Review: Magic

An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane

Edited by Jonathan Oliver

Solaris, out now

An intriguing collection of short stories on many different forms of magic.

Volumes like this, with a multitude of styles and authors, always have the advantage that if there’s a short story you’re not keen on, for whatever reason, there’ll be something very different along in a few pages’ time. However, as readers of previous collections edited by Oliver might expect, there aren’t any duff tales within this anthology.

Some stories give you a tiny glimpse at a much wider canvas – Robert Shearman’s haunting “Dumb Lucy”, Will Hill’s cleverly structured “Shuffle”, Steve Rasmic Tem and Melanie Tem’s “Domestic Magic”, or Liz Williams’ “Cad Coddeu” – while others are self-contained anecdotes (Gail Z. Martin’s “Buttons”, for example).

There’s outright horror (stand up Thania Niveau, Christopher Fowler, Sophia McDougall and Gemma Files) and magic as part of day-to-day life, whether it’s being used to deal with former lovers in Storm Constantine’s neatly-titled story, or in politics (Dan Abnett) and less salubrious employment (my personal favourite tale, Lou Morgan’s “Bottom Line”, and Sarah Lotz’s “If I Die, Kill My Cat”, both “worlds” visited in this book that I’d like to see more of).

Magic opens with a tale from The Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger which riffs off a real link between Holmes author Conan Doyle and the fairy folk; and there’s a genuine historical figure also in Alison Littlewood’s “The Art of Escapology”. But whether the stories are set in contemporary Britain or a fantasy landscape, this collection isn’t trying any sleight of hand to keep you interested.

Verdict: Perfect Halloween fare that will keep you reading during the winter nights. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane from Amazon.co.uk

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