Review: “Five Fantastic Tales,” Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Pros: Magical tales
Rating: 5 out of 5

Five Fantastic Tales is a collection of stories by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It ranges from emotional and sweet, to hilarious, to intriguing.

Flower Fairies is a story about a woman who runs a funeral parlor. Her friends the flower fairies sometimes bring her flower arrangements to display, and she really can’t say no. Fairies can be sweet, but they can also be quite dangerous. A little fairy girl comes with an arrangement for a particular viewing and insists on staying, while the one fairy who knows how to use technology isn’t answering his phone. Will he show up before things go wrong? This story made me tear up a bit.

Saying no to an infant flower fairy is much more dangerous than saying no to an adult.

The Poop Thief introduces us to Portia, who sells familiars to mages. When her charges’ poop goes missing, it’s a much bigger problem than you might imagine. This tale is both hilarious and touching, with a lovely “awww” moment. The world-building involving mages, familiars, and even Homeland Security is seamlessly tucked into the narrative and quite engaging.

Of course, they’re never called poop thieves. They’re “tricksters” who steal their victims’ “essence.” They’re evil wizards who rob their enemies of their “life force.”

Domestic Magic gives us a world in which magic is genetic. Our main character got a dose of domestic magic, or “girl magic,” believed to be carried on the X chromosome. She’s been having nightmares recently in which her childhood bully comes into the lunchroom at school and torches a handful of people with dark magic. However, there’s nothing in her family background to indicate any precognitive abilities, and her past with the bully (people think she falsely accused him of putting her in the hospital) means that people don’t believe anything she says about him. She’s convinced the dream presages something real–but can she find a way to be sure? The subtle uses of her magic are nifty, but I feel like the story barely had time to touch on the possibilities.

I’m like the white vinegar of magic; no one even thinks of me until they spill red wine on their shirt.

In Say Hello to My Little Friend, a handsome man comes into a bar, where he proceeds to use the same gross pick-up line on every woman who comes near him. The sympathetic bartender tries to give him a nudge to understand why he isn’t getting anywhere, but stumbles across a rather surprising situation.

Victims introduces us to a world in which vampires came out of the closet five years earlier. Reese Catton works for Senator Lurry, and vampire Veronique (who runs an escort service) has offered to give him information to help him against his political rival. She claims to have been raped by the other politician, and Lurry baldly argues that voters won’t care. Reese and one of his colleagues, Stuckey, however, smell a rat and go looking into the case. What they find is not what Reese was expecting.

All of these stories were engaging and fascinating. I love the range of world-building examples, and there’s some nice emotional material in here. If you’re looking for a fun evening of urban fantasy, definitely give this collection a try!

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