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Emerald Magic edited by Andrew M. Greeley

Posted by travizzt on August 19, 2010

Top o’ the morning ta ya! Gather ’round we lads and lassies for a review of an Irish fantasy anthology. I wonder how many Irish I just offended with this…


Emerald Magic
edited by Andrew M. Greeley- This anthology was released in February of 2004 and published by Tor. This anthology covers all things fantastical about Irish history and stories. There are fifteen short stories written by Diane Duane, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, Judith Tarr, Elizabeth Haydon, Charles de Lint, Ray Bradbury, Andrew M. Greeley, Jane Lindskold, Fred Saberhagen, Peter Tremayne, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Jacqueline Cary, and Morgan Llywelyn. The anthology is broken up into two parts, “The Little People” and “Literary Fantastics”. The stories within have something to do with Irish fantasy and horror.

“Introduction” by Andrew M. Greeley- This is pretty much just a basic introduction with hyping up the upcoming stories and gives some basic background on the anthology. However, it contains some background on some of the myths and legends that the Irish people have. It is also a little confusing at times, mostly due to me having little to know background in such things.

“Herself” by Diane Duane- This story is about a leprechaun found murdered and discovering what did the act.
Criticisms:
1) Huh? The story started out interesting enough. A mortal having a friendly conversation with a leprechaun, then finding out he was murdered the next day. That would have been a great idea. However, the story soon turned into a confusing, fast paced mess of references and actions. I was lost and still scratching my head.
2) Political Messages. I’m not fond of anything political, at all. So when things like jobs, O-Zone problems, and others come up I’m almost instantly turned off by it. I don’t have a problem with it being a ‘hidden message’ but blatant messages I find extremely annoying, no matter what they are.
Praises:
1) Interaction. I really likes how the mythical creatures like leprechaun’s and banshee’s evolved into the present day. Just reading about how a Leprechaun hates Nike just brought a smile to my face. It was really interesting to say the least.
2) Murder Mystery. Although the plot did get a little fuzzy and hard to follow, I still really enjoyed the idea. Finding out what was causing a series of Leprechaun murders was surprisingly fun.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: While not the best story, it does have its moments. Aside from my personal issue with issues, I did have a good time reading it up until it got confusing and rushed.

“Speir-Bhan” by Tanith Lee- This story is about a woman fulfilling her great grandfather’s quest to kill three human-fox like beings.
Criticisms:
1) Awkward. This story just felt awkward to me. It could have been the idea of the main characters great grandfather’s scenes and the dream sequences with him in it or it could have been the awkward beginning. But something felt odd and weird.
Praises:
1) Speir-Bhan. I did like this character. The Speir-Bhan is a muse-like being and her appearance to the main character was kind of interesting and fun. I would say that this is another case of how interesting it is to see fantasy beings interacting with present day reality.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: I really have nothing to say about this story other than a shoulder shrug. It was just okay. It has a few interesting moments but other than those, everything else was just okay. Not to mention that for some reason the story just felt awkward at times. Not really sure why, but something was just odd.

“Troubles” by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple- This story is about a deal gone wrong between two creatures.
Criticisms:
1) What? This story is very hard to follow. Everything that is going on is explained, but the way it’s explained left me scratching my head. Also, it would have helped if there was some context to everything that was happening.
2) Short. It’s too short. Some stories can pull off short lengths, but this one just suffers from it. There wasn’t enough time to build up the characters and the plot. Instead we just are given blurbs about what’s going on.
Praises:
1) Descriptions. The descriptions seemed to be what this story focuses on and for the most part they are good.
Overall: 1/5
Thoughts: This story is just a mess of things. The characters weren’t developed enough to like them and the plot was just confusing. A little snippet of context of what is going on would have been nice. Leaving a short story clouded in mystery that never will be explained is not a good idea. The main problem has to be how short it is. If it was longer, it may have been more enjoyable.

