Pros: Some truly good pieces
Cons: Some stories aren’t wholly memorable
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Courts of the Fey is an anthology of 12 stories about the Seelie and Unseelie courts of faeries edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis. The down side of a many-author anthology is you aren’t likely to enjoy all the stories because there’s such a range of styles. The up side is that you can discover new authors you might enjoy. Some anthologies manage to include more “wow” stories than others; Courts of the Fey is better than, say, Is Anybody Out There?, but not quite as good as A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters.
Lilith Saintcrow’s Gallow’s Rescue draws the reader in nicely at the beginning with a great rescue story in the land of the fae, but it felt as though it ended rather abruptly. It’s one of the stories that delves into the place of faeries in the modern world to some extent, and I like the way it handled the issue. Mary Robinette Kowal’s Goodhouse Keeping delves into that same area with a tense-yet-sweet tale of the wee folk trying to fit into modern society. Jennifer Ruth’s Beauty gives us a fascinating symbiotic relationship between fae and mortal that shows how even in our modern times, their gifts could still touch—and poison—us. Dean Wesley Smith’s Unlocked Gate is an entertaining look at what protects us from the presence and knowledge of the fae among us, while J.A. Pitts’s Mushroom Clouds and Fairy Rings provides a weird combination of the sillier side of the fey folk and the horror that is the post-apocalypse. It’s surreal and bizarre, and while it was interesting, it never entirely grabbed hold of me the way some of the others did.
Sarah A. Hoyt’s An Answer from the North is one of the stories that addresses the vanishing of the fae and the dominance of humans, and it does it in a lovely manner.
Paul Crilley’s The Song of the Wind is an old-style tale of the alienness of the fae and how their “gifts” can do great harm to mortals. Despite the fact that this tale has some familiar elements to it, its true value is in the beautiful depiction of fae vs. mortal ways of thinking. Jane Lindskold’s Hunting the Unicorn is a tale strictly of the fae, in which a Seelie and an Unseelie champion vie to be the first to catch (or kill) the unicorn. The tale isn’t overly surprising, but it’s a genuinely fun read. Amber Benson’s The Green Man is a gripping tale of a girl who’s backed into a corner where she needs to make a deal with the fey folk. The ending seemed a little too neat, but otherwise this is an extremely good story, and much better (with a far more consistent tone) than the novel of Ms. Benson’s that I’ve read—it leaves me looking forward to more of her work.
I was highly anticipating Rob Thurman’s First Ball…Last Call, because I’ve yet to read something by Ms. Thurman that I didn’t absolutely love. She has a knack for great characters, unusual world-building, and fascinating stories, and all of those are in evidence here. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling this wonderful story for you.
Kerrie Hughes’s Pennyroyal seemed like it would be a tale of fae in the modern world, but instead it turned out to be a rather fascinating look at the Seelie and Unseelie courts and how they relate to each other. I liked it so much I had to read it again while writing this review, and now I’m sniffling all over again. Michelle Sagara’s Anne also seemed like it would turn out to be a tale of fey folk in the modern world, but instead it turned out be a much deeper and more fascinating story of the Queen of the Unseelie Court.
If you’re looking for some interesting and original looks at the relationships between faeries and humans, or you want to find a few good writers whose work you’ve never read before, Courts of the Fey is a very good read.