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“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ran “Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic. The Line-up: “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman “The Fairy Enterprise” by Jeffrey Ford “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” by Genevieve Valentine “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh “La Reine D’Enfer” by Kathe Koja “Briar Rose” by Elizabeth Wein “The Governess” by Elizabeth Bear “Smithfield” by James P. Blaylock “The Unwanted Women of Surrey” by Kaaron Warren “Charged” by Leanna Renee Hieber “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey “Phosphorus” by Veronica Schanoes “We Without Us Were Shadows” by Catherynne M. Valente “The Vital Importance of the Superficial” by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown” by Jane Yolen “A Few Twigs He Left Behind” by Gregory Maguire “Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee “Estella Saves the Village” by Theodora Goss


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“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ran “Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic. The Line-up: “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman “The Fairy Enterprise” by Jeffrey Ford “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” by Genevieve Valentine “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh “La Reine D’Enfer” by Kathe Koja “Briar Rose” by Elizabeth Wein “The Governess” by Elizabeth Bear “Smithfield” by James P. Blaylock “The Unwanted Women of Surrey” by Kaaron Warren “Charged” by Leanna Renee Hieber “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey “Phosphorus” by Veronica Schanoes “We Without Us Were Shadows” by Catherynne M. Valente “The Vital Importance of the Superficial” by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown” by Jane Yolen “A Few Twigs He Left Behind” by Gregory Maguire “Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee “Estella Saves the Village” by Theodora Goss