“The Hermit and the Sidhe” by Judith Tarr- This story is about a religious crusade against the folklore and rituals that the Irish people have.
Criticisms:
1) Jumping. There isn’t a better way to explain this issue. The problem is that during a few scenes, things jumped around and were hard to follow. However, it wasn’t a huge issue.
Praises:
1) Idea. I really liked the idea behind this story. Having a religious crusade against old-world beliefs was an interesting and engaging idea.
2) Characters. I really enjoyed the two main characters of the Hermit and Father Timothy. With the Hermit you have this man who is on the borderline of becoming a devote Catholic, but has doubts. It was an interesting look into his psyche. With Father Timothy you have a man who sees evil in everything that isn’t covered in Catholic doctrine. It was interesting to see how far can someone fall into their beliefs.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. Aside from the ‘jumping’ scenes, everything was great. I liked the war between the two ‘faiths’, the characters wonderful, and it was easy to understand.

“The Merrow” by Elizabeth Haydon- This story is about a family coping with a blight. After the son finds a cap his father has hidden in the woods, he learns something about his mother. Something he’s not sure if he should tell her.
Criticisms:
None
Praises:
1) Interesting. Everything about this story held my interest. The characters were great, the plot was simple, and the pacing was perfect.
2) Simple. This is what makes a good story, simplicity. It was easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to follow.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: I really liked this story mostly due to it being so easy to understand and follow. The characters were wonderful and the plot had a lot of heart. It just was very enjoyable.

“The Butter Spirit’s Tithe” by Charles de Lint- This story is about a traveling musician and his past run in of a butter spirit. After a curse is laid upon the musician, Conn, is friend Miki decides to make a plan to free him of it.
Criticism:
1) The End. I did not care for the ending at all. The explanation of what Miki’s plan was to free Conn of this curse just didn’t feel right. Then it ended on a sappy note.
Praises:
1) Dark. The story had a fairly dark tone to it, darker than I would have expected. Having Conn’s soul being forfeit to this Grey Man and seeing what it does was good in all the right ways.
2) Simple. Another simple story. It was fairly easy to follow and understand, and because of this, it was very enjoyable.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: This was a fairly good story, with not much going against it. Sure I felt that the ending didn’t work, but other than that it was enjoyable. The tone took a dark turn that I didn’t really expect and I’m glad that it worked so well.

“Banshee” by Ray Bradbury- This story is about a screenwriter taking a screenplay to his friend to go over it. However, they start hearing wails and moans in the wind and the screenwriter goes out to check what it was.
Criticisms:
1) Spastic. Things happen at a rapid, frantic pace. The dialogue goes by way too fast and because of this, it was hard to follow what is going on.
2) Confusing. This ties in with the spastic pacing. Due to the breakneck speed of dialogue, actions, and everything, the story became a confusing and frustrating mess.
Praises:
1) Idea. The idea was very interesting. However for whatever reason, the spastic, breakneck pace of the story didn’t allow for enough time to really develop the story. But what I’ve seen, it would have been very good.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts: The best way to describe this story is one word, spastic. Everything as this ‘boom, boom, boom’ feel to it. Things happen one right after another with no time to breath. Because if this, the interesting premise really suffers.

“Peace in Heaven?” by Andrew M. Greeley- This story is about two couples talking of a past war in Heaven and how the two parties should reconcile.
Criticisms:
1) Exposition. This is an odd problem with the story. At times there seems to be too much being told, but in the next paragraph things are so vague and distant that there needs to be some exposition.
2) Perspective. The way this story was told was just weird. It had an almost first-person perspective during half of the scenes, but changed into third-person right after. What exactly is the perspective of this story? A hybrid between the two or something else? But realistically, it does not work.
Praises:
1) Short. At least this story was short.
Overall: 1/5
Thoughts: I honestly could not find anything worth talking about that was stand-out good. Sure the story wasn’t all bad, there were moments of mediocrity and semi-interest, but nothing stood-out enough to mention. But otherwise, this story was bad. The perspective issue becomes annoying quickly with the third-person actions having a first-person view is awkward. Then you have the need for less and more exposition However, there is more issues with this story. The characters are annoying and I couldn’t get into their mindsets. I just didn’t enjoy this story at all.

