by Mary Frances Zambreno
Review by Sam Tomaino
American Fantasy Press Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0961035242
Date: 01 December, 2005 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Most of these stories are reprints that are between 5 and 20 years old. There are four stories published here for the first time, so I'll review them first. "Fairy Godmothers" is an odd little tale with a distinctly different take on Cinderella. There isn't much actual story here but it is thought provoking. "Aunt Concetta's Cat" is set in Italy, years ago, and is a nice little horror story about some children and their difficulties with their Aunt Concetta and their greater difficulties with her cat. "The Little Girl in the Picture" has no fantasy elements at all. Two schoolgirls try to find out about a little girl in her First Communion dress in an old picture. It's one of the most delightful stories in the volume. "The Bearwalker" makes use of a legend from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a combination of a werewolf and Native American lore. I had never given much thought to that part of the country but this story makes it sound interesting.
Of the remaining stories, there were two I found exceptional, in that I'd nominate them for a World Fantasy Award if they were new. "The Lady of the Mercians" is a story about a real historical person, Aethelflaed of Mercia, the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great. This is a fantasy tale of how she might have repelled an invasion of "Norse Irish". In it, she works against the magic of the invaders but does not betray her Christian faith. Zambreno is a medievalist and gives us what seems to be an accurate portrayal of how people like Aethelflaed might have thought and acted. Another wonderful story in this collection is "The Ghost in the Summer Kitchen". In it, a young girl named Rose is cooking in a summer kitchen (a separate building) and meets a younger girl named Annie who disappears. I won't ruin the story by telling you any more than that but I did love how it ended.
The other dozen stories here are all worth reading. They range from fantasy to horror to science fiction and from medieval times to fantasy worlds to present day to the future. This is an excellent volume that I will put in my Fantasy Award nominations next year. I highly recommend it.