30 review for Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    DNF-- I slogged through the intro and the first 10 stories, and then realized that I was regarding it as more a chore to be completed than a book to be enjoyed, and put it down. This REALLY didn't measure up to expectations, IMO. Datlow and Windling are master anthologists, but I was gravely disappointed in this offering. Frankly, I wished I COULD have kept going, because (on flipping through) some of my favorite authors have stories near the end of the book (really, what I SHOULD have done was DNF-- I slogged through the intro and the first 10 stories, and then realized that I was regarding it as more a chore to be completed than a book to be enjoyed, and put it down. This REALLY didn't measure up to expectations, IMO. Datlow and Windling are master anthologists, but I was gravely disappointed in this offering. Frankly, I wished I COULD have kept going, because (on flipping through) some of my favorite authors have stories near the end of the book (really, what I SHOULD have done was just skip to them directly at the start, but I don't believe that anthologies are slapped together randomly, and I thought I'd WANT to read it all. And by that time I felt differently, the book had pretty much sucked out all my will to continue.) The stories seemed to capture the stereotypical dreariness of the Victorian period, with none of the magic (except of the nastiest kind-- it's a little disturbing how many of the stories were revenge tales, like "The Unwanted Women of Surrey," or fey karma for a thoroughly unlikable main character, like "The Fairy Enterprise"). Some just lacked sufficient plot to engage my interest, like "Smithfield." Delia Sherman's "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells" was the most intriguing of the stories I read, and even that one was more than a little sordid. It's not that I need my fantasy to be full of rainbows and sparkleponies-- gaslamp, to me, is supposed to bring a sense of *wonder* to the period. This collection just seems to underline the depersonalization and casual cruelties of the Industrial Age. I have to wonder what the anthologists were seeking here, because I *know* that both they and the individual authors were capable of better than this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    With a few exceptions (aren't there always?) a very solid collection of Victorian-set fantasy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    It's very unfortunate timing that I'm rating this right after Ellen Datlow won the 2018 Locus Award for best Editor; it's incredibly well deserved, she's introduced me to some of my favourite authors, and I love her collections almost without exception. This is just a blip, so if you're new to her this is definitely not a representative review! Unfortunately this was a case of reader meets book that is absolutely not for her. Luckily it was a buddy-read with Lena and Holly from Spells, Space & Sc It's very unfortunate timing that I'm rating this right after Ellen Datlow won the 2018 Locus Award for best Editor; it's incredibly well deserved, she's introduced me to some of my favourite authors, and I love her collections almost without exception. This is just a blip, so if you're new to her this is definitely not a representative review! Unfortunately this was a case of reader meets book that is absolutely not for her. Luckily it was a buddy-read with Lena and Holly from Spells, Space & Screams - thank you ladies, you kept me going! The majority of stories are equipped with something recognisably Victorian, be it setting, writing style or characters, plus an unlikeable protagonist. Seriously, 80%ish of these stories follow people that are just completely terrible - not in the wonderfully villainous or devious way, but just banal and grimly awful. HOWEVER - there are some stories that balanced this out into earning a second star. Elizabeth Bear brings her usual brilliance to the collection with The Governess; The Vital Importance of the Superficial, a joint work from Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer was absolutely charming, quirky, and built a complete world, romance and story in a very short amount of time. The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren showed just what women can achieve when they band together towards a common goal, and Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss will be loved by anyone who ever wished they could open a foster home for all the mistreated characters they wanted to somehow save. Again, if you aren't familiar with Ellen Datlow's work, don't let this put you off (unless you have a thing for Victorian tales and unlikeable protagonists, in which case GOOD NEWS).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I made the mistake of thinking this was a steampunk anthology; it’s not. It’s Gaslamp Fantasy; fantasy stories set in the Victorian era with magic included. Here you will no find brass goggles or airship pirates. But it was a happy mistake, because I enjoyed this book very much. Victoria reigned for a very long time, so there is variety of events, inventions, real people, and movements to choose from when writing in the era. A couple of the stories are actually about Victoria; the title story is I made the mistake of thinking this was a steampunk anthology; it’s not. It’s Gaslamp Fantasy; fantasy stories set in the Victorian era with magic included. Here you will no find brass goggles or airship pirates. But it was a happy mistake, because I enjoyed this book very much. Victoria reigned for a very long time, so there is variety of events, inventions, real people, and movements to choose from when writing in the era. A couple of the stories are actually about Victoria; the title story is, if you know about the relationship between Victoria and Prince Albert, heartbreaking as well as a warning to be careful what you wish for when working magic. I loved ‘For Briar Rose’ simply because it involved Edward Burne-Jones and William and Jane Morris; the pre-Raphaelite artistic movement is simply my favorite ever. In other stories, the Bronte family, Frankenstein, Scrooge and the Crachit family show up. There is true horror- one story features one of the women who worked in the match factories who developed the terrible ‘Phossy jaw’ where the phosphate from the matches eats away the jaw bones. And ‘The Fairy Enterprise’ wherein an amoral industrial decides to take advantage of gullible society and ends up getting what he deserves made is a dark story, but made me laugh. It’s a very solid anthology; while there were, of course, a couple of stories I didn’t like, they are all good and well written and I’m glad I read them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren ★★★★★ This was the best story by far! A vicious supernatural story of madness, murder, and social chasms that is layered in meaning. Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss ★★★★☆ This is Goss dabbling in Victorian literature, feminism, mystery, and happy endings. The germ of something that would become her Athena Club series. The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh ★★★★☆ "Underneath the tintype she wrote Mine." A hard angry young woman uses British Voodo The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren ★★★★★ This was the best story by far! A vicious supernatural story of madness, murder, and social chasms that is layered in meaning. Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss ★★★★☆ This is Goss dabbling in Victorian literature, feminism, mystery, and happy endings. The germ of something that would become her Athena Club series. The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh ★★★★☆ "Underneath the tintype she wrote Mine." A hard angry young woman uses British Voodoo to change her life. I thought this was going to end much meaner than it did, after all the English make a sport of social climbing. Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey ★★★★☆ “Many nights I stood over my own dear husband’s bed, clutching a knife in my hand, my whole body wracked with the effort of turning Mr. Splitfoot away.” A story about the spiritualist Fox sisters and the price they may have been paying for their gifts. Their Monstrous Minds by Tanith Lee ★★★★☆ Oh my, I did enjoy this parallel English version of Frankenstein. Don’t jump on me, Shelley’s version takes place in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. The Governess by Elizabeth Bear ★★★★☆ “When a man is dead...what’s to stop you?” Well now, that was a good selkie horror story. It would have been five stars if Annabelle had let go. Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes ★★★☆☆ A rough sad reminded of the terrible conditions endured by lower class Victorians. Phossy jaw, death by jaw rot caused by white phosphorus, was not something I was familiar with. Banned in the UK in 1906 it sadly took until 1911 for the same wisdom to hit the land of the free and home of the capitalist. https://mobile.nytimes.com/1911/04/14... The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown by Jane Yolen ★★★☆☆ An odd story about Queen Victoria and her favorite Prime Minister; the man who made her Empress of India. Apparently, Kabbalah was involved. The Fairy Enterprise by Jeffrey Ford ★★★☆☆ "The appearance of industry yet the manufacturing of nothing." Sounds Russian doesn’t it? Its actually better than the original idea - slavery. This is the story of a wealthy industrialist who decided to sell fairies and got what he deserved! He was an unpleasant POV. A Few Twigs He Left Behind by Gregory Maguire ★★★☆☆ An exaggerated, and even satirical, sequel to The Christmas Carol. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Delia Sherman ★★☆☆☆ Have you ever wanted to read a magical revisionist history that makes Queen Victoria look like Donald Trump? Because I didn’t. From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire) by Genevieve Valentine ★★☆☆☆ Oh dear I am NOT a fan of the epistolary style. For the Briar Rose by Elizabeth Wein ★★☆☆☆ This was a delicate story about a woman who only finds fulfillment through becoming a mother. It’s abloom with the soft discrete prose that reduces passionate fucking in the woods to a “swooning afternoon.” There’s a tasteful drop of magical realism in this tea rose of women’s fiction that could not hold my attention. I was painfully bored. This took me two hours to push through. Gah! Smithfield by James P. Blaylock ★★☆☆☆ Magical photographic overlay that took place as electricity hit England. There’s not much in the way of story, just “Hey, this weird thing happened to my film while I was in London.” Charged by Leanna Renee Hieber ★★☆☆☆ “My first memory is of being struck by lightening. It was exquisite.” That started off well. Alas, the MC was a dislikable character. Not even an antihero, just a creepy power hungry weirdo that was drawn to Manhattan. What a shock, lol. La Reine d’Enfer by Kathe Koja ★☆☆☆☆ Unpleasant in every way, from the barely understandable language to the subject matter. We Without Us Were Shadows by Catherynne M. Valente DNF Valente is hit and miss for me. This story, not five pages in, my eyes glazed over reading about kids playing with toys. The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner & Caroline Stevermer DNF Not a fan of epistolary writing. The 16/18 stories I read averaged exactly 3 Stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    A pretty solid collection of fantasy stories, linked by their connection to Queen Victoria's reign. I think my favorites were the creepy stories by McHugh and Koja, the rousing "Phosphorus," and the hopeful "Estella Saves the Village." "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells" by Delia Sherman. A magician-historian looks under the simple cantrips and magical recipes in a book and finds a young Victoria's diary. It reveals (view spoiler)[that she used a love spell on Albert (hide spoiler)] , and the histor A pretty solid collection of fantasy stories, linked by their connection to Queen Victoria's reign. I think my favorites were the creepy stories by McHugh and Koja, the rousing "Phosphorus," and the hopeful "Estella Saves the Village." "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells" by Delia Sherman. A magician-historian looks under the simple cantrips and magical recipes in a book and finds a young Victoria's diary. It reveals (view spoiler)[that she used a love spell on Albert (hide spoiler)] , and the historian (who has been harassed as a woman and as a commoner) is torn whether to reveal the late queen's secret. I wish there was more to the historian, and more to Victoria's secret diary, because as it is there isn't much to this story. "The Fairy Enterprise" by Jeffrey Ford. A pitiless industrialist tries to build a factory that creates fairies, but instead he himself becomes the fairy factory. Basically a recounting of random, surreal, and disgusting events happening to a terrible man. Not enjoyable. "From the Catalogue of the Uncanny and the Marvellous" by Genevieve Valentine. Through excerpts from fictional and real historical documents, describes the contents and destruction by fire of an exhibit in the Great Exhibition of supernatural beings and objects. I wish there was more characterization or story here. "The Memory Book" by Maureen McHugh. Laura Anne is a new governness, and she finds her charges rather a handful. So she does what she always does when troubled: she scrapbooks. There's a wonderful commitment to this story, and the creeping sense of dread and terror. "La Reine D'Enfer" by Kathe Koja. An urchin with a talent for memorization becomes an actor, and in so doing not only rids himself of his pimp, but finds a dark power for his own. Great character voice and historical details. "For the Briar Rose" by Elizabeth Wein. Margaret, only daughter of Edward-Burne Jones, is at the cusp of becoming a wife and then mother while her father paints his famed Briar Rose series. This felt confused and unfocused, even though the symbolism was blindingly obvious. "The Governess" by Elizabeth Bear. A governess in a troubled household. I liked the way the parents' influence on their children was portrayed, although I thought (view spoiler)[the constant refrain of "seal-brown hair" to describe the mother (a selkie whose skin has been stolen) was tiring (hide spoiler)] . "Smithfield" by James Blaylock. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle does some photography in a town while the gas lamps are being replaced with electricity. Pointless and dry. I thought the long-winded style of the story was a good mimic of Doyle's, until I read the afterward, which was two-and-a-half pages when most authors contented themselves with a sentence or two. "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren. A house of women who are a bit too mad or unwanted by their families live in peace until a new lady arrives and spreads the word of the Grey Ladies. By hastening the deaths of others, the women can serve the Grey Ladies and gain free will. (view spoiler)[But of course, doing so doesn't give them free will; it does something much worse. (hide spoiler)] I liked the way Annie's soul was described: "twisted, dark, pockmarked...it puddled, like a rat liquefying." But otherwise, I think the narrator was too ill-defined (why was she in the house? why did she believe Annie and go along with the dreadful poisonings?), and the author put a few too many infodumps of their research. It read like Warren had done a little reading into Victorian medicine and history and then stuffed several random things that they found exciting into the story. "Charged" by Leanna Renee Hieber. The narrator is struck by lightning as a boy, and ever after is fascinated by electricity. More, he can control and conduct it. Unfortunately for the world, this superpowered man of the new electric age is amoral and mad as a hatter. Intriguing. "Mr.Splitfoot" by Dale Bailey. In her old age, Maggie Fox thinks about her time as a celebrated Spiritualist. She renounced her talents as mere fraud, but in her own mind she allows herself to acknowledge the awful truth--that she and her sister really could commune with spirits, and they were terrifying. The descriptions of the spirits and the near-possession are chilling, and I liked the twist this gave the Fox sisters. "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes. A matchwoman in Ireland does dark magic in order to live long enough to see a strike end and a union formed. This is a disturbing but very necessary story to include in a gaslamp/steampunk anthology--from the author's afterword: "It's easy to forget how the people who indulged in afternoon tea rituals, admired clockwork-powered inventions, and wore shapely and beautiful corsets and bustles profited from the death and suffering of others every time they lit a candle." "We Without Us Were Shadows" by Catherynne M Valente. As children, the four youngest Brontes visit a world in which their imaginings have form and substance. I think at times Valente gets too caught up in description to maintain the story, but the idea is solid and has some of the charm and danger of Narnia or Oz. "The Vital Importance of the Superficial" by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer. A gentleman leaves a magical object behind after a salon, and peremptorily demands it back. He is answered by an equally pert letter, and through the course of correspondence a dastardly magician is foiled, a lady saved, and a romance begun. Stevermer wrote a very similar series of book with another author (the Sorcery&Cecilia series with Patricia Wrede), and in both instances the epistolary style works for only a short time. Soon, it becomes unbelievable that the neighboring narrators are communicating only in letters. "We will come together just as soon as Father has his breakfast and I have tidied the crumbs out of his beard," writes Charlotte, seemingly desperate to see her lost brother and best friend again after their ordeals, and then instead of hastening to them writes a THREE PAGE letter. In the amount of time it takes her to write this letter, she could have visited, told them the whole tale, and come back home again! Too, Kushner&Stevermer clearly only developed the plot as they wrote each letter, so the backstory is a disorganized mess and the plot itself sadly anticlimactic. Also, the romance at the end feels unearned, despite the twenty pages of letters between Our Heroes. This needed tightening and editing to turn it from fun writing exercise between friends into a good story. Because there is charm and wit here, just buried. "The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown" by Jane Yolen. Disraeli and Queen Victoria talk, and he uses Kabbalistic magic to add India to her empire. The writing is not subtle in its characterizations (if Victoria was likened to a young girl one more time I swear I'd have shut the book), nor is the plot clear. "A Few Twigs He Left Behind" by Gregory Maguire. In his last decade of life, Scrooge was a reformed man. Not only did he spread his wealth to the impoverished of London, but he fell in love. Now his death has finally come upon him, his children watch his corpse to see if his late repentance was enough to save him from eternal wanderings. Great descriptions, and a narrative pov that felt similar to Dickens's without feeling derivative. "Their Monstrous Minds" by Tanith Lee. A scientist strives to create a perfect man out of corpse-bits, and succeeds to perfection. Except that (view spoiler)[not only has he successfully galvanized the brain he chose to give "Primos," but also gave powers to each individual scrap. Primos is constantly at war with himself. (hide spoiler)] Horror in the nineteenth century style, with Lee's beautifully crafted prose. "Estella Saves the Village" by Theodora Goss. Very cool story. Estella lives in a cozy little village with her guardian, Miss Havisham, but one day she sees little black specks on the pastor. Every day, the specks grow larger and spread throughout the village. (view spoiler)[(SPOILERS THAT WILL TRULY RUIN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE STORY) Miss Havisham reveals that she was an English professor who imagined the whole village, including little Estella, but as her brain dies, so too does her imagined village. Estella is initially shocked to find out she's just a dream, but refuses to give up on their shared life and imagines the world whole again. (hide spoiler)] A neat combination of imagination, horror, and sweetness.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lady H