“The Lady in Grey” by Jane Lindskold- This story is about an Irish revolutionary who is fearless until the death of someone close to her. Then all her fears and past mistakes come flooding back.
Criticisms:
1) Boring. This story is incredibly boring and slow. However, it never seems like it until you put the story down. There is one main reason this story is so boring and that’s the:
2) Characters. Maud and Willie are just bland and uninteresting. While they did feel real and three-dimensional, they never really clicked with me. They were just uninteresting and everything they did bored me to tears. Also, this story is built around their relationship, a relationship that I could not (and did not) by for one second.
Praises:
1) Premise. Even though the story was a little boring and the characters bland, the premise of having this woman’s past troubling her was interesting. But due to the poorness of the characters, the promising premise suffers.
Overall: 2/5
Thoughts: “The Lady in Grey” was just a promising premise that failed due to the lackluster characters and a slow, plodding plot.

“A Drop of Something Special in the Blood” by Fred Saberhagen- This story is a fictional inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Criticisms:
1) Plot Progression. I don’t know how else to say this other than the way the story moved forward seemed odd. When you first start reading, Stoker is visiting a doctor in Paris to find out what is wrong with him and these delusions he is having. However, when Stoker meets this doctor, the story kind of forgets that in place of this girl, the same girl Stoker is seeing in his ‘dreams’. It just felt weird seeing how the one plot thread was pretty much dropped, and another taken up for the middle part, only to be replaced with the starting thread.
2) Ending. The ending was very anti-climactic and sudden. It just comes out of no where with no real build up except for Stoker having repeat visits by the girl. But I wouldn’t call that build up, more like quick little character development scenes.
Praises:
1) Inspiration. While I am not a huge fan of fictional inspiration stories, this one seemed to work. It had a bit of the same feel of Dracula, except on a smaller scale. Also, you see little snippets of things that are in Dracula that are replicated, which was interesting.
2) Pace. The pacing was just right. Fast enough that the story didn’t get bogged down in useless exposition and slow enough that you can appreciate and understand what is happening.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: This story was just average. Nothing really stood out and what did only barely stood out. It’s a fairly good fictional inspiration story behind Dracula but the sudden ending and odd plot shifting really just bring it back down to the mediocre level.

“For the Blood is the Life” by Peter Tremayne- This story is about a doctor being hired on to an entertainment company to make insurance checks on potential stars. After one patient dies and the body turns up missing, things start to get a little frightening for the doctor.
Criticisms:
1) Beginning. I don’t know why, but the beginning of the story bothered me. For one thing, it was utterly predictable, yet that’s not the reason. It could have been that the pacing was slow, but that wasn’t it either. The reason the beginning was so poor is probably a combination of the two along with it just playing the story straight. Something just didn’t work.
2) Predictable. While it was easy to see where the story was going to go in the beginning, as the story continued you knew exactly where it was going. As soon as the dead girl goes missing, the doctor’s sister getting a check up, and the sister’s past medical condition (which was never explicitly mentioned what it was until the end) were all mentioned, it was easy to connect the dots. A little mystery would have been nice.
Praises:
1) Premise. Yet another story with an interesting premise. I did like the whole idea behind why the company had to hire a doctor and some of the other things that happen late in the story. However, it become too predictable and the whole idea and premise suffered.
2) The Ending. While it was predictable, the ending still was a little creepy. It had a nice twist on the whole myth behind the story and there was some interesting imagery described. The last nine or ten pages should just have been the story in a nutshell.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: Yet another mediocre and average story. It wasn’t terrible, just really predictable.

“Long the Clouds Are Over Me Tonight” by Cecilia Dart-Thornton- This story is about Oisin, the last of the Fianna returning to Ireland from the Land of Youth called Tír na Nóg.
Criticisms:
1) Dialogue. For the most part, the dialogue was hard to understand. It was easy to comprehend what was happening, but hard to understand what was being said. This is due to a lot of references and an ‘old-time-like’ way to say things.
Praises:
1) Descriptions. The descriptions of the landscape were really vivid. You could easily picture some of these places in your mind, without much thought.
2) Myth. I really liked how this story actually felt like it was a myth. While some of the dialogue was hard to understand, it does fit well with the overall feel.
Overall: 4/5
Thoughts: The story was pretty good. Aside from the odd dialogue, the story had a nice mythological feel to it.

