Wizards: A Collection of Short Stories (Part 4)

This book of short stories has taken me through all the emotions: high, low, depressed, sad, heartbroken, satisfied, confused and more. Today, in the series of review I will talk about the final 4 stories from this book.

Image by @ilirion994

The stories clubbed in this part of the review have a few things in common. Each story will leave you wanting more in the end, may it be the journey of the young girls in Naming Day and Devil’s Ninth Question or to clear the foggy endings of Winter’s Wife and Barrens Dance. Also, all the tales are set in the life of young and adventurous souls, may it be Averil and Justin or the clever and content Pearl and Jassi. In the end, what makes each story stand out is the message it delivers and the possibility of being retold as tales to younger audiences unlike the stories in part 3.

Naming Day

This Patricia. A. McKillip story reminds us of the power a name can hold. The character of Averil in this story is your average teen with her own drama and troubles of life and no time for her family, except that she goes to the school of wizardry and comes from the same family background.

As a bunch, she and her friends are stereotypical bunch of adolescents with stereotypical opinions about life and world. To add to that, Averil also has a typically good-boy boyfriend. The story proceeds with a whirlwind as Averil scraps every surface, trying to come up with a perfect secret name to describe her witch personality. On the ‘Naming Day’ itself, she faces the biggest crisis of her life as a top-of-class teenager would consider and misses school. A witch binds her with disappearing magic to do her one bidding on that day. The event is a coming of age moment for the girl as she gets her life in perspective starting from boys, to school to family.

For me, the end of this story is a surprising twist, something that has happened only in a couple of stories so far and so, I would really recommend reading it. Though what lets me down after all the drama is that the witch name Averil picked is never revealed in the end. Also, if you go into the story expecting tale which walks you through the repercussions of a name, beware there is nothing of sorts. The story is a coming-of-age tale about a young which. It is an enjoyable unfolding drama from a teen’s perspective.

Winter’s Wife

When first coming into the story, the title has a promise of a third person’s perspective and so it is narrated by though Justin, a teenage boy living across the street from his mother’s best friend, Winter.

This Elizabeth Hand story is one of the few short stories in this collection narrated from a male’s perspective. The story starts by setting in motion the life in a small town, the events that led to Justin’s mother and Winter being best friends and eventually Justin’s worship for his godfather figure. Justin narrates how Winter finds his love online and brings her to his home. Thereafter, his interaction with his godmother changes depending on what she wants of him. Many events that followed after her arrival seem to have no conclusion and many deeds she performed can only be viewed from Justin’s perspective and thus cannot be cleared except maybe for the fact that she was a witch.

What bugs me is that the story- it has great details about the events happening but the inconspicuous tone in certain places leaves us puzzled in the department of character detail. It is conformed in the end that she surely was a witch. There are many details left in muddled water such as Winter’s knowledge of magic, the role of the mark she put on Justin, her mysterious action towards Justin and her final deed of burring the man she killed into her fireplace.

The character of Winter’s Wife, Vala creeps me out! Though never once she performed a disturbing act until the end of the story, neither does she hurt anyone with premeditated intentions but Justin’s description of her angles more towards creepy than mysterious in various parts of the story.

A Diorama of the Infernal Regions


The Devil’s Ninth Question

This Andy Duncan story stars a girl named Pearl Sunday and her journey to discovering herself. The tale is a mystifying account of her discovery of being a wizard, her deeds of adventure and her talents that lay hidden even to her own heart and mind. While the story takes a while before the exciting magical part comes along, the upcoming adventures are worth the wait.

Pearl is an orphan girl taken in by the museum’s professor and put to work. Thus begins her upbringing of the girl which doesn’t seem to be malicious by any account but inconsiderate and indifferent, the same way one would treat a salaries worker. While working in the machine room behind the Diorama of Infernal Regions, Pearl finds herself at a change of task in the museum which puts her mind in a state of chaos causing her to jump teleport. Her escape from Magician Farethewell is short-lived as her comfortable days in the widow’s ghost house come to an end with the arrival of Wheatstraw and Farethewell.

The girl, fed, happy and grown up answers Wheatstraw’s questions and sets the Devil free of Farethewell. Then continues her journey to become a proper wizard and learn the ways of the world.

The story is as exciting as it is enchanting but the end had me wishing that there was more of her journey’s account than the accounts of her deeds, which eventually lead to her decisions of the journey. I also believe that the story could have done without the part of Wheatstraw and his questions while maintaining the excitement but regardless it was an interesting read.

Barrens Dance

Peter S. Beagle has woven quite a tense and compelling story around the world of ‘shukri’ (wild and fierce soul bound creatures) and the feared wizard Carcharos. The events are set in the lands of Northern Barrens.

In the most simplest terms, the story is about the wizard Carcharos who created magic with a dance, unlike any wizard ever known and equaled desire with need. The madman came to lay eyes upon a married woman, Jassi Belnarak, wife of a shukri, Rijo Belnarak. The events that follow are the accounts of Carcharos many deceptive deeds performed in order to gain Jassi as his. In the end, the story is left with a humored tale that both the wizard and the shukri wife turned into shukri four-legged creatures and haunt the forest where the final showdown had taken place.

The story is pretty simple and straightforward but interesting when narrated from the perspective of an old man who often leaves his storytelling and offers the reader some ill made tea. The man also, eventually reveals himself to be a four-legged shukri, who had followed his mater’s wife along with its kin to the edge of the clearing watching the final showdown. It was in that clearing that he became a human looking directly into the eyes of the evil wizard who shrunk into a gray shukri through a seemingly irreversible magic performed by the wizard’s sharp dance.

The most enchanting description in this story is the soulful magic of the shukri and the description of the wizard Carcharos’ dance.

This brings us to an end of the book ‘Wizards’. But worry not, my account of these short tale are not all the stories there are in this book, I have left out some interesting stories for you to discover yourself.

Happy reading!

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