QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOOK OF SPELLS
In their latest collaboration, Datlow and Windling challenged their contributors to write otherworldly stories of dark magic, vengeful fairies and powerful (sometimes even royal!) mages — all set in the Victorian era. The result is 18 impressively crafted tales of gaslamp fantasy, where the authors expertly blend Victoriana with a variety of gothic elements. For this reviewer, Catherynne M. Valente’s “We Without Us Were Shadows,” an exceptionally detailed and touching vision of the imaginary worlds created by the Brontë siblings, was a particular standout.
Dale Bailey’s “Mr. Splitfoot” details the chilling final hours of an elderly “fake” ghost-conjurer. “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh reveals how a young woman’s secret scrapbook allows her to control her fate — and the fate of her loved ones. Elizabeth Bear’s “The Governess” features a young woman trying to protect her charges, and herself, from the shadowy threat of their father. The mysterious Grey Ladies push “The Unwanted Women of Surrey” to take revenge in Kaaron Warren’s tale. Veronica Schanoes’ “Phosphorous” offers a different take on Victorian life, focusing on exploited Irish immigrants. And in the eponymous “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells,” Delia Sherman explores the life of young Queen Victoria ... when she was a sorceress-in-training. (TOR, Mar., 352 pp., $15.99)