“The Swan Pilot” by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.- This story is about a spaceship captain on his way to some space-station, only to be waylaid by images called interludes which can kill the pilot.
Criticisms:
1) Techno-Babble. I absolutely hate techno-babble that isn’t explained. I hate it mostly due to being utterly and totally lost most of the time. This story is full of it, thus causing me to be as confused as never before.
2) Confusing. This does tie into the techno-babble problem, the story is confusing. Towards the last three pages, I just then started to understand what was happening and I have to say, it was interesting. Too bad that nothing was explained thus hurting the overall appeal of the story.
Praises:
1) Premise. Yet another story was an interesting premise. The only problem is how confusing the whole techno-babble aspect is. If there was slightly less, the story would have been more than excellent.
2) Interludes. After I figured out what was going on towards the end, I really liked the idea of the interludes. The dream-like world that a pilot sees was just plain interesting. Also, how the Irish myths and tales are included into these dream-like worlds was an interesting and fascinating way to include the folklore.
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: This is more of a biased review. I loathe techno-babble, however I can stand having a little. But here there is just so much to take in and understand what is happening that it really ruins the story. However, if you’re a fan of science-fiction, this would be a fun story.

“The Isle of Women” by Jacqueline Carey- This story is about an island of women who, after a ship of seventeen men land, possess the men into falling in love with them.
Criticisms:
1) Long. This story was definitely longer than it should have been. There were times when things just dragged on.
2) Ending. The last actions of the story were a little hard to follow. In fact, I had to re-read a certain paragraph to figure out who grabs the thread. It just wasn’t very clear at first.
Praises:
1) Mythological Feel. Yet another story with a mythological feel to it. I really enjoy these types of stories and this one was an enjoyable story that you could find in Greek or Roman mythology.
2) Cébha. She was a pretty interesting character. You could see the beginnings of a war within herself between her love for her Queen and her love for Diurán,
Overall: 3/5
Thoughts: Yet another average story. While I did like this a little better, it was way too long. For the most part the characters were fairly shallow, Cébha being just a little more bearable. Other than that, nothing else stood out, and it was just another average and okay story.

“The Cat With No Name” by Morgan Llywelyn- This story is about a lonely little girl who befriends a cat.
Criticisms:
None.
Praises:
1) Emotional. This story was emotionally driven, and it hit in all the right ways. It’s sad, it’s really sad. The relationship between the girl and the cat is just so good that you see every emotion between them. Also, the girl’s family life is sad and depressing, but everything works.
2) Unpredictable. When I started reading this story I thought something was about to happen with the cat, and I was right. But not in the way something was going to happen. Instead the story went in a different, unexpected direction.
Overall: 5/5
Thoughts: This was probably the best story in this whole anthology for one reason and one reason alone, it has an emotional impact. This was the only story to really elicit an emotional response from me and I just loved every second of it.

OVERALL AVERAGE ANTHOLOGY: 3/5

Final Thoughts:
Emerald Magic was a pretty good anthology. It had a wonderful mix of stories. With some being just great and others being unbearable, this is the kind of anthology you want. Different kinds of people will like different kinds of stories, and this is where Emerald Magic succeeds. It has something for everyone. However, I do have to say that a lot of the stories were just average at best. While average is still a good read, there is just too many that I found average to be worrisome. I still did find this anthology well worth a read, but I found myself frustrated with how mediocre and okay a lot of these stories were. However, I will recommend picking it up because there is something for everyone.
Stories Worth Reading:
1) “The Merrow” by Elizabeth Haydon
2) “The Cat With No Name” by Morgan Llywelyn
Stories Best Avoided:
1) “Peace in Heaven?” by Andrew M. Greeley
2) “Troubles” by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

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