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Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXIV
Edited by Elisabeth Water
Review by Carolyn Frank
Norilana Books Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781607620466
Date: 15 Novembere 2009 / Show Official Info /

Valor and strength can be attributes of women as well as men. Although fantasy tales demonstrating these truths were uncommon 25 years ago when Marion Zimmer Bradley put together the first in this anthology series, such stories still resonate today. This latest edition, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXIV, features seventeen short stories from authors both new and well-known. The protagonists range from a wizard's long-suffering wife to a suddenly-orphaned princess, from scholar to secret agent, but all eventually find some way to surmount the obstacles or disasters in their lives.

In "The Casket of Brass" by Deborah J. Ross, Maridah, who had been away from the palace studying to be a philosopher returns as her grandmother, the queen, is dying. Although next in line for a throne that she really doesn't want, she is afraid of what her uncle would do as regent. Her grandmother's last words are for her to find the casket of brass and the wand of power that would legitimize her status as ruler. But her search leads her in a rather unexpected direction.

In "Owl Court" by K.D. Wentworth, after a day away, Jolice returns to her devastated village to find all of the men massacred and the women and girls dragged off by raiders. Taking the teachings of her old aunt to heart, she makes her way through the winter hills to the Owl Court where the Lady Owl accepts her plea. Although the cost to herself is originally unimaginable to her, she does manage to free the women and girls. But with no village and no men to hunt for them during the long winter, what does such a freedom bring? For her mother, her sisters and the other women of her village, Jolice must provide both justice and a path out of this predicament.

In "The Case of the Haunted City" by Josepha Sherman, Tallain and her partner Serein are secret agents working for the Organization of Magical Sovereignties, a group dedicated to keeping the world safe from demons and other diabolical beings. They arrive at the formerly bustling trading city of Kansillaydra to locate the source of its relatively sudden decline. Although the locals are using whatever magical dregs they can find to ward off trouble, the problem turns out to be one only Tallain and Serein and their shape-shifting abilities can address.

If you enjoy fantasy tales with strong women protagonists, this anthology will provide you with a wide range of stories, from thought-provoking studies to witty pronouncements. The quality of story telling remains excellent throughout; these are stories worthy of reading and of re-reading to enjoy the pacing, the evocative descriptions of locations, and the unique personalities of the characters.

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