The Mammoth Book of Black Magic

by Various Authors, Mike Ashley (Ed.)

“Insanity is not what you see, but what you admit to seeing. … Craziness is the compulsion to explain.”

-Esther M. Friesner, “In the Realm of Dragons”

This one’s big, as the more astute may have gleaned from the title. Clocking in at nearly 200,000 words this book had one story drop into the ‘poor’ territory, two instances of average or slightly above average stories, and most of the rest range from ‘good’ to ‘excellent.’ There are two masterful stories here, Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Bones of the Earth,” and David Sandner’s “The Wizard of Ashes and Rain.”

Many of these tales are of the sword and sorcery type, not necessarily evil magic, so the British title for the book (Dark Magic) is, as usual, the more apt. But horror exists here as well as fantasy, as might not be better represented than by Tim Lebbon’s tale, “Forever.” What an ending to this one–Jesus.

The quality of the authors and range of the stories within the theme is superb. Ursula K. Le Guin and Tim Lebbon as mentioned, Steve Rasnic Tem, Tom Holt, Tim Pratt, Clark Ashton Smith, Michael Moorcock, Robert Weinberg, Darrel Schweitzer, Ralph Adams Cram (awesome), Mike Resnick and Peter Crowther, among many others stuffing the book full with 23 stories of sorcerers, witches, dragons, gods and monsters. Mr. Ashley provides some insight prior to each story, explaining a little about the author and why the tale was included.

It will take some time to complete the book, but there is a ton of great material here. The Mammoth Book of Dark Magic is absolutely recommended for that occasional pickup and a slow progression through the dark.

4 stars

*Please note the original version is “Dark Magic,” the U.S. version is “Black Magic”

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