Book Review: The Horns of Elfland edited by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

The Horns of Elfland The Horns of Elfland by Ellen Kushner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It took a while to track down this volume, as it has long been out of print. The interlibrary loan was, once again, my friend. But how odd to read an actual physical book again, when I’ve been reading ebooks almost exclusively lately!

Most of the stories were a bit darker than anticipated. 1997 was not such a depressing time for me, so I’m not sure why that would be the case.

I’ve had to send the book back to the library already, so I don’t have it at hand despite finishing it last night.

The first standout story was “The Drummer and the Skins” by John Brunner. Finding a reference to a Yoruban peoples’ tradition in a white British author’s story was somewhat surprising, but go figure. I’m a white southern American woman, too. I suppose some people might argue that neither of us has the right to be interested in/know about such things/whatever. I think of Brunner as a very hard SF writer, so that was especially surprising from him. His inclusion in a fantasy anthology was altogether a surprise. These surprises are some of the things I enjoy about anthologies – they challenge my assumptions.

I was rather bitter when I first thought I understood what Terri Windling‘s novelette “The Color of Angels was about. “Just what I need to read about,” I told Sam. “A story about a woman gradually losing everything she loves to illness.” MS, in the story (not one of my diagnoses, but it hit far too close to home, anyway). Suffice it to say that I was glad that I continued to read.

Even if I hadn’t been happy with where the story went, I would not have been able to resist Windling’s writing. She brings in so much of the world – colors, textures, music – so that I felt far more immersed in that one piece than I have in my own life at times. She is marvelously evocative. I haven’t managed to put my hands on any of the Bordertown/Borderlands books, despite seeking them for a long time. Now I’m adding her solo works to the “look for” list, and pushing them much higher on the priority scale.

“The Death of Raven” by Ellen Kushner was unexpectedly comforting. Very brief, quite simply, but one I would love to see reprinted to increase its availability. (It may have been reprinted, for all I know. I certainly hope that it has been.) I’ve got Kushner’s novels on my “to-read” shelf, but I think I’ll move them up a bit.

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Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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