Ages of Wonder
Edited by Julie E. Czerneda & Rob St. Martin
Review by Carolyn Frank
DAW Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405434
Date: 03 March 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Although typically appearing in a faintly medieval European setting, fantasy can be set in any time period, any place and any culture. This short story anthology includes imaginative tales set throughout the many Ages of Wonder: the Age of Antiquity, the Age of Sail, the Colonial Age, the Age of the Pioneers, the Pre-Modern Age and the Age Ahead. The nineteen authors range from the famous, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, through a variety of Canadian writers, to a 2008 Nebula award-winner, Nina Kiriki Hoffman.
Set in the Age of Antiquity, “The Curse Tablet” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman details the actions of Lucius, a teenage Roman slave, sent by his master to procure the services of a witch. His master's mistress has been purchased by a rival and is being chained captive in that man's mansion. His master is paying for the witch to put a curse on his rival to force him to free the girl. But the witch requires something of Lucius as payment as well.
Set in the Age of Sail, “A Swift Changing Course” by Jana Paniccia tells the coming into her powers tale of Kaimi. Aboard the great sailing ship Seadragon, Kaimi feels as out of place as she has in the magical academies. Her mother, who was one of the great mages, gave her life in defense of the realm. But no one, including Kaimi, can figure out why she does not appear to have any magical power. In the midst of a powerful supernatural storm with the Seadragon beset by an enemy vessel, Kaimi finds what her powers are.
In the Colonial Age, “Immigrant” by Sandra Taylor is the story of a rather different type of immigrant to America. Goibniu, an English leprechaun-like Fae, has emigrated along with his person, Samuel, a millwright. Fascinated by all things mechanical, Goibniu is anxiously awaiting Samuel's completion of the mill he is building. Unfortunately the native water and forest spirits are resentful of this mechanical intrusion on their world. When the spirits destroy the mill's water wheel to stop it from impeding the flow of the stream, Goibniu fights back. Eventually Goibniu works out a way for all to co-exist peacefully in this new world.
In the Age of Pioneers, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's “Gold at the End of the Railroad” tells a wonderful tale about the start of gandydancers in the building of the transcontinental railroads. It is historical fact that many different groups of immigrants helped to lay the rails across the country, and the Irish were well represented. And if leprechauns were to emigrate, they would, of course, tend to hang around the only folks who could see them.
Three or four stories are set in each of the six selected Ages of Wonder, providing highly diverse perspectives on each time period, and proving that the best fantasy can fit smoothly anywhere. If you enjoy well-written fantasy, you will certainly become enspelled by many of these magical tales.