Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells

Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Book CoverThis anthology is collected by the same editors and many of the same authors as Teeth, which I read and reviewed previously. It is described on the cover as “an anthology of gaslamp fantasy,” and having the setting be the common factor instead of the characters allowed for a greater range in the stories, which I appreciated.

The Victorian Era, too, is an excellent setting to pick, since so much was going on! There was the very first world’s fair, an explosion of technology, science, and manufacturing, and a return to romance in the arts. It was an era of lots of contradictions, as well: most well-known for extreme wealth, it also had predominant extreme poverty; the British Empire was both strongly xenophobic and driven to colonize; and Queen Victoria herself was both a pretty and lively young girl, and a solemn and joyless widow.

Though, once again, I checked out the book for the short story by Genevieve Valentine, I was pleased that the anthology also included Elizabeth Wein and Caroline Stevermer. My favorite stories ended up being “The Governess” by Elizabeth Bear, in which a governess takes a position in a very troubled household, and “Phosphorus” by Veronica Schanoes, about the strike of the women who worked in the match factories. Don’t those two alone reveal the wide scope of the book?

Can I also describe how ridiculous I can be? I had always had a vague feeling that I didn’t care for Elizabeth Bear, because I believed that she had written Clan of the Cave Bear (because “Bear”) and/or Women Who Run with Wolves, or some amalgamum of both books that only exists in my head. In addition to the fact that Elizabeth Bear did not write either of those books, I have not actually read either of those books, or any books that Elizabeth Bear has actually written. No reality will keep me from my pointless prejudices!

— Anna

4 comments on “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells

  1. Kinsey says:

    I may never let you forget that you thought Elizabeth Bear wrote Clan of the Cave Bear. (Note: none of Jane Austen’s books are set in Texas.)

    • Anna says:

      Oh, I know I am ridiculous, but I’m not nearly as ashamed of it as I should be. Anyone with the last name of Bear just sounds like the sort of new age-y person that would write a book like Clan of the Cave Bear.

      Although, Rebecca and I were talking about it, and I always scoffed at Clan of the Cave Bear because I thought it was full of the mystical-Feminism that I don’t like, and Rebecca thought it was possibly rape-y and neither one of us knows how we got those impressions. Have you actually read it? Even if not, I’m sure you have more reliable information about it than we do.

      • Kinsey says:

        I have read it, so long ago that I don’t remember much about it, except that it was full of mystical feminism and rape and all sorts of other horrible, horrible badly-written things. Do not read it under any circumstances.

        • Anna says:

          I read the summaries for Clan of the Cave Bear and Women Who Run At Wolves, and they both sound terrible. It was obvious, too, that I had indeed combined them into one, truly terrible book in my head, that was apparently written by poor Elizabeth Bear.

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