With nearly 90 years as writers and editors between them, Dozois and Martin are exemplars of seasoned professionals; a certain level of entertainment can be expected from the contributions, with the notable exception of Jim Butcher’s story, whose teenage girl protagonist reads less like a realized character and more the fantasy of a middle-aged man. But this one weak note is more than balanced by stronger offerings like Carrie Vaughn’s war story “Raiza Stepanova” and Pat Cadigan’s tale of good intentions gone wrong, “Caretakers.” While readers familiar with the authors included may be assured that they will get stories of the quality that they expect, perhaps the work could serve even better as an introductory sampling of a diverse assortment of talents.
Within the pages of this weighty tome are stories by 12 women and nine men, from fledglings to veterans. No particular genre is singled out: fantasy, science fiction, noir and historical fiction are all included. Nor does any one occupation enjoy a monopoly, although royalty is very well represented. Seven of the stories are set in established series like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The single unifying element is the theme: All of the stories feature, as protagonists and as antagonists, dangerous women. (TOR, Dec, 784 pp., $32.50)