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