Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely

Phantazein is a fantasy anthology edited by Tehani Wessely. It's heavily fairytale/fable/mythology themed and contains stories by a range of female authors. This is the second all-female anthology Tehani has put together (the first was One Small Step), which is interesting, especially as Phantazein was unplanned.
You think you know all the fables that have ever been told. You think you can no longer be surprised by stories. Think again.

With origins in myth, fairytales, folklore and pure imagination, the stories and poems in these pages draw on history that never was and worlds that will never be to create their own unique tales and traditions…

The next generation of storytellers is here.
All the stories in this anthology have very strong fairytale-like themes (a point I unfortunately reiterated a few times when commenting on individual stories). I have to admit this isn't my favourite style of fantasy, but nonetheless there were some stories that really stood out to me.

My favourite stories, in the order they appear, were: "Kneaded" by SG Larner, which really grabbed me when I got up to it; "Scales of Time" by Foz Meadows and Moni, an illustrated poem, which was predictably sad but gorgeous; and "Love Letters of Swans" by Tansy Rayner Roberts, about Helen and Paris and Helen's slave girl, was probably my favourite story of the lot. I suspect leaning heavily towards the mythological rather than fairytalesque added to that, but however you want to classify it, it was an excellent story. Other stories I liked, again in the order they appear, were "Twelfth" by Faith Mudge, "Bahamut" by Thoraiya Dyer, and "A Cold Day" by Nicole Murphy.

As I said, the stories are mostly fairytalesque, but towards the end of the anthology there's an interesting shift away from what I usually think of fairytales towards other time periods. There's a steampunky story (still with magic) and then the Ancient Greek story of Tansy's I mentioned above. I should also note that when I say "fairytale" I don't just mean the European forest kind of tale, there is a pretty good amount of cultural diversity, including eastern and tribal stories. It's quite a mixed bag and all of them are a new take or twist on old ideas. None of them are straight retellings of anything that's ever been made into a Disney movie.

If you enjoy fairytales or fantasy more generally, this is definitely the anthology for you. I've made comments on individual stories below, and I think it's fair to say there's something here for all kinds of fairytalesque fantasy fans. I have used the word "fairytale" too much in this review. Sorry. If you don't think I should be apologising, go buy this anthology.

~

Twelfth by Faith Mudge — A fairytale about twelve brothers, complete with darkness and hope. Well maybe not a fairytale per se because the cautionary part is less the point of the story and anyway doesn’t caution the usual suspects. Mudge weaves a beautiful tale with a pleasing ending.

Bahamut by Thoraiya Dyer — A story about the sacrifices one must make to protect those one loves. Which is more important, saving a kingdom or being loved?

The Nameless Seamstress by Gitte Christensen — a tale of magic clothes, the imperial court and the near-mythological Weaver and Seamstress.

How the Jungle got its Spirit Guardian by Vida Cruz — A surprisingly epic tale for all that it retains the vibe of the earlier stories. And much more about people than the title suggests. Also gender roles

The Seventh Relic by Cat Sparks — An odd, slightly surreal story. Not quite my thing, I have to admit.

Rag and Bone Heart by Suzanne J Willis — A nice and sort of horrible (in happenings) story about a girl in a magic kingdom, a king and a helpful old witch. I liked it.

Kneaded by S.G. Larner — I found this story absolutely delightful. A brilliant take on the idea of people made not of flesh. (With, I think, a twisted allusion to Hansel and Gretel thrown in briefly). Definitely one of my favourite stories in this collection.

The Village of No Women by Rabia Gale — Into the village of no women comes a clever scholar to make the men wives from animals. A satisfying tale.

The Lady of Wild Things by Jenny Blackford — Evil fairy-type beings. Not a bad story, but it didn't leave a very strong impression on me.

The Ghost of Hephaestus by Charlotte Nash — Steampunky while still having a fairytale feel to it (but perhaps less so than a story involving forests). The style wasn’t really to my taste and I personally didn’t connect with this story.

A Cold Day by Nicole Murphy — A potter who makes magic pots to protect newborn children and the demands placed on her by the royal family. I liked this story, although I found the end a little abrupt.

Scales of Time by Foz Meadows & Moni — A sad/lovely poem of a girl and her dragon, written by Foz and illustrated by Moni. Sad thumbs up.

Love Letters of Swans by Tansy Rayner Roberts — A new take on the story of Helen (of Troy, sort of) and Paris. Engaging, awesome, an excellent note to end the anthology on. One of my favourites in this anthology.

4 / 5 stars


First published: October 2014, FableCroft 
Series: No.
Format read: ePub
Source: Review copy courtesy of publisher (but you can buy it here)
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

No comments:

Post a Comment