Review: Magic City: Recent Spells


Magic City: Recent Spells
Magic City: Recent Spells by Paula Guran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Magic City anthology reminds me why I love science fiction/fantasy. This collection features some outstanding stories and authors. It does also contain a few duds which I'll leave unmentioned. There are also a few which are quite forgettable. I will focus on the ones which excited me. When a short story generates an exhilaration which ends abruptly when the last word is typed, I love it.

In STREET WIZARD by Simon Green, the story is tightly written with my kind of humour.

Never even react. It’s hard to tell what a Grey is thinking, what with that long flat face and those unblinking eyes. I wish they’d wear some kind of clothes, though. You wouldn’t believe what they’ve got instead of genitals. (loc. 231-232)


In PARANORMAL ROMANCE Christopher Barzak, Mr. Barzak presents a clever way of describing the six degrees of separation between two people. It's something to remember and use in future conversations. For math geeks like me, I can immediately visualize the Venn diagram. Forcing me to visualize it, helps me connect to the story better.

Trent was the manager of a small software company and Gary worked at an environmental nonprofit. They’d met in college ten years ago, but had circled around each other at the time. They’d shared a Venn diagram of friends, but naturally some of them didn’t like each other. (loc. 286-288)

Mr. Barzak continues with unique imagery associated with emotions. He possesses a way with words which arouses me. It also describes so keenly a feeling I've felt with my own mother. The way Mr. Barzak expresses it, it's sharp and witty.

Then the phone went dead. Sheila looked down at it for a while as if it were a gun that had accidentally gone off, leaving a bullet lodged in her stomach. The bullet sat in Sheila’s stomach and festered for the rest of that night, and the feeling was not unfamiliar. Sheila’s mother had a habit of mugging her with unwanted surprises. (loc. 350-353)

Mr. Barzak continues with his biting commentary in a depressing turn of phrase.

She’d [Mary the client] go home and, for five to six weeks, she’d [Mary the client] love her husband. Sheila couldn’t work a permanent fix for Mary, because Mary had fallen so out of love with her husband that no spell could sustain it forever. Their relationship was an old, used-up car in constant need of repairs. Sheila was the mechanic. (loc. 365-367)

The entire concept of how Sheila uses her magic to help a wife is mind-blowing for me. It's provocative in how a love spell is used and it is also disheartening the lost love between a husband and wife. The scenario fascinates while saddens me. Pulling this much emotion from me is always a good sign for a great read.

GRAND CENTRAL PARK by Delia Sherman is a piece which reminds me of Pan's Labyrinth because of the way the fae are presented. Ms. Sherman's descriptions are vivid. Her story is a dark and gritty film playing in my mind. Thoroughly enjoyable.

SPELLCASTER 2.0 by Jonathan Maberry starts of a bit confusing and I nearly skipped it. After the first few pages, I'm spellbound. Mr. Maberry also invokes strong imagery in his scenes. This story reminds me of the movie Next with Nicholas Cage. The ending is similar and haunting.

Anthem chewed a fingernail. Despite the fact that she painted her nails, they were all nibbled down to nubs. A couple of them even had blood caked along the sides from where she’d cannibalized herself a bit too aggressively, and there were faint chocolate-colored smears of it on the keyboard. (loc. 875-877)


WALLAMELON by Nisi Shawl broke my heart. This is a moving story of childhood friendship and lost innocence. It's hard for me to explain why this story moved me. It's best experienced rather than told. There are too many spoilers to explain why I loved this one.

SEEING EYE by Patricia Briggs is a masterfully written piece. It reminds me again why I love her books. This is a tightly woven story with threads in mythology. Beautiful.

New to me author Nancy Kress pens a fantastic piece, STONE MAN. This little taste of her writing will entice those who have never read her before, to find her books and read it.

IN THE STACKS by Scott Lynch is an absolutely fantastic short story. It takes the simple concept of a library and returning books and making it a terrifying deadly quest. The creatures Mr. Lynch conceives are ingenious and original. The adventure is exciting and a bit exhausting. When it seems as if it is all over, Mr. Lynch nails the reader with a surprise conflict. Truly marvelous and well done. One of my favourite stories in this anthology. A new to me author, Mr. Lynch is one I'd love to read more.

THE SLAUGHTERED LAMB by Elizabeth Bear is another fantastic read. Fans of fae and the Hunt will enjoy this one. What I liked most is the surprise cross dressing werewolf. Ms. Bear is new to me and definitely one to look up and find more of her books.

WORDS by Angela Slatter is an imaginative work of art. It reminds me of the words spoken in speeches in the Phantom Tollbooth. WORDS is a darker story with a macabre twist. Ms. Slatter is also a new to me author who writes in a dark manner I adore. Her character sticks it to those who try to persecute her. I loved the ending.

DOG BOYS by Charles de Lint is a wonderful paranormal piece. Mr. de Lint is a famous name even if I haven't read him before, due to my preference of female writers. After reading this story, I regret passing his books by because if they are all like this, I've missed out. I should have read him years ago.

STRAY MAGIC by Diana Peterfreund is the last story in this robust collection which I really enjoyed. It's a sweet interpretation of a dog's loyalty. This one hit home due to a personal experience with an abandoned dog. The way Ms. Peterfreund writes from the dog's perspective is moving and heartbreaking. The faith the dog keeps despite all odds is why people consider dogs as man's best friends. The hopelessness of the situation and main character's cynicism against humans is counterbalanced by the love and devotion of a dog. It is a story which reminds the jaded, without hope, there are no miracles. Loved the message and the happily ever after.

This magical anthology is highly recommended for those looking to sample authors they haven't read yet. It's a treasure trove of new authors to follow and read.

*provided by NetGalley


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