fantasy book reviews Sharyn November FirebirdsThe FIREBIRDS anthologies edited by Sharyn November

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFirebirds is the first of the three FIREBIRD anthologies edited by Sharyn November. Some people don’t like short stories, especially in anthologies where you are reading several different authors. I, however, almost always have a volume of short stories on my bedside table. Even if I manage to get no other reading done during a hectic day, it is a way for me to finish a whole story in 15-20 minutes. In an age where many authors seem incapable of writing anything other than multi-novel epics, it is a treasure to be able to enjoy a whole tale in one sitting.

Many collections of fantasy short stories are a compilation of hit or miss attempts to match a loosely defined theme for the volume. The Firebird Anthologies far exceed the industry standard. They are edited by Sharyn November who has managed to collect such fan favorites as Emma Bull, Lloyd Alexander, Diana Wynne Jones, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Francesca Lia Block, Pamela Dean, Charles de Lint, Alan Dean Foster, Tanith Lee, Patricia A. McKillip, and Tamora Pierce, along with many other new and well established authors.

It takes a certain talent to be able to write a short story, but also to effectively edit an anthology, and luckily for the reader, Sharyn November has that gift. November has the lucky task of not needing to group the stories around any particular theme. Rather, the volumes are designed to show off the Firebird imprint. However, these volumes flow better than many books that are ostensibly thematically related.

Firebirds is almost entirely fantasy, with one jarring story, “Chasing the Wind,” that is pure fiction. While beautifully written in its own right, I’m not sure why it is in a fantasy anthology. Two highlights in the collection are the aptly titled “The Baby in the Night Deposit Box,” by a Megan Whalen Turner and “Little Dot” by Diana Wynne Jones, the story of a talking cat and his flying chicken coop, which had me giggling.

The stories cover all the major sub-genres in the fantasy field, guaranteeing something for every fantasy reader to enjoy. Though The Firebird Anthologies are ostensibly targeted towards YA readers, I can highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys fantasy or short stories, especially if you are looking to discover new authors.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsFirebirds Rising has more science fiction in it, but is still predominately fantasy. It starts and ends on strong notes, and each story in between visits a different world. I found it interesting that in an anthology that includes selections by some of the genre’s superstars, my favorite selection, “In the House of the Seven Librarians,” was Ellen Klages.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

Firebirds Soaring maintains the high quality of the previous two volumes. While still including some of the best fantasy short stories in the genre, this edition also branches out into speculative and science fiction, and features a novella for the first time — The Ghosts of Strangers by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, a beautifully written story of a young woman who can capture ghosts, and her responsibilities to the ghosts she captures.

Though this volume lacks some of the superstar contributions present in earlier volumes, the quality of the stories isn’t diminished. Nancy Springer starts the collection with the beautifully and tragically mythic “Kingmaker” about a princess granted the ability to know if people are telling the truth. Springer’s story sets the tone for a collection of tales about the not-quite happy ending, of responsibilities fulfilled at great personal cost, of the hard-fought victory. This is done so subtly that it is only in retrospect that the thematic unity of the volume is discovered, because each story is so different, and yet so engrossing in itself, that it does not seem to be a forced connection.

Firebirds Soaring is highly recommended for an enjoyable read. Of particular recommendation are the stories “Three Twilight Tales” by Jo Walton, an absolutely entrancing and magical interlude that resonates on a mythical level, the pharmaceutically-enhanced “Fear and Loathing in Lalanna” by Nick O’Donohoe, and the science fiction “Flatland” by Kara Dalkey, about a near-future dystopia.

Firebirds: An Original Anthology of Fantasy and Science Fiction — (2003) Young adult. Publisher: Firebirds is more than simply an anthology — it is a celebration of wonderful writing. It gathers together sixteen original stories by some of today’s finest writers of fantasy and science fiction. Together, they have won virtually every major prize — from the National Book Award to the World Fantasy Award to the Newbery Medal — and have made best-seller lists worldwide. These authors, including Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), Diana Wynne Jones (The Merlin Conspiracy), Garth Nix (The Abhorsen Trilogy), Patricia A. McKillip (Ombria in Shadow), Meredith Ann Pierce (The Darkangel Trilogy), and Nancy Farmer (The House of the Scorpion), each with his or her own inimitable style, tell stories that will entertain, provoke, startle, amuse, and resonate long after the last page has been turned. The writers featured in Firebirds all share a connection to Firebird Books, an imprint that is dedicated to publishing the best fantasy and science fiction for teenage and adult readers. This anthology marks a milestone for Firebird — and is a must-read for all teenage and adult fans of speculative fiction.

Firebirds Rising — (2006) Young adult. Publisher: Charles de Lint. Alan Dean Foster. Diana Wynne Jones. Kelly Link. Patricia A. McKillip. Tamora Pierce. These are just a few of the acclaimed and bestselling authors who have contributed original stories to Firebirds Rising, the eagerly anticipated follow-up to the award-winning anthology Firebirds. This collection takes readers from deep space to Faerie to just around the corner. It is full of magic, humor, adventure, and — best of all — the unexpected. The one thing readers can count on is marvelous writing. Firebirds Rising proves once again that Firebird is more than an imprint — it is a gathering place for writers and readers of speculative fiction from teenage to adult, from the United States to Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Firebirds Soaring — (2009) Young adult. First Firebirds. Then Firebirds Rising. Now there is Firebirds Soaring, the third anthology of original stories by some of today?s finest writers of fantasy and science fiction. These authors, including Nancy Farmer (The Sea of Trolls), Ellen Klages (The Green Glass Sea), Margo Lanagan (Black Juice), and Jane Yolen (The Devil?s Arithmetic), have brought new worlds and Old Magic to life in nineteen remarkable pieces of short fiction. Mike Dringenberg, co-creator of Sandman with Neil Gaiman, contributes decorative vignettes. Firebirds Soaring?like Firebirds and Firebirds Rising?sets the standard for short fiction for teenagers and adult fans of the genre.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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