Magic, madam, is like wine and, if you are not used to it, it will make you drunk. Faerie is never as far away as you think. Sometimes you find you have crossed an invisible line and must cope, as best you can, with petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time embroidering terrible fates, or with endless paths in deep dark woods and houses that never appear the same way twice. The heroines and heroes bedevilled by such problems in these fairytales include a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor and Mary Queen of Scots, as well as two characters from "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell": Strange, himself, and the Raven King.
This is actually not the review I was promising, but I just finished this book and felt I should review it while I can keep all the stories straight in my head! So, I think I have said a few times lately that I am not much for short story collections. I rarely read them, but I do have a few in my collection and there have been some that I have quite enjoyed. Now you are probably wondering where this collection fits in. To put it quite simply, I loved it! I couldn't put it down, and that is a very rare thing for me when it comes to short stories! There was not a story in the collection that I didn't enjoy, and now I really have to get around to finishing Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell!
"The Ladies of Grace Adieu" - The title story to this collection. This story takes place during the 19th-century and looks at the troubles that women magicians had at this time. Like most professions, magic was a male-dominated world, and these three women were caught up in it. This is also the story where Mr. Strange and The Raven King make an appearance.
"Lickerish Hill" - This story is based on several sources, but for me, it was reminisent of Rumpelstiltskin. That is what I thought of when I read it, but there is a lot more going on and that story is likely not even a an original. It's another story about an unconventional woman for the times. This one did not have the head for domestic studies, but would rather learn more about the world around her, but her mother has other ideas for her.
"Mrs Mabb" - This is the story of a scorned woman who does not believe that her true-love has left her behind. It is a very fairy tale-type story! It was fun to read of all of her troubles to find out the truth and her sister is an interesting character! This story was my favourite, I think.
"The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" - Imagine my surprise when the opening paragraph states: "This story is set in the world created by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess in Stardust". I loved that book, so I was all excited for this story. I wish there had been more to it, though. This story did disappoint me, but it was more my own fault than the writing. It's a nice, quaint story. I particularly like the ending!
"Mr. Simonelli or The Fairy Widower" - This story looks very closely at fairy enchantments. It is very much a story of what you see is not always what is there! Told in diary-format, it is about a seemingly ordinary man doing a very courageous thing. I had to laugh at the ending, even if it wasn't necessarily funny... He last words that he is said to have spoken aloud and recorded in his diary are priceless!
"Tom Brightwind or How The Fairy Bridge Was Built at Thoresby" - Another fairy story. This one about Tom Brightwind, who appears to be quite the distracted sort. He is traveling with a mortal on a route that leads to adventure along the way! There are some interesting characters in this story.
"Antickes and Frets" - This is a story about Mary Queen of Scots and her attempts to take her beloved cousin, Elizabeth, from her throne. It might not be the story we have heard before, but knowing Mary's history I can well imagine it!
"John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner" - This story was entertaining. It is the most interesting use of saints that I have ever seen. It shows that we have been going about praying all the wrong ways! It also shows that even the simplist person can be mighty... or at least have mighty friends! No one has to know that, though.
If the stories are not enough to interest you, you must also remember that this book is illustrated by the fantastic Charles' Vess! Who wouldn't want to see more from him! Clarke is a really amazing author, I have to say. She knows how to capture an audience, and she has only written this collection and one novel! I am a huge fan at this point.
This is my third read for the R.I.P. Challenge! Yay! The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason will be posted at Historical Tapestry sometime this week. I will keep you posted!