A collection of stories that Nazarian claims have the common thread of a sense of wonder and/or regret. A refreshingly good bunch, with several very interesting pieces and only one bad one.
"The Sky Won't Listen," Tanith Lee. In a world with a pink sky and whales that fly amongst the clouds, a mindscaper investigates a whaler's ghost. Beautifully written. I wish there was more to this--I was really intrigued by the whales, and wondered why they were congregating over cities.
"The Tin and the Damask Rose," Anna Tambour. I don't get this one. A damask rose is annoyed by neglect and the presence of a discarded tin lying at its base. That's...the entire story.
"What a Queen Does With Her Hands," Erzebet Yellowboy. Princess Hestir has never been allowed to use her hands. Even in sleep, ropes are tied at the wrists so her hands don't even touch the bed. This is symbolic of her commitment to turning over the rule of the nation to her chosen husband. But Princess Hestir can't choose amongst her princely suitors, and begins to wonder whether she ought to rule herself.
"The Gifting of Nyla's Son," Linda Dunn. In a non-industrial society, a young woman bears a son whose father will not accept him. Unwilling to let him drown (as is expected) or starve (as he has no father to hunt for him), Nyla instead steals him and leaves the village. She soon discovers that not all the myths and magic she grew up with are what they seem. Very interesting world building, and the main character is strong and smart in a likeable but still believable way.
"Stone Song," Sonya Taaffe. A toddler is stolen from her parents and trained to be a Basilisk, able to sing anything into stone. But with her growing strength, her master seeks to use her for greater evil. The author uses stones as descriptors and metaphors; it's a nice conceit, but overused. And the climax feels rushed and is a little too obvious. The Basilisk turns on her master when he commands her to kill a random stranger. It was clear from the start of the story that she would, and that her master was evil; this would have been a more interesting story with a little more ambiguity, either in terms of her feelings toward him or toward his own motivations.
"Sky Whales," Lisa Silverthorne. Manipulative trash. Nothing speculative, no hints of wonder. Just a mother getting a phone call that her daughter has been found in a shallow grave. Then a couple pages worth of descriptions of what was done to the girl. Then the mother being happy about the killer getting the death penalty. It's awful, tawdry, uninteresting and left me in terrible mood.
"Death's Appointment Book, or The Dance of Death," Joselle Vanderhooft. Someone tries to reschedule their death by scribbling in Death's appointment book. A little too trippy for my tastes.
"The Sugar," Mary Turzillo. A hunter of Purity seeks those who eat "sugar" to change their form for a single night. The Purity judges them to be abominations, and executes them when it finds them. But while hunting, she discovers that the Purity may have a very different agenda...Interesting, though I would have liked a little more grounding and grit in most of the story so the changeling-magic bits had more contrast.
"She Who Runs," Mike Allen. A slave girl is blessed/cursed to run faster and faster until she kills the goddess's enemy. But when she reaches the enemy god, it shows her the truth of the gods' relationship. They are soul-eaters, and all the people of the girl's world are the souls the goddess has eaten. The god seeks to eat the goddess, and has wounded her. It gives the girl an extra little bit of blessing/curse, so that she is able to control her run slightly. She runs toward the high priests who initially cursed her, and kills one every time she runs past. She runs faster and faster, until she is traversing decades, then millenia, with every stride. Finally, she reaches the end of the universe, and has one chance to kill the soul-eating goddess.
Really fascinating, really well told. I want to reread this, and find other works by Allen, because this was so good.
"Breaking Laws," John Grant. The spirit of Manhattan toys with a young law clerk, but she turns the tables on it.
"Only One Story But He Told It Well," Robert Brandt. Terrible dialog in a hackneyed & saccharine tale. It's not that awful, but as the last tale in such a wonderful collection, I expected better than a style-less, obvious story.