    It kills me to have to rate this book so low, because I truly expected to love these stories. Gaslamp fantasy sounded like something that was tailored specifically to my interests in magic and Victorian England, but sadly most of the stories in this collection were dry, boring, or utterly unimaginative; I truly struggled to get through most of them. There are only two stories in here that I can actually say I liked, and even those would not make it to any favorites list. "Queen Victoria's Book o It kills me to have to rate this book so low, because I truly expected to love these stories. Gaslamp fantasy sounded like something that was tailored specifically to my interests in magic and Victorian England, but sadly most of the stories in this collection were dry, boring, or utterly unimaginative; I truly struggled to get through most of them. There are only two stories in here that I can actually say I liked, and even those would not make it to any favorites list. "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells" by Delia Sherman: 2.5/5 (This was fine. Kind of repetitive, kind of pointless, but with an interesting ending.) "The Fairy Enterprise" by Jeffrey Ford: 3/5 (The main character was intriguing in that he was so despicable; the ending teetered on horror which salvaged the story for me.) "From the Catalogue of the Pavilion..." by Genevieve Valentine: 2.5/3 (This mixes the reality of London's Great Exhibition with a fiction of a Pavilion for the Marvelous and the Strange, showcasing freaks from around the world. It's an interesting idea, but I wasn't a fan of the execution: the story is told in letters and article snippets and ultimately felt very bland.) "The Memory Book" by Maureen McHugh: 3.5/5 (This has a really sinister vibe. I didn't connect with it and I wanted to understand a little bit more of what exactly what going on, but I liked the undercurrent of dread running throughout.) "La Reine d'Enfer" by Kathe Koja: 2.5/5 (Intriguing idea, but I wasn't really clear on what the magical element was supposed to be. I also found the stylized writing incredibly annoying and unnecessary.) "For the Briar Rose" by Elizabeth Gatland: 1/5 (So. Freaking. Boring. I skimmed the last four pages because I just could not get through it.) "The Governess" by Elizabeth Bear: 3.5/4 (An unsettling story that slowly builds up tension and dread. But I wanted more of it! More reflection! More emotion! More character work! But it was enjoyable.) "Smithfield" by James Blaylock: 1/5 (I have no clue what this was about because my eyes immediately glazed over when I started reading it. I barely skimmed it.) "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren: 2.5/5 (This is a deeply unpleasant story about women who are cast off by their families and who...I think...start murdering people in the hopes of attaining freedom? Or something? They're seemingly haunted by the spectre of the Grey Ladies? It was all really confusing, and I was never convinced by anything the characters did.) "Charged" by Leanna Renee Hieber: 2/5 (The writing was good and the concept intriguing - a boy struck by lightning who gains powers and is fascinated by Edison and electricity - but the execution was a bore.) "Mr. Splitfoot" by Dale Bailey: 4/5 (Finally, a story I actually enjoyed! This is a reimagining of the Fox sisters' lives wherein they are possessed by Mr. Splitfoot, a spirit that has resulted in their fame and riches but also compels them to horrific acts. Utterly chilling.) "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes: 4/5 (Wow, this was good. In this, a working class Irish woman with phossy jaw resorts to witchery in order to live long enough to see the matchwomen's strike through. This story highlights a ton of the horrors of the Victorian era: the struggles of the working class, the body horror inherent in something like phossy jaw, England's horrific and unconscionable treatment of the Irish during the potato famine. It also illustrates the rise of unions and solidarity of the working class, all told in a second-person story with the conceit of hindsight. It's very odd but very compelling and utterly disturbing. Oh, the horrors of capitalism.) "We Without Us Were Shadows" by Catherynne M Valente: 1.5/5 (Apparently this is about the Bronte siblings going off into some imaginary world having to do with their toy soldiers. I don't know, because I barely read it, because I was bored. I will say, however, that the writing was spectacular, as Valente's writing always is: lush and lovely and, in this case, very Victorian.) "The Vital Importance of the Superficial" by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer: 3.5/5 (Fun, cheeky letters exchanged between a man and a woman about an object he forgot at her father's house, in this alternate version of England where people train in magic. I liked the writing, but this is a story that could and should easily be a novel, and I don't think the epistolary format suits it; I liked it in the beginning, but it required suspension of disbelief as the plot went on.) "The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown" by Jane Yolen: 1/5 (This was boring and pointless and unpleasant.) "A Few Twigs He Left Behind" by Gregory Maguire: 1/5 (I barely read this. My eyes glazed over.) "Their Monstrous Minds" by Tanith Lee: 1/5 (The writing was way, way, way too stylized and overwrought. I ended up skimming.) "Estella Saves the Village" by Theodora Goss: 2.5/5 (Fine, I guess? It takes an overdone concept and presents it in a very dry way.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alison Stegert

