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Magical Beginnings by Steven H. Silver

Magical Beginnings (edition 2003)

by Steven H. Silver (Editor)

Series: Darkover (short story, "The fires of her vengeance"), Beginnings Anthologies

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961256,987 (3.86)5
Every great writer has to start somewhere. Here in one volume are the magical debuts of today's greatest fantasy legends-with new introductions and insight from the esteemed editors.
Title:Magical Beginnings
Authors:Steven H. Silver (Editor)
Info:DAW (2003), Edition: 1st Printing, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Magical Beginnings by Steven H. Silver (Editor)


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This is an anthology of early stories from well-established writers of speculative fiction, some of them nowadays big names such as Ursula Le Guin, Robin Hobb, Peter S. Beagle and Charles De Lint. Most of the stories are the first genre story the author got paid for to be published, but not necessarily the first that was ever published. I didn't exactly have overly high expectations before starting - I simply purchased it to complete my collection of the Ki and Vandien stories and thought it might be a nice curiosity and that it would probably be mostly interesting or helpful for people wanting to become authors themselves. As it turned out I enjoyed reading the book quite a lot, and certainly not any less than any other fantasy anthology that I've read.

It is perhaps noteworthy that of the 16 authors, 14 are female and a great number of the protagonist are girls and women as well. Each story is preceded by an author's note which, excluding a couple of them that were slightly off-topic or spoilery, were very useful in understanding the context in which each story was created. For whatever reason, the stories have been arranged in a chronological original publication order, starting from the late 40's and ending in the late 90's - and I think it’s important to note that. It would feel wrong to be too critical of these stories or compare them to each other - not only because they are “early efforts” but because they are from such a wide period of time.

Having said that, here are my notes on the individual stories:

- People of the Crater by Andre Norton
I found the premise interesting but very much agreed with the author’s note that if feels more like a rough outline than a real story. The plot basically follows a paint-by-the-numbers prophecy and the hero’s machismo comes off as badly dated. Not perhaps the the strongest story to open the anthology.

- My Daughter's Name Is Sarah by Peter S. Beagle
This was short and sweet and well crafted, but I was left wondering why it was included in this collection as it didn’t seem to me like a genre story.

- April in Paris by Ursula Le Guin
Having always appreciated Le Guin as a quite serious writer, I was surprised (positively!) about the humour in the story. The anthology really feels like it is kicking off here.

- The Fires of Her Vengeance by Susan Shwartz
Having previous knowledge of the Darkover universe would have probably eased me into this faster but this was my first glimpse of that world. I found the way this story treats the main character’s rape quite disturbing - although I can see how other people could see it as empowering. I want to point out that the anthology was published in 2003 so this is hindsight, but the author’s note gushing about MZB didn’t help matters.

- The Fane of the Grey Rose by Charles de Lint
I loved the language in this story, it set it apart without feeling too Ye Olde Days. And there was a sweetness to the story that carries through the sadness.

- Bones for Dulath by Megan Lindholm
It’s difficult for me to review this one without bias because I was already familiar with the world and the characters and happen to think Ki is one of the most delightful characters I’ve ever met. The only thing I can say is I wanted to immediately abandon the rest of the book and go reread the other Ki and Vandien stories!

- The Unicorn Masque by Ellen Kushner
I feel like I will re-read this story in the years to come, that there were layers and meaning I didn’t necessarily find in just one reading. I also felt I wanted to discuss it with someone and compare thoughts.

- The Stuff of Heroes by Esther Friesner
This is, thankfully, a very short one. I usually quite like the trope it employs, but somehow was left cold this time - maybe it was just too tropey?

The Ulfjarl's Stone by Mickey Zucker Reichert
This was neatly crafted and I enjoyed the change of setting from the generic fantasy lands to my familiar cold and dark north. Very well written, it was easy to feel sympathise with the protagonist.

- Rending Dark by Emma Bull
This was exciting, fun, and I loved the characters. I would gladly read more stories set in this world.

- A Different Kind of Courage by Mercedes Lackey
A sweet although somewhat predictable story where the Lesson takes precedence over Plot - what happened to the package they were delivering? Compared to the other Darkover story in this book, I found it easier to understand the world-specific terminology.

- Third Time Lucky by Tanya Huff
Amusing although again a bit too predictable. I found the main character intriguing and would probably enjoy more stories about her.

- Sing by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
I liked this one very much and thought it was quite clever. The author’s note definitely added to it.

- Birthright by Michelle West
Bittersweet but left me with mixed feelings. Maybe felt a bit rushed towards the end.

- The Jewel and the Demon by Liane Norman
Author’s note almost ruined this one as it gives away too much of the plot. I liked the characters, but found the way the demon spoke really irritating.

- The Raven's Quest by Fiona Patton
Before I realised the stories were arranged by publication date, I simply thought they intentionally saved the best for the last. Genuinely moving, well paced and written, there’s nothing I didn’t love about this story! ( )
1 vote nerwende | Apr 19, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Silver, Steven H.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenberg, Martin HarryEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bull, EmmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Lint, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Friesner, Esther MContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Huff, TanyaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kushner, EllenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lackey, MercedesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lindholm, MeganContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Norman, LisanneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Norton, AndreContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Patton, FionaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reichert, Mickey ZuckerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rusch, Kristine KathrynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shwartz, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
West, MichelleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gurney, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Elaine for being there
and Pat for pushing and searching
First words
Six months and three days after the Peace of Shanghai was signed and the Great War of 1965 - 1970 declared at an end by an exhausted world, a young man huddled on a park bench in New York. ("People of the Crater")
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Every great writer has to start somewhere. Here in one volume are the magical debuts of today's greatest fantasy legends-with new introductions and insight from the esteemed editors.

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Book description
This anthology contains:

  • Beagle, Peter S.: "My Daughter's Name Is Sarah"
  • Bull, Emma: "The Rending Dark" (from Sword and Sorcery 1)
  • de Lint, Charles: "The Fane of the Grey Rose" (from Swords Against Darkness VI, later expanded to the novel The Harp of the Grey Rose)
  • Friesner, Esther: "The Stuff of Heroes"
  • Hobb, Robin (as Lindholm, Megan): "Bones for Dulath" (from Amazons!)
  • Huff, Tanya: "Third Time Lucky"
  • Kushner, Ellen: "The Unicorn Masque" (from Windling's Elsewhere 1)
  • Lackey, Mercedes: "A Different Kind of Courage" (one of Lackey's first two professional sales, originally published in Free Amazons of Darkover)
  • LeGuin, Ursula K.: "April in Paris" (from The Wind's Twelve Quarters)
  • Norman, Lisanne: "The Jewel and the Demon" (from Battle Magic)
  • Norton, Andre: "People of the Crater" (from Garan the Eternal)
  • Patton, Fiona: "The Raven's Quest" (from Camelot Fantastic)
  • Reichert, Mickey Zucker: "The Ulfjarl's Stone"
  • Rusch, Kristine Kathryn: "Sing"
  • Shwartz, Susan: "The Fires of Her Vengeance" (from the Darkover anthology The Keeper's Price)
  • West, Michelle: "Birthnight" (from Christmas Bestiary)
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