The Fair Folk edited by Marvin Kaye

An anthology of short stories about elves.

The Fair Folk was put together in 2005 by the Science Fiction Book Club, and consists of stories written about elves and their kin from some luminaries in the field. I enjoyed each one immensely, differing as they do in style and tone.

“UOUS” by Tanith Lee takes the familiar “three wishes” story and turns it on its head. An unhappy Cinderalla-esque young woman calls out three wishes, conjuring a fairy who is more than happy to comply with her request. However, thanks the the usual caveat to be careful how you wish for something, Lois finds herself on the giving, not receiving, end of the wishes. Lee employs an engaging first-person point of view filled with dry humor and wry wit.

“Grace Notes” by Megan Lindholm employs a contemporary setting to tell the story of an urban man visited by a brownie, a housecleaning sprite who can’t be eradicated unless given clothing. Think JK Rowling’s house elves. At first glance, it hardly seems likely that one would want to kick out someone who happily cleans your apartment and cooks you dinner, but Lindholm’s protagonist finds himself wishing for a way out–and unable to come up with the right gift.

Kim Newman, the author of “The Gypsies in the Wood,” is a new author to me. His story is set in Victorian England, and reminded me very much of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The story revolves around the abduction of two children, both of whom were returned to their family. However, the boy came back many years older than he should have been, and the girl came back without memories of certain family traditions. Those predisposed to believe in such things suspect that changelings are involved, but it’s not until a grisly murder in a funhouse designed to be the land of Faerie that the investigation is brought to a close.

“The Kelpie” by Patricia McKillip is set amongst a circle of artists patterned after the Pre-Raphaelites. I loved the story McKillip crafted, rife with jealousies and intrigue and artistic inspiration. The kelpie, or sea-horse, doesn’t take center stage; rather, it’s a catalyst for the love story at the tale’s heart.

Craig Shaw Gardner’s “An Embarrassment of Elves” and Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder’s “Except the Queen” left me cold. The first is a comedy, and that’s a mode I have very little patience with when married to fantasy. The latter is told through letters written between two disgraced fairy sisters. The writing was beautiful, but I just couldn’t get into the story.

The anthology closes with a glossary of different types of elves. The Fair Folk is a great collection with anyone who has an interest in folklore.

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