    According to Amazon, Gaslamp fantasy is "historical fantasy set in a magical version of the Nineteenth Century." While its first cousin Steampunk emphasizes mechanics, science and steam power, Gaslamp plays with magical possibilities. Check out my exposé of the genre on my website. This anthology includes spinoffs of Dickens and references to real people of the Victorian era. Queen Vicki herself gets a cameo in at least two stories. One of her prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli, stars in The Jewe According to Amazon, Gaslamp fantasy is "historical fantasy set in a magical version of the Nineteenth Century." While its first cousin Steampunk emphasizes mechanics, science and steam power, Gaslamp plays with magical possibilities. Check out my exposé of the genre on my website. This anthology includes spinoffs of Dickens and references to real people of the Victorian era. Queen Vicki herself gets a cameo in at least two stories. One of her prime ministers, Benjamin Disraeli, stars in The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown while William Morris, textile designer, poet, translator and social activist, takes the stage in the story For the Briar Rose. This is definitely one of those books that whets your thirst for more information. I have a brand new fascination with both Morris and Disraeli and can't wait to see where these rabbit holes lead me! I listened to the audio version of this book. It's one I wish I had read instead. Three of the stories are epistolary, which sometimes doesn't lend itself to audio. The performance by narrator Kelly Lintz was fine, but it's a book to dip into again and again. I will probably end up buying a physical copy for my shelves. The list below includes what I felt were the standout stories: Queen Victoria's Book of Spells by Delia Sherman (Epistolary - entries in a young Victoria's diaries as she learns magic) Phosphorous by Veronica Schanoes (Some very interesting social history here.) The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stervener (Epistolary, and superbly done.) A Few Twigs He Left Behind by Gregory Maguire (A fascinating epilogue of Scrooge) Maguire's offering in particular left me hankering for more of his writing (which surprised me because Wicked (the book) was not a big winner with me). I will also seek out works by Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner. Book one of the Tremontaine series has been ordered…

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received this anthology at World Fantasy Con in 2014 and had it signed by editor Ellen Datlow. Though this was one of my favorite acquisitions there, it ended up buried in my to-read pile. What a shame, because wow, this book is a treasure. Not only does it capture the essence of gaslamp fantasy by showing the diversity of the subgenre, but the stories are GOOD. I had two stories that I didn't really connect with, but the others were above-average and full of wow. My absolute favorites wee "Th I received this anthology at World Fantasy Con in 2014 and had it signed by editor Ellen Datlow. Though this was one of my favorite acquisitions there, it ended up buried in my to-read pile. What a shame, because wow, this book is a treasure. Not only does it capture the essence of gaslamp fantasy by showing the diversity of the subgenre, but the stories are GOOD. I had two stories that I didn't really connect with, but the others were above-average and full of wow. My absolute favorites wee "The Governess" by Elizabeth Bear, "Charged" by Leanna Renee Hieber, "Phosphorous" by Veronica Schanoes (which made me teary-eyed at the end).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Biljana

    Loved: The memory book (creepy!), The governess, Estella saves the village. Great premise, but the stories are uneven and while a few were lovely, most have failed to grip me. Bonus - learned about the existence of the gaslight fantasy genre!

