One of the things I love about used bookstores is stumbling across out of print books from favorite authors. I picked up Liavek because I’ve enjoyed Emma Bull since The War for the Oaks, and discovered a fun collection of short stories. Unlike most anthologies, Liavek is a shared world universe, where all the authors write short stories that are set in the same location, with the same characters. Not only do characters reoccur, but events from early stories are referenced in later tales in the volume. This makes the anthology read more like a novel than a collection of loosely linked stories.
Liavek is a city of magic. Most people can do a little magic, though it takes training to become a great wizard. A person only has access to their magic for their birth period, the hours that their mother was in labor with them, each year. With training, it is possible to invest your magic during this time period in an object so that you can access your magic year round. A failed investment is fatal, however, and if someone steals your invested object and destroys it on your half birthday, your magic is lost forever. This unique system of magic is central to most of the stories in the book, though there are a range of other stories to round out the world. Jane Yolen’s story of a demonic camel reads like a Just So Story, adding some humor to a volume that deals with some serious topics, such as suicide, abandoned children, and life in the slums. The city is richly realized, with little details filled in throughout all the stories, so that by the end of the book you feel like you’ve actually walked the streets of Liavek. I can recommend Liavek for a light read that will transport you to another world.