Witches: Wicked, Wild & Wonderful , edited by Paula Guran
Witches are familiar characters in horror and fantasy fiction, their personalities being quite versatile, ranging from the wicked hag casting evil spells to the wise woman providing healing remedies and precious advise, from the old bitch to the young and sexy temptress ( of course, witches are mostly females, warlocks being much less popular)
Renowned editor Paula Guran has assembled a veritable literary “encyclopedia” about witches, featuring twenty-three stories which explore the various aspects of witchcraft.
Delia Sherman probes the secrets of Walpurga’s Night (Walpurgis Afternoon) and Theodora Goss (Lessons with Miss Gray) depicts how mirrors can become tools of witchcraft.
Mercedes Lackey (Nightside) and Elizabeth Bear (The Cold Blacksmith) portray women endowed with magical powers and devoted to fights the forces of evil threatening people’s safety, while TA Pratt provides a further adventure of her sorcerer Marla Mason ( I’ll Met in Ulthar) and Neil Gaiman describes a witch-ghost dating back to the reign of King James I of England (The Witch’s Headstone).
In Boris Chernevsky’s Hands Jane Yolen revisits the Russian myth of the infamous Baba Yaga whereas Andre Norton (The Way Wind) addresses the time-honoured concept of the link between virginity and the ability to perform magic.
The theme of witches’ “familiars” (mostly black cats) is developed by Madeleine l’Engle in Poor Little Saturday and the classical idea of witches flying on broomsticks is updated by Nancy Holder in The Only Way to Fly.
Most of the stories are well written and very entertaining , but, needless to say, the reviewer has his own favourite.
Basement Magic by Ellen Klages is an extremely enjoyable tale where an evil stepmother is defeated by a helpful servant while Mirage and Magia by famous author Tanith Lee is an enticing, masterful fantasy piece about an enchantress and her final confrontation with a truly invincible demon.
The dark The World is Cruel, My Daughter by Cory Skerry features a cruel witch who does not hesitate to kill her adopted daughter’s suitors and the excellent Bloodline by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a well crafted family saga where all the female members are witches endowed with different powers.
In the cynic but compelling The Robbery by Cynthia Ward magic knots are instrumental in punishing a remorseless thief while the unusual, compelling The Ground Whereon She Stands by Leah Bobet perfectly blends the supernatural and intense, although restrained, lesbian eroticism.
Skin Deep by Richard Parks is a modern fairy tale where a young witch inherits from her Grandma the ability to wear different skins to transform herself and April in Paris by veteran Ursula K Le Guin is a delightful story where magic time travelling gathers in the same room in Paris people from different ages and races.
In short, whether you’re a witch lover or not, I’m sure you will love this superlative anthology.