  11. 4 out of 5

    ᴥ Irena ᴥ

    2.5 The worst thing about anthologies is that their stories are almost always of uneven value. These are all well written stories. I liked some more than others of course. There were quite a few boring ones. They all have a few things in common though. Fantasy is the most prominent one. You'll see various levels of Victorian society interwoven with the fantastic, from the poor matchwomen with their phossy jaws to the queen herself. The following are just personal notes (to remind me what they wer 2.5 The worst thing about anthologies is that their stories are almost always of uneven value. These are all well written stories. I liked some more than others of course. There were quite a few boring ones. They all have a few things in common though. Fantasy is the most prominent one. You'll see various levels of Victorian society interwoven with the fantastic, from the poor matchwomen with their phossy jaws to the queen herself. The following are just personal notes (to remind me what they were about). (view spoiler)[ Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Delia Sherman A wizard scholar is researching Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and what she finds in the young queen's secret spells may change the way people see Victoria and that part of history. 4 The Fairy Enterprise by Jeffrey Ford A great horror story. A horrible rich man wishes to open a factory where he will make and sell fairies. Loved it. 3.5 From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire) by Genevieve Valentine What exactly happened to the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous before London's Great Exhibition was opened. 3.5 The Memory Book by Maureen McHugh Laura Anne has to take a job of governess because her father died. She has her own Memory Book in which she pastes photographs of people. This is one of those stories where the main character is a really despicable person. 3 La Reine D’Enfer by Kathe Koja A story of an abused male prostitute and how his pimp got what he deserved. 4 Briar Rose by Elizabeth Wein This will appeal to those who love a becoming a mother theme. The most boring story in the collection for me. 1 The Governess by Elizabeth Bear Why the maids told the governess Annabelle to stay with the children at night or in her room with the door bolted? And why her employer's wife keeps standing on the cliff looking at the sea. Not a pleasant story. The author could have spared the main character. 2.5 Smithfield by James P. Blaylock A story of change. Gaslight is being replaced with electric bulbs and not everyone is happy about it. 2 The Unwanted Women of Surrey by Kaaron Warren I hated this one at first, but it has a really devious twist that I ended up liking it in the end. The focus of the story is a group of women sent to a house to live together for various reasons and a 1849 cholera epidemic that might have been helped a bit. 3 Charged by Leanna Renee Hieber A man hit by a lightning received a gift and wishes to partner with Edison. 1 Mr. Splitfoot by Dale Bailey A second person narrative from one Fox sister to another. Hated the second person narrative. 1 Phosphorus by Veronica Schanoes One of the best stories in the collection. It tells about the potato famine of 1845-52 and the strike of a workwomen and a creation of the Union of Women Match Workers seen through the eyes of a diseased matchwoman. This one is also written in the second person, but combination of historical facts and sort of a letter works well. The story tells about an Irish girl who works in a match factory. She has a Phossy jaw disease. 5 We Without Us Were Shadows by Catherynne M. Valente The Brontes when they were children had been creating lots of different worlds. One times they got to see them first hand. 3 The Vital Importance of the Superficial by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer Epistolary narrative. An experiment has gone wrong in Charlotte's home and the guests had to leave rather quickly, most of them leaving their things behind. One of those guests is Lord Ravenal who wants his key back and the whole story consists of letters written by four people (Ravenal, his sister, Charlotte and her brother). It is not bad and it is funny to see how the tone of Ravenal's and Charlotte's letters changes from formal to informal. 3 Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown by Jane Yolen Another featuring the queen, but this time she is already a widow. The way the PM Disraeli deals with her is pretty great though. 2 A Few Twigs He Left Behindby Gregory Maguire This tells a story what happened after Scrooge's death. Was his change enough to save him from becoming a ghost left to wander around London for eternity? 2.5 Their Monstrous Minds by Tanith Lee I know I've read it. I just don't remember much. Tells me a lot. I'll probably have to read it again. 0.5 Estella Saves the Village by Theodora Goss Estella from Great Expectations gets a chance to save her village from black specks that are threatening to destroy her world. 3 (hide spoiler)]

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction and the fact that there was a recommended reading list at the back of the book. I also found the inclusion of brief story notes from each individual author after their contribution quite clever. As always with anthologies though, mixed bag of actual tales. Certain aforementioned author notes helped pinpoint where my dissatisfaction may stem from. I had an unconscious expectation of being able to plunge myself into an unending stream of escapism. But several o I thoroughly enjoyed the introduction and the fact that there was a recommended reading list at the back of the book. I also found the inclusion of brief story notes from each individual author after their contribution quite clever. As always with anthologies though, mixed bag of actual tales. Certain aforementioned author notes helped pinpoint where my dissatisfaction may stem from. I had an unconscious expectation of being able to plunge myself into an unending stream of escapism. But several of the stories focus less on the '... fiery, corseted heroines, the eccentric but brilliant inventors, the rakish and charming younger sons...' (p.222) and are instead rooted in the grim reality of the masses. Others feel like observational treaties of Victorian times, rather than being actual events set within the designated alternate reality. The mystical aspects become incidental, but not in a desired sense of providing an organic backdrop, subtly cementing the fantastical elements of the writing. Rather, the focus is shifted more solidly onto the historical and the magical becomes a neglected footnote. Personal list of favourites: -Queen Victoria's Book of Spells, Delia Sherman -From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvellous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire), Genevieve Valentine -We Without Us Were Shadows, Catherynne M. Valente -The Vital Importance of the Superficial, Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer -Their Monstrous Minds, Tanith Lee -Estella Saves the Village, Theodora Goss

