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Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXIII
Edited by Elizabeth Waters
Review by Carolyn Frank
Norilana Books  ISBN/ITEM#: 1934648787
Date: November 2008 / Show Official Info /

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXIII is the latest edition of an on-going set of collections of fantasy tales with women protagonists. Known as a writer, editor and encourager of authors to lead with strong women in their science fiction and fantasy stories, Marion Zimmer Bradley started the Sword and Sorceress anthologies to focus on such tales. Each female protagonist either comes to don and fight with a sword or comes to grip with her magical capabilities. The authors range from the well-known to folks who have just recently begun to sell their wares. The stories range from coming-of-age to light-hearted romps, from defeating one's own or one's lord's enemies to taking one's place in the community of women. Most share a faintly medieval world view, with horses and fires, and royalty and peasants.

"Polish On, Polish Off: A Dragon Tale" by Tom Inister, a new fantasy author, is an extremely witty dragon-slaying tale. Madeleine, the beautiful farmer's daughter, meets George the Greathearted, a knight with the most polished armor in Brittany, on the path to the local dragon's lair. The dragon has just taken Madeleine's sister and since none of the men of their village are willing to save her, Madeleine is going to slay the dragon. George is the only surviving member of the latest set of nine knights that sought to slay the dragon. But the situation is far different from what one would normally imagine, and both Madeleine and George succeed in their very own way.

"Squirrel Errant" by Michael H. Payner is another light-hearted tale featuring Cluny, a female squirrel sorcerer. As it seems no world is yet ready for such a being, she does her best to put up with the ill-advised endeavors of her nominal master who is really her human familiar, Crocker. Having spent a week making squirrel-sized armor, Crocker boots armor-clad Cluny into the room of a fellow student that he wants to impress at the wizard college. This surprise does not go well as Michelle, the fellow student, is in the midst of trying to bind a firedrake. As everything goes awry, Cluny ends up fighting both with sword and magic – most impressive for a squirrel!

"Remembering" by Deborah J .Ross is the masterful story of Eliane. With her foster family and their co-believers under murderous attack from people of the dominant religion of the city, Eliane flees by ship with a group of children. Sharing nothing with the children except a common background of being brought up in their faith, Eliane does everything within her human power to keep them safe. Only when the ship comes to a frightening place does she learn of whom and from where she came.

Sixteen other such fantasy tales will enrapture the reader. If you like armchair adventure and quick-witted protagonists, you will enjoy these female warriors, wizards and whatnot.

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