It’s hard to put together a really outstanding anthology. At least, few people seem to do it, and naturally the editor’s tastes often won’t match that of all readers. In addition, anthology themes are pretty hit or miss; few stories really fit well unless the parameters are broad.
In this latter sense, Fearsome Magics is a pretty standard anthology. The title is vague, and most of the stories fit the theme only vaguely; they could all have fit equally well under any of a hundred titles. If you’re looking for stories about really dangerous or scary magic, this isn’t it.
Leave aside the thematic quibbles, though, and you’ll find that the stories collected here are largely good. Just as important, none of them is really bad, and all but one are above average. I wasn’t thunderstruck by any, but I had a good time reading them, and there are one or two new authors I might investigate. A few stories are clearly drawn from the author’s existing universes, but in most cases they stand alone reasonably well.
The best stories are:
- Safe House by K. J. Parker – a condemned man faces the gallows and worse. If you know K. J. Parker’s work, you know exactly what you’re getting here. Parker has been doing pretty much the same trick for years now, but doing it so well that it’s a pleasure to read in every new incarnation.
- Migration by Karin Tidbeck – a group of refugees move from their place of safety only to find themselves lost. This is one of the best kinds of stories – the kind that stick with you and that make you think. It’s a bit of a gimmick story, but handled very nicely. There are a couple of missing pieces, but largely Tidbeck does a great job.
- Where Our Edges Lie by Nina Kiriki Hoffman – twins begin to draw apart. There’s nothing really new about this story, but Hoffman handles it very nicely.