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alex MacFarlane

    Admittedly I bought this cheap for just a handful of its stories, knowing that the theme is not of much interest to me - so it's no surprise that I found most of the stories underwhelming, and skipped several. The standout is "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes, a bitter, angry, sad story about the fatal illness poor working girls in match factories succumbed to, and the lengths one afflicted girl's grandmother is willing to go to let her see the end of the strike that'll take steps towards better Admittedly I bought this cheap for just a handful of its stories, knowing that the theme is not of much interest to me - so it's no surprise that I found most of the stories underwhelming, and skipped several. The standout is "Phosphorus" by Veronica Schanoes, a bitter, angry, sad story about the fatal illness poor working girls in match factories succumbed to, and the lengths one afflicted girl's grandmother is willing to go to let her see the end of the strike that'll take steps towards better conditions for the girls. Amidst so many stories about the hardships of upper class life for women (which, yes, it wasn't great, but...), "Phosphorus" is biting and important and excellent. I also enjoyed Genevieve Valentine's story of the people destined to be in an exhibit of the Uncanny and Marvellous at the Great Exhibition, while "La Reine d'Enfer" by Kathe Koja was a voice-full read and "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren was pleasantly dark. I didn't enjoy "We Without Us Were Shadows" by Catherynne M Valente as much as I'd hoped, but it had its moments: the melancholy of lives' abrupt ends across multiple universes. Otherwise, I wasn't especially fond of this anthology, and could definitely have done with less casual racism in too-ready service of the period. (The subjects of the racism: nearly invisible, naturally.)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shomeret

    The truth is I despise the values of the upper crust in the Victorian period who are often the only characters to be seen in Victorian novels, but I'm always up for rebel Victorians poking at its underbelly and I love inventive fantasy. When I saw a list of the authors, I thought there might be potential in this anthology. The feminist story "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren, who is completely new to me, was excellent. It's about women demonstrating that they have value and an impo The truth is I despise the values of the upper crust in the Victorian period who are often the only characters to be seen in Victorian novels, but I'm always up for rebel Victorians poking at its underbelly and I love inventive fantasy. When I saw a list of the authors, I thought there might be potential in this anthology. The feminist story "The Unwanted Women of Surrey" by Kaaron Warren, who is completely new to me, was excellent. It's about women demonstrating that they have value and an important issue in 19th century medicine. "Charged" by Lisa Renee Heiber about a boy struck by lightning was dark but very compelling. Some have claimed that Percy Bysshe Shelley really wrote Frankenstein. If he had, it might have been something like "Charged". Heiber is a poet of lightning in this story. As in all anthologies, I found some stories lacking. Some never sparked any interest in me at all. Others seemed facile and lacking in depth. That's why the anthology as a whole gets three stars. But the stories I mentioned above were amazing.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Siemann

    Thoroughly enjoyable anthology of neoVictorian fantasies. I was lucky enough to hear Leanne Renee Hieber, Genevieve Valentine, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Veronica Schanoes read from their stories at the book release party -- all excellent, though very different. Other favorites included stories by Jeffrey Ford, Maureen McHugh, Elizabeth Gatland, and Jane Yolen. Theodora Goss' "Estella Saves the Village" hit a personally sour note for me - the girl who dreams of being a writer and grows up Thoroughly enjoyable anthology of neoVictorian fantasies. I was lucky enough to hear Leanne Renee Hieber, Genevieve Valentine, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Veronica Schanoes read from their stories at the book release party -- all excellent, though very different. Other favorites included stories by Jeffrey Ford, Maureen McHugh, Elizabeth Gatland, and Jane Yolen. Theodora Goss' "Estella Saves the Village" hit a personally sour note for me - the girl who dreams of being a writer and grows up to be a professor of Victorian literature instead, as the current academic market means my chances of being a published writer someday are looking better than my chances of ever being a tenure-track professor of Victorian literature.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marina

    This anthology is a perfect collection for all 19th century/Gaslamp fantasy lovers. Most of the stories are amazing, and they cover all the reasons I adore the Victorian period for - fairy phenomena, spiritual seances, the industrial revolution, queen Victoria, sideshows, and many well-known real/fictional characters (the Bronte sisters, Scrooge, even Sherlock Holmes), in 18 exciting stories by some of the most amazing fantasy/steampunk authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Theodora Goss, Gregory This anthology is a perfect collection for all 19th century/Gaslamp fantasy lovers. Most of the stories are amazing, and they cover all the reasons I adore the Victorian period for - fairy phenomena, spiritual seances, the industrial revolution, queen Victoria, sideshows, and many well-known real/fictional characters (the Bronte sisters, Scrooge, even Sherlock Holmes), in 18 exciting stories by some of the most amazing fantasy/steampunk authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Theodora Goss, Gregory Maguire, Veronica Schanoes, etc., all put together by the amazing Ellen Datlow. My favorites are definitely: “The Fairy Enterprise” by Jeffrey Ford, “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh, “Phosphorus” by Veronica Schanoes, and “Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Really enjoyed the title story, Elizabeth Bear's tale, "Phosphorus", and "We Without Us Were Shadows". The rest I'm pretty well indifferent towards, but I REALLY liked those four. It's odd how often people use the Victorian era to explore the ignorance and powerlessness of women, though. That was definitely a theme.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is not my preferred genre, so my four-star rating speaks to the quality of the stories. And with this stellar lineup of authors, that quality is almost guaranteed. It was not an easy read, as the language is mostly in the ornate Victorian style, but that comes with the territory. In many of the stories, the magic is subtle; there are no wizardry schools, no faerie courts. A few veer into steampunk, but on the whole, they are more sedate than that. I think the title story, by Delia Sherman, This is not my preferred genre, so my four-star rating speaks to the quality of the stories. And with this stellar lineup of authors, that quality is almost guaranteed. It was not an easy read, as the language is mostly in the ornate Victorian style, but that comes with the territory. In many of the stories, the magic is subtle; there are no wizardry schools, no faerie courts. A few veer into steampunk, but on the whole, they are more sedate than that. I think the title story, by Delia Sherman, was my favorite (and it also had more spells and potions that the others).

  19. 4 out of 5

    Raquel Evans

    The first story was interesting, but I didn't really like the direction it took. The second story I didn't enjoy at all so I just skimmed to find out the ending, which was less than inspiring. I hate to give up on all the other authors in this anthology based on two stories, but I just really don't feel like reading this book anymore.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Three stars because this is clearly meant to include something for everyone with a wide range of styles which meant there are some which I really enjoyed and I’ll reread and others where I found myself skipping through because the styles just aren’t my thing for example - fiction where each character is named after a famous Victorian character so you’re constantly pulled out of the world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kira

