I first read Ellen Klages' work in the Firebirds Soaring anthology, but her name didn't catch my eye until I read her collaboration with Andy Duncan, Wakulla Springs, at Tor.com. While far outside my usual range of interests (it's very Hollywood-focused), I was struck by the writing, and I ran across a few more of her stories that were equally impressive. So, I picked up this collection with some interest.
Mostly, my expectations were met. Klages is a talented writer who likes to focus on small events and is more interested in the suggestion of magic than in magic itself. Her stories have a Clifford Simak-y attention to ordinary people in ordinary settings that's very appealing. It works well, but it is disappointing that she rarely (as she notes in the afterword) ventures outside this comfort zone. When she does (as in ...), it often works just as well.
The best stories in the collection are:
- Amicae Aeternum - two good friends share some final moments before one departs forever
- Hey, Presto! - a young woman studying science becomes her stage magician father's reluctant assistant
- Caligo Lane - a San Francisco mapmaker enables travel for others
- Gone to the Library - a young girl visits her unusual neighbour, and they attempt magic
The copyright notes for this collection give the impression that Klages' writing has been singlehandedly supported by Jonathan Strahan - virtually all of the stories appeared first under his editorship. That's good for us, because the stories deserve attention. This is a strong selection of intimate stories about people who live in hope of magic, if not always its reality.