The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales is another thematic fantasy anthology by the trio of Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, and Charles Vess. Coyote Road features twenty-six pieces of fiction and poetry. Each story is preceded by art by Vess and ends with a short bio and afterword from the author. In the Introduction, Windling gives us an extensive account of trickster tales around the world. The last few pages of the book consist of a Recommended Reading list of titles that tackle that subject as well.
Perhaps the best description I have for the stories here is that they’re sophisticated and well-written. They’re not easy reading and some have a slow pace, but they tend to leave a resonating emotion by the time you’re done with them. This is probably one of the more “literary” anthologies, the type you read not because they’re exciting but because they’re well-crafted. What impressed me however was how diverse the stories were, as the authors explored the trickster theme and did not limit themselves to coyotes and ravens and foxes (but there are a fair share of those).
Here are my top three stories in the book: “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman not only has good characterization but carries with it the flavor of bayou country and could easily be a modern legend; “The Other Labyrinth” by Jedediah Berry feels like an epic despite its actual brevity and was quite enjoyable; and “The Dreaming Wind” by Jeffrey Ford features the most unusual trickster of all and contains elements of magical realism that work out quite effectively.
Is Coyote Road for everyone? Well, the writing is solid, but the stories within aren’t the type to immediately catch your attention but rather grow on you over time. Instead of action and adventure, you have protagonists and antagonists that outwit their foes (just as any good trickster should do). And while I generally liked most of the stories, their pacing wasn’t conducive to an emotional high. Coyote Road is a good anthology with solid writing and a definite literary style, but if you’re looking for simple and quick reads, this isn’t the book for you.
FanLit thanks Charles Tan from Bibliophile Stalker for contributing this guest review.