Mirror Kingdoms: The Best of Peter S. Beagle
by Peter S. Beagle
Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Cover Artist: Michael Kaluta
Review by Cathy Green
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596062917
Date: 28 February 2010 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
For most of his career, Peter Beagle has been known primarily as a novelist, writing such classics as The Last Unicorn and A Fine And Private Place. While he did produce some short fiction, it was most definitely not what generally came to mind when think of the works of Peter S. Beagle. However, for the last decade, Beagle has been a short story writing machine, with three collections of his stories having been published by Tachyon Publications.
In this excellent collection of Beagle's short stories, editor Jonathan Strahan has assembled eighteen short stories representing both Beagle's early and recent short fiction. Strahan has also made sure that stories from a wide variety of sources are represented. In addition to stories that first appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beagle's fiction that first appeared in small press publications is represented as well, including stories that first appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Strange Roads, Beagle's contribution to a chapbook series put out by DreamHaven Books. Older stories such as "Lila the Werewolf" and "Come Lady Death" are represented as well as more recent fiction such as the award winners "El Regalo" and "Two Hearts", the sequel to The Last Unicorn.
Many of these stories such as "The Last Song of Sirit Byar" and "King Pellas the Sure" are quite melancholy and others such as "Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rivka and the Angel" and "The Rabbi's Hobby" harken back to Beagle's Jewish boyhood growing up in New York City. In one of Beagle's more unusual stories, "The Last and Only, or, Mr. Moscowitz becomes French", the title character, a mild mannered librarian from California, gradually becomes French and must move to France, where he finds himself ultimately equally alienated and unwelcome, because he has become such the embodiment of all things France that he makes French people embarrassed and uncomfortable that they aren't up to his standard of Frenchness.
Strahan's introduction offers a good overview of Beagle's evolution as a writer of short fiction. Also, this being a Subterranean Press publication, Mirror Kingdoms also comes with fabulous cover art – in this case a beautiful Michael Wm. Kaluta illustration.
Subterranean Press does limited run publication and generally does not do multiple printings, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to buy Mirror Kingdoms. While the Subterranean website lists the book as being sold out, it is still available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Fans of Peter S. Beagle will definitely want that book, and it also makes an excellent starting point for people unfamiliar with Beagle's writing.