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vaughn, CarrieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wise, A. C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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There’s a bit of magic in everything

And then some loss to even things out.

--Lou Reed "Magic and Loss"
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Magic spells, witchcraft, wizardry, fairies, devilry, and more.... Urban living in fantasy fiction is full of both magical wonder and dark enchantment. Street kids may have supernatural beings to protect them or have such powers themselves. Brujeria may be part of your way of life. Crimes can be caused (and solved) with occult arts and even a losing sports team's "curse" can be lifted with wizardry. Some of the best stories of urban enchantment from the last few years gathered in one volume full of hex appeal and arcane arts.… (more)

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