Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron is a collection of eighteen all-new short stories about witches and witchcraft, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Most of the featured authors—a who's who of well-known fantasy writers, including Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Charles de Lint, Jim Butcher, and Holly Black—brought their A-game, and the resulting stories are memorable, imaginative, and utterly absorbing.

Under My Hat runs the gamut of fantasy styles. Neil Gaiman tries his hand at poetry (“Witch Work"). Jane Yolen and Ellen Kushner both contribute stories about supernatural incidents in the lives of famous authors. Some of the stories feature modern-day settings (including Diana Peterfreund's “Stray Magic” and Holly Black's “Little Gods”), one is vaguely historical (Garth Nix's “A Handful of Ashes”), and several go for straight-up high fantasy (Tanith Lee's “Felidis”; Peter S. Beagle's “Great-Grandmother in the Cellar”).

My favorite stories in the collection are de Lint's “Barrio Girls”, about two teenage girls trying to get revenge on the malicious witch who lives outside their trailer park, Jim Butcher's Harry-Dresden-helps-a-Yeti story “B is for Bigfoot”, and Ellen Klages's “The Education of a Witch”—a funny, twisted tale about a little girl who isn't taking her changed circumstances (a new baby sister, distracted parents, irritating classmates) lying down. The weakest efforts are Gaiman's forgettable attempt at balladry and Yolen's story about Hans Christian Andersen, which, admittedly, mostly suffers from being the second story in the collection about a real-world author meeting a fantastic creature. These missteps are minor, however, and the rest of the book is consistently excellent.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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