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To Weave A Web Of Magic - anthology by Claire Delacroix. Lynn Kurland, Patricia McKillip and Sharon Shinn

01/06/2010. Contributed by Jill Roberts

Buy To Weave A Web Of Magic - anthology in the USA - or Buy To Weave A Web Of Magic - anthology in the UK

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pub: Berkley. 362 page paperback. Price: $12.00 (US) $18.00 (CAN). ISBN: 0-425-19615-1.

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'To Weave A Web of Magic' is a short anthology of four stories ' of fantasy and exquisite romance' according to the cover.

The Gorgon in the Closet by Patricia A McKillis

Harry Waterman is an aspiring artist who longs to see his paintings given pride of place on art gallery walls, like those of famous painter Alex McAllister. His cry of despair for inspiration is answered by one of his unfinished paintings. He is shocked that it has a voice, becomes his muse, guiding and encouraging him in developing his masterpiece, a painting of Medusa. With the painting's help, Harry not only finds Jo Byrd, the right model for his masterpiece, he falls in love with her. His painting falls silent, its job done.

The story is full of the life of a painter, his home with housekeeper and private artist's studio, the sights and smells of daily life around him and the rather bleak life of Jo the model. Such hardships she had to endure in the country while looking after a young son that later died and the long walk into the city to find work. Quite touching and well-written, I found this to be a very lovely, romantic story. A fascinating story of a painting coming to life to deliver a masterpiece and a companion to aid two empty lives. A pleasant variation on the age-old rags-to-riches tale.

The Tale of Two Swords by Lynn Kurland

A young woman named Mehar runs away from an arranged marriage to a miser named Hagarth. During her flight, she stops to rest the night in the ruins of a castle and befriends a rather grubby-looking stable-hand named Gil. He turns out to be Gilraehen, future king of Neroche, weary and battle-scared from his father's war against Lothar of Wychweald.

While Mehar is sheltering at the castle, Gil thwarts an assassin's attempt on her life. There is also the unexpected and unwelcome arrival of a rather haughty, sharp-tongued young woman named Tiare of Penrhyn, Gil's betrothed. Tiare does not like the look of Gil's damaged hand and leaves in disgust, leaving Gil free to marry Mehar and deal with her father and Hagarth.

There is a goodly amount of humour and jovial banter between Mehar and Gil, which helps lighten the mood and lifts it from the mundane and predictable tale that it might otherwise have been. I found this tale far more interesting, enjoyable and engaging, becoming lost in the flow of the story and it lightened my soul through the reading of it. The words on the page flowed smoothly like fine silk, nothing jarred or seemed out of place. It was so rich in texture and detail that I was able to totally immerse myself in the words and feel that I was truly there. What I like most is the strong, independent nature of the female character, written as an equal to the male lead in the story. Such a refreshing change, a truly enchanting, magical story.

Fallen Angel by Sharon Shinn

Joseph Karsh is of the Mandavi family and part of the wealthy elite of Samaria. Eden, his daughter, is approaching her eighteenth birthday and now part of the social scene. The Mandavi and the governing elite of angels are ruled by the archangel Gabriel. At one of the grand balls, Eden meets and begins to fall in love with Jesse, a rather rebellious and restless angel.

There are some trading irregularities and an angel named Adam is sent to oversee Karsh's future business transactions which greatly angers him. The following spring, Adam recommends to Gabriel that Karsh no longer needs to be under an angel's supervision. Summer comes and Karsh's wife gives birth, great joy at first but it has wings! It turns out that Adam is a rather amoral angel who has sired many babies to other high-ranking households across the three provinces.

Adam and Karsh's wife go to the eyrie at Moteverde for her to recover from the arduous and painful delivery and for the baby's safety as Karsh had become quite violent and abusive. Eden later joins her mother at the eyrie and meets up with Jesse and some of his friends. Some months later, a raging Karsh visits the eyrie and attacks Eden and threatens to kill his wife's baby. Later, on his way home, an angel kills Karsh and everyone assumes it was Jesse, as Karsh had threatened Eden as well as the new baby. So he is exiled and chained to a lonely mountaintop, leaving Eden to confront Adam and exonerate Jesse.

A pleasant enough read, but it felt disjointed and incomplete which spoilt my enjoyment. This world does not feel fully fleshed-out. For some reason, Eden's mother is never referred to by name or spoken to directly, yet I feel she is also an important character that annoyed me. Overall, the details and textures of their lives are patchy. I feel this tale and this world are not as fleshed-out as the other stories in this book. At times, light and superficial and at other times, deep and touching. The tale itself is as inconsistent as that may sound.

An Elegy for Melusine by Claire Delacroix

A very detailed story about a half-fey woman named Melusine, who wants to break her mother's curse and a mortal man named Raymond of Poitu, who wants to sire ten children. They meet at a spring in the forest of Lusignan, where Melusine. has just stepped through the veil between worlds. Raymond thought himself alone in the forest with his grief after a hunting accident in the forest that left Count Amery dead, slain by his own sword. Melusine bargains with him that she will clear up the problems of the Amery's death in exchange for his hand in marriage. There are complications, Raymond requires ten sons from her - it doesn't say why he wants ten. Melusine requires every Saturday on her own, because on that day, her legs fuse together into a tail and she has to spend the time sitting in a tub of water.

Over the years, she produces the ten sons for him, each born with a deformity of some sort. Her mother's curse isn't broken because Raymond broke his promise and observed her one Saturday. By this time she has fallen in love with him anyway, realising that life is not always as black and white as she once supposed when much younger.

Not a story for enjoyment as it was quite violent and unpleasant at times, but a gripping story, brilliantly written and about love, promises made and broken. On reflection, it is also a rather sad tale of a woman looking back on her life, quite the opposite to 'Two Swords' which was a joy to read. This is the flip side of love: disappointment, despair, heartbreak and loneliness. It was descriptively written with strong characters and a rich tapestry of texture and emotion that you can't help but feel involved in their lives. A story to get your teeth into. Not a joyous life-affirming love story, but a love story all the same, as it details our human frailties.

Four different stories that are rather loosely connected by the theme of love. For me, only 'Two Swords' was truly enchanting to read. 'Elegy For Melusine' was also well-written but it showed a much darker side to life. 'Gorgon' was a pleasant enough read, but 'Fallen Angel' was rather disjointed and annoying to read. Four stories of fantasy and exquisite romance? No, not really but I did enjoy two of them.

Jill Roberts

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