Berkley, $12.00, ISBN 0-425-19615-1
Fantasy Romance, 2004
When authors outside the romance genre write stories of romance, sometimes pure magic can result. I’ve read fabulously romantic stories in fantasy anthologies before and I am looking forward to To Weave a Web of Magic enough to pay for exorbitant shipping to my side of the world so that Jeff Bezos can send me an early Christmas present. While I’m not right now wondering whether I must have be struck by some temporary insanity to pay so much for this book, it isn’t exactly a book that I must read either.
Having been out of the fantasy loop for years, I have not read anything by Patricia McKilip before. Her The Gorgon in the Cupboard has a well-written, lush setting depicting bohemian artistry in pastel-colored romantic hues, but I’m not sure about the story though. Harry Waterman, our hero, is quite fickle when it comes to love but that’s okay, he’s an artist and artists can’t always be sensible, I guess. He’s infatuated with the wife of a rival (more successful) artist, so much so that when he works on his previously forgotten artwork of Persephone (you know, he being Demeter and Aurora McAlister being Persephone and all that – hey, wait a minute), he paints in Aurora’s mouth. Don’t ask me what that pervert must be thinking when he paints in that mouth.
The actual model for Persephone, Jo Byrd, won’t be pleased to know that her mouth isn’t hot enough for Harry but she has other problems to think about, such as her recent bereavements (she lost her child and her mother). She arrives unannounced on Harry’s doorstep, and while he doesn’t remember her, he takes her in, and they work on eliminating Aurora’s mouth from Harry’s memory. By the way, Harry’s painting is giving him agony aunt advice. Or rather, the gorgon Medusa is speaking through the painting to Harry. Don’t ask me if there’s anything symbolic in the whole snake and mouth thing.
The thing is, this story is too short to work with me. I don’t get to know anything about Harry other than his snake and mouth complex and ditto Jo – she’s just in need of TLC and nothing more, I’m afraid. It is one thing to write gracefully like Ms McKillip does here but I need something more from this story. I need substance.
Lynn Kurland’s The Tale of Two Swords is the most faithful to the romance genre codex, but unfortunately the author follows the wrong tenets: the ones advocating stupidity, helpless heroines, and irritating matchmaking secondary characters. Some idiot heiress Mehar of Angesand is fleeing her father and his men because they want her to marry some disgusting man and she wants to get to the sorcery-infested palace of Neroche where she believes she will be safe from disgusting men who just want to paw her luscious body. She meets the servant, Gil, who is actually the prince Gilraehen the Fey in disguise, and what I supposed is meant to be hilarity ensues. Someone want to kill the main characters, everybody else just want to see those two naked and wedded, and the external conflicts are magically solved when the hero marries the idiot girl, the end. This story is more like two swords through my brain.
I never really could get into Sharon Shinn’s angel soap opera and her Fallen Angel, therefore, is one I find hard to get into. Maybe it’s the author’s style of writing: her too-subtle way with words have me seeing zero chemistry between the two main characters. For example, the angelic bad boy Jesse is supposed to be charming, seductive, et cetera, but what I get instead is a character that comes off more like a too-deep psychoanalysis on Why Boys are Bad. Eden Karsh is halfway infatuated with him just from listening to tales of his exploits alone but I don’t see anything remotely resembling sexual tension between her and Jesse here. I’m not talking about explicit sex scenes, by the way, I’m talking about build-up of attraction expressed through subtle actions, words, or thoughts. Here, these two people are more like two school kids who don’t even know each other auditioning together for Romeo and Juliet. The pacing is off too – the author sleepwalks through the story only to cram everything in the last few pages.
Claire Delacroix’s An Elegy for Melusine is based on the old French folktale about a doomed love story between the human Raymond de Poitou and the cursed half-fae Melusine. It starts with a Faust-like bargain: she will help him when he accidentally killed his guardian in return for his marrying her, remaining true, and never seeing her on Saturday when she turns into a scaly creature with the tail of a fish. The clause of marriage is how she will break the curse laid on her that has her turning into Miss Palm d’Caviar every Saturday. It all goes downhill from here. Let’s just say that this is not at all a romance story. This story is quite well-written though, to the point that the whole thing is an even more bitter pill to swallow. This one is not my cup of tea. Then again, Melusine should have known better and keep looking for superior alternatives (or a cute shark boyfriend?) when that idiot asks for ten kids. Wait until he has to pop out those kids and we’ll see if he still wants ten of them.
While far from weaving any web of magic over me, this anthology is readable with only Ms Kurland’s story standing out as a dud. It makes a pleasant pit-stop in between romance novels although it doesn’t persuade me to linger around longer instead of wanting to keep going onto the next book.