    A solid anthology. There was quite a bit of care with the stories selected and I liked that the authors were able to explain their work at the end.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Having slowly made my way through this anthology over the course of three (!) calendar years, I have confirmed to myself that I am truly a gaslamp fantasy fan; this is one of my sweet spots. Steampunk, though technically falling under the gaslamp label, is not so much my thing. Though I did end up quite liking the steampunk story in this volume, I still had a hard time getting into it. Anyways... this was no exception to the rule of anthologies - a few duds are unavoidable, but overall it tipped Having slowly made my way through this anthology over the course of three (!) calendar years, I have confirmed to myself that I am truly a gaslamp fantasy fan; this is one of my sweet spots. Steampunk, though technically falling under the gaslamp label, is not so much my thing. Though I did end up quite liking the steampunk story in this volume, I still had a hard time getting into it. Anyways... this was no exception to the rule of anthologies - a few duds are unavoidable, but overall it tipped to the side of a very good read. The introduction, in particular, went above and beyond my expectations for an anthology intro. It wasn't simply a meditation on the best qualities of this particular genre or a brief jog into nostalgia for the writer. Instead, it was a truly informative essay explicating the social and cultural context and influences of fantasy in the Victorian era. As for the stories themselves, my standout favorites were "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells," "The Memory Book," "The Unwanted Women of Surrey," "Phosphorus," and "The Vital Importance of the Superficial." I also quite liked "From the Catalogue. . ." "Mr. Splifoot," and "Their Monstrous Minds." I have also now noticed that the majority of the authors featured were women, and I think that showed with the large number of engaging female protagonists in these stories - six of the above mentioned are female led.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I've had a mediocre run of luck with anthologies lately, and this one is no exception. Though the setting and subject matter appealed to me deeply, and quite a few of my favorite authors are included, there simply weren't enough standout entries in here to make the collection memorable. The standout entries were, for me, "The Unwanted Women of Surrey," "Phosphorous," and my personal favorite "Charged," all of which can be found in the middle of the collection. "The Vital Importance of the Superfi I've had a mediocre run of luck with anthologies lately, and this one is no exception. Though the setting and subject matter appealed to me deeply, and quite a few of my favorite authors are included, there simply weren't enough standout entries in here to make the collection memorable. The standout entries were, for me, "The Unwanted Women of Surrey," "Phosphorous," and my personal favorite "Charged," all of which can be found in the middle of the collection. "The Vital Importance of the Superficial," was another intriguing entry, but the passive narrative structure of a story told entirely in letters took some of the enjoyment out of it. What surprised me was that the one thing I really didn't like about this series was one of the ideas I thought would be most appealing: the taking of a classic character or work or literature from that time period, and re-imagining it with a twist. There are alternate takes on Frankenstein, alternate takes on Ebeneezer Scrooge, the Bronte siblings, the Queen herself, and even a certain consulting detective. But all of these stories fell almost flat for me, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I expected more from this collection...a series of stories to captivate and intrigue in a way reminiscent of the dramatically changing time in which they were set. In that respect, only "Charged" and "Phosphorous," which dealt with the innovation of electricity and the forgotten horrors of the industrial revolution, respectively, met those expectations. Instead, what I found were a series of stories that were quite tedious to read. There were many times I wanted to skip ahead to the next entry, more than I can recall in any other anthology I've read. I was quite frankly, bored with most of the stories. Perhaps some of this is my fault for having such high expectations...but given the contributors and how strong I know their storytelling skills can be, I am particularly disappointed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    A.T.

    I bought this book just to read the story by Leanna Renee Hieber, my favourite authour, but I read the whole book. It was very enjoyable, but some of the anthologies were a bit boring or annoying. Judging it all up the book, in my opinion, was very enjoyable and addicting. Each story was unique and special, like a diamond. I recommend one should buy it. Edit: I might as well add that there are some stories that would leave someone crying or wanting to cry, especially the stories: Queen Victoria's I bought this book just to read the story by Leanna Renee Hieber, my favourite authour, but I read the whole book. It was very enjoyable, but some of the anthologies were a bit boring or annoying. Judging it all up the book, in my opinion, was very enjoyable and addicting. Each story was unique and special, like a diamond. I recommend one should buy it. Edit: I might as well add that there are some stories that would leave someone crying or wanting to cry, especially the stories: Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: I was left upset and broken for a while/days. Phosphorous: Chillingly beautiful. I actually cried deeply for this story. I was left feeling hollow, like a shell, and broken. But specially without words. I walked with no real reason. We without Us were Shadows: Since I was at school I held back the tears, but. . . (Read below) Estella saves the village: This story I did cry deeply at the end, for many reasons (not because it's the last story). The only thing that bugged me about the story and held back most of the tears was the ever so present reminder that in this story Sherlock Holmes is married to Irene Adler. Not that I hate her, but. . . Or it might be that I'm a real crybaby and cry to anything with a hint of sentimentality. *Shrugs* One story that I do want to point out is 'We without Us were Shadows' by Catherynne M. Valente. The story, though really good, one might want to do some background research on Queen Victoria and the Bronte family. Since I'm a Queen Victoria fanatic and appreciate the works of the Bronte family (except Wuthering Heights) I had much background knowledge to leave me almost engulfed in tears because of whats happens at the end of the book. I mean it's perfectly splendid not to know anything about these people, but I feel as if you'd only know half of the story. It's really a bittersweet ending.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    Like all anthologies, this was difficult for me to rate because it was all over the map in terms of enjoyment for me. Some standouts both good and bad: I really liked Delia Sherman's titular "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells", which was both an interesting story and a magical world that I would enjoy reading more of. "Phosphorus" made a deep impression on me as both an explicitly didactic story about Lucifer matches, "phossy jaw" and the match factory workers' strike and a creepy story about love, m Like all anthologies, this was difficult for me to rate because it was all over the map in terms of enjoyment for me. Some standouts both good and bad: I really liked Delia Sherman's titular "Queen Victoria's Book of Spells", which was both an interesting story and a magical world that I would enjoy reading more of. "Phosphorus" made a deep impression on me as both an explicitly didactic story about Lucifer matches, "phossy jaw" and the match factory workers' strike and a creepy story about love, magic and sacrifice. Cat Valente's story about the young Brontë siblings, "Without Us Were Shadows", is clever and bittersweet, and I especially like the relationship between Charlotte and Branwell. "Estella Saves the Village" is a delightful story by Theodora Goss about rescuing beleaguered characters with a massive crossover fix-it fic that takes on an existence of its own. I was super disappointed by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer's collaborative effort, "The Vital Importance of the Superficial". They wrote it by exchanging letters because Kushner was looking to break some writer's block, and I think it should have been rewritten after they figured out what it was going to be about or just stuck in a drawer as a writing exercise. Elizabeth Wein's "For the Briar Rose" is exquisitely researched and footnoted, but basically nothing happens in it. Geoffrey Maguire has written some of the most bizarre A Christmas Carol fanfiction I have ever encountered. Have you ever wondered what would happen if Scrooge had had children whom he neglected because he was too busy distributing charity? Probably not, and "A Few Twigs He Left Behind" is unlikely to increase your level of interest in the matter.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Juushika

