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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