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A Quest-Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic    Editor Margaret Weis order for
Quest-Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic
by Margaret Weis
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Stories about quests - for a maiden, for gold, for a dragon, to save a world, or simply to find one's true self - have probably been part of the human heritage since we discovered language. Odysseus voyaged through enchantments to his home and his wife Penelope, Virgil journeyed through the Hells for Beatrice, and Galahad searched in vain for the Holy Grail. Even in modern times the quest story is still one of the most popular motifs, particularly, indeed, in the genre of speculative fiction. The Lord of the Rings is a magnificently sustained quest story, as is, in many ways, Robert Jordan's monumental Wheel of Time series.

Margaret Weis, herself the author of several fantasy series, has selected eleven short stories of fantastic quests, by some of the best known names in the business, including C. J. Cherryh and Orson Scott Card, both particular favourites of mine. Unfortunately, while still very enjoyable to a fan like myself, their stories in this collection are not outstanding. However, that lack is more than counterbalanced by four bright and shining gems: Mirror, Mirror on the Lam by Tanya Huff; Chivalry by Neil Gaiman; Firebearer by Lois Tilton; and A Time for Heroes by Richard Parks.

The Tanya Huff story stars Magdalene, the most powerful wizard in the world, whose only failing is her inability to resist handsome young men, a flaw in her character which she thoroughly indulges and enjoys. While she is on a trip, a clever thief breaks into her villa, with dire consequences. Chivalry is one I have read before and enjoyed immensely. From the first sentence - 'Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail, it was under a fur coat' - until the last paragraph when she decides that she really has no place on the mantlepiece to put Aladdin's Lamp, it is pure unadulterated everyday enchantment.

Firebearer tells the story of Melas, son of a Scythian blacksmith, who is haunted by the agonies of the Firebearer, chained to the mountaintop, with an eagle coming daily to tear at his flesh, as an eternal punishment by the Gods for bringing the gift of fire to men. This is an old, old story, but Ms. Tilton is more interested in Melas than in the Gods or Titans, which makes the myth a living reality. A Time for Heroes begins conventionally enough, with a great hero and his quest to rescue a beautiful princess kidnapped by a wicked enchanter, but nothing is quite what it seems at first glance. The Princess has to take matters into her own hands and kill the monster herself, which she does very efficiently.

On the whole, A Quest-Lover's Treasury of the Fantastic provides an interesting selection, and is certainly well chosen to be representative of the field.

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