    18 Gaslamp stories, about the supernatural, otherworldly, and fantastic in or concerning Victorian England. Collections like these are worth reading for Windling's introductions alone--they're lovingly crafted, insightful overviews from someone who's spent a lifetime studying fantasy fiction. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells doesn't quite live up to that introduction: the intent is there, but the stories frequently fail to reflect contemporary fantasy elements (there's a remarkable 18 Gaslamp stories, about the supernatural, otherworldly, and fantastic in or concerning Victorian England. Collections like these are worth reading for Windling's introductions alone--they're lovingly crafted, insightful overviews from someone who's spent a lifetime studying fantasy fiction. Unfortunately, Queen Victoria's Book of Spells doesn't quite live up to that introduction: the intent is there, but the stories frequently fail to reflect contemporary fantasy elements (there's a remarkable lack of fairies!) and, while many touch on the industrial revolution, few use the fantastic both to express anxiety and seek escapism on account. Still, the overall quality is high and the collection is flawlessly edited. There's a good balance of grim historical accuracy (Schanoes's "Phosphorus," with its memorable descriptions of phossy jaw, was my collection favorite) lightened by fantasy of manners-touched frivolity (Kushner and Stevermer's epistolary "The Vital Importance of the Superficial" has a lovely voice); there's a few failures, but they're largely redeemed by their placement--like the irony of Blaylock's curmudgeonly "Smithfield" counterpointed by Hieber's much more complex "Charged." Datlow and Windling are practiced editors, and this is another successful collection--thematically strong, varied, above average in quality. Still, it only met and failed to exceed my expectations.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of short-story anthologies. I always want more of the stories I like, and find it a chore reading the ones I don't. Overall, I prefer single, full-length stories. However, the title of this one sounded like it might be good. And on balance, it was - good, not great but good. All the stories have a paranormal aspect to them, and many have a steam-punk turn as well. I would say of all of the offerings, I read most of them, liked more than half, and really enjoyed p Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of short-story anthologies. I always want more of the stories I like, and find it a chore reading the ones I don't. Overall, I prefer single, full-length stories. However, the title of this one sounded like it might be good. And on balance, it was - good, not great but good. All the stories have a paranormal aspect to them, and many have a steam-punk turn as well. I would say of all of the offerings, I read most of them, liked more than half, and really enjoyed probably five of the stories. This would be a good book to consider if your time to read is interrupted frequently, or you have small windows of it. Most of the stories are short enough to get through in an hour-ish, so you could read one whenever you had time without having to put the book down in the middle of something. As with any anthology, the variety of authors contributing means that some will be your cup of tea, and others just won't. The good thing about this kind of book is if you don't like one offering, you can just go onto the next. I enjoyed most of the stories, which is the justification for the three stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I think that the concept and description of this book sounded so delightful that my expectations were too high. Some of the stories were really magical and I truly appreciated the introduction where they included a review of fairy and magic literature from the Victorian era. (I want to look up some of those authors now, too.) There were just too many stories that were disappointing. Like I said, for many of them, I think I was just disappointed because they weren't what I was expecting. Some of I think that the concept and description of this book sounded so delightful that my expectations were too high. Some of the stories were really magical and I truly appreciated the introduction where they included a review of fairy and magic literature from the Victorian era. (I want to look up some of those authors now, too.) There were just too many stories that were disappointing. Like I said, for many of them, I think I was just disappointed because they weren't what I was expecting. Some of them were much darker than I would have guessed from the description of the book. The biggest reason why I bumped it down to only two stars was that the story "La Reine d'Enfer" belonged completely in the really objectionable horror genre from beginning to end. It literally gave me nightmares. I know that even Charles Dickens' descriptions of children living in the streets and being treated horribly is given a lighter touch through his voice, but this story of suffering was just way too disturbing for me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    ambyr

    A look into the less savory aspects of the Victorian era, with some very satisfyingly creepy tales. I particularly liked the slow-build menace of "The Memory Book," the mixture of tragedy and triumph in "Phosphorous," and the voice and use of history in "Mr. Splitfoot." "La Reine D’Enfer" was fun to listen to in audio, with excellent dialect, and "Estella Saves the Village" let the collection end on a welcome note of happiness. Weak notes for me were "Briar Rose," with its excessively blatant sym A look into the less savory aspects of the Victorian era, with some very satisfyingly creepy tales. I particularly liked the slow-build menace of "The Memory Book," the mixture of tragedy and triumph in "Phosphorous," and the voice and use of history in "Mr. Splitfoot." "La Reine D’Enfer" was fun to listen to in audio, with excellent dialect, and "Estella Saves the Village" let the collection end on a welcome note of happiness. Weak notes for me were "Briar Rose," with its excessively blatant symbolism and slow pacing; "Smithfield," which was so forgettable I literally don't remember a thing about it three days after reading it; "The Vital Importance of the Superficial," which proved yet again that unedited letter games rarely make for coherent stories; and "The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown," in which Queen Victoria displays intense anti-Semitism toward Disraeli, which is then vindicated by the text (turns out he actually *is* using Kabbalistic magic to manipulate her toward his own ends). But overall, a solid collection.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Starting 2015 by shifting a nearly finished book into the complete pile. I find anthologies from multiple authors really difficult to review as there is always such a varied type of submission and in general I don't think this is a genre type that I enjoy much. There were a few thought provoking and quite interesting short stories in this anthology but I also found a few that were really not to my taste and seemed to drag on which meant I found myself putting the book down for long periods of time Starting 2015 by shifting a nearly finished book into the complete pile. I find anthologies from multiple authors really difficult to review as there is always such a varied type of submission and in general I don't think this is a genre type that I enjoy much. There were a few thought provoking and quite interesting short stories in this anthology but I also found a few that were really not to my taste and seemed to drag on which meant I found myself putting the book down for long periods of time between picking it up again. This is probably pretty useless as a review as this is often the case with most anthologies but it's my overall thoughts on the entire thing - and I can't even really drum up the stories that I enjoyed to talk about them here because it has been such a long time between reading them. I do have to say this book has one of the most beautiful covers I have seen in a long time.

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