The introduction to the book, ‘Wizards’ brought about by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois is a fascinating read and unlike most introductions and preface, I wouldn’t recommend skipping this one. The books opens with a relation of magic and concept of wizard and witches to the real world beliefs.
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A Witch’s Headstone
This short story by Neil Gaiman is a great marker of supernatural story appropriate for kids. The message of simple act of kindness in return of kindness is reflected with two characters, a witch, Liza and Nobody Owens, short for Bod. Both these characters have their unique backgrounds.
The story is greatly balanced and rightly titled building with excitement for the moment when the Witch finally gets her headstone. The background of the witch is expanded as it is a story tilted in her favor while the present of Bod is created with mysteries surrounding his existence and ability to communicate with ghosts. Then, there are interesting characters which complement the story well: the mysterious vampire guardian, the legal Owen guardian who are both ghosts, the mean and evil seduced pawn shop owner and his somewhat frenemy.
What personally worked for me in this story was the balance of right and wrong, trust and mistrust, friends and enemies, dos and don’ts and more. With simple modifications here and there, I would probably be telling this story to the kids someday.
Holly and Iron
This Garth Nix tale of resistance, fight, magic and death ends in peace and harmony. This short story is one full of adventure where the people of magic from two different worlds are in a fight with one another. In midst of fights, escapes and hard decisions is a girl with powers of both nature and iron. The story also fits the criteria of a novel excerpt as a few holes in the story direct us towards the fact that there must have been more to it.
The people of Ingland who descend from Holly magic are at war with the Normans who are masters of Iron magic. While the kingdom of Ingland is taken over by the Norman king William, the small group of Ingland people resistance forces, biding their time, lead by the Inglish royalty, the daughters of the late king. The second daughter also has Norman descentry as her mother was a Norman (captured during the war in which her husband, William’s son was killed). As our story starts, the small group of Inglish resistance comes face to face with the Iron Master and the elder daughter is killed, leaving Robin, the main character of the story with a responsibility to take back the kingdom. The story weaves well as she travels for her sister’s funeral and thereafter sets out on a one woman mission to kill her Norman grandfather, William to avenge her sister and her kingdom. Here, the king has set up a competition through which he eventually intends to enthrone an heir who can wield both holly and iron magic. Inevitably, this person is Robin. The ending could have been a neat bow but leaves a few gaping holes as Robin finds along the way about William’s lies which has kept the kingdom quiet. In the end, the ride along with this story was an adventurous one.
I highly recommend this compilation of short stories for those who love anything fantasy and magic!
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