By Claire Delacroix, Lynn Kurland, Patricia McKillip, and Sharon Shinn.
Four fantasy stories;
"The Gorgon in the Cupboard" by Patricia A. McKillip: A strange-ish story about a painter and his model. A few years ago, Harry was painting Jo, who was modeling for a painting of Persephone. Then she got pregnant and ran away, leaving the painting unfinished. She returns (though Harry doesn't recognize her--way to use your artist's eye, bud) after the death of her baby and the rest of her family, feeling sadder than ever. This time Harry paints her as Medusa. He also ah... called upon a muse for help with his art, and the spirit of Medusa answered. I... honestly don't get how the hell this works, exactly, other than Medusa seems to somehow hang around the painting/Harry's cupboard and have conversations with him. That part is weird. Actually, I never really figured out where this story was going, other than it seemed to imply that Harry and Jo should get together. But they don't quite. It's not badly written to read, but I never quite got a handle on what it was supposed to be doing either. By itself I'd give it... somewhere between 2.5 and 3 stars.
"The Tale of the Two Swords" by Lynn Kurland. I find it odd when a short story has a framing story (heck, there's two of 'em in this book). This kind of starts out like the old time version of The Princess Bride, with an 8-year-old boy wanting adventure and wanting to be told a story. So he's told the story of Mehar, an awesome weaver fleeing an arranged marriage and a dickhead father who put a price on her head. She runs to the king, only to find him and the mage she wanted to talk to dead. She does, however, hit it off with the remaining royal family member and heir to the throne, Gil. Then after they get married, they need to deal with a bad guy. The story then returns to the framing story...and I guess I'll just leave it at that. I'm not sure why the framing story was so important to have it--yeah, you figure out the "twist" pretty easily and then after that, I don't know where it was supposed to go. I did like the main story quite a bit--it was very sweetly done. So by itself, three stars.
"Fallen Angel" by Sharon Shinn: This was my favorite of the lot, probably because I liked what Samaria story I've read before. Eden is a rich and pampered high caste girl with an abusive father that everyone puts up with. She's always been a very good girl, stays well behaved, and doesn't exactly plan on objecting to whoever it is her husband picks for her. Even though arranged marriage hasn't gone so well for her mother. However, she's fascinated by meeting Jesse, a teenage angel with the urge to roam and some angst. They quietly hit it off upon meeting, but it takes several years to come to fruition. In the meantime, scandals happen that tear Eden's family apart and change her life forever. Jesse gets blamed for one of them, but Eden knows better. This was a powerful and fascinating story. I do feel like it had a little too much setup/worldbuilding going on (several years pass in between action), but other than that, it was great. By itself, four stars.
"An Elegy for Melusine" by Claire Delacroix: This one has another framing story--even more "meh" than the "Two Swords" story. The tale is told of Melusine, a half-fey, half-mortal woman cursed to turn half-serpent once a week by her fey mother, who seems to want her child to embrace mortality. Or not--she seems to go back and forth on that. Anyway, Melusine marries a fellow named Raymond, who she makes arrangements for to get him out of trouble and secure him a land to rule. She asks to marry him, he asks for ten sons. The marriage soon becomes a love match...but most of the sons are born disfigured, evil, or both, and naturally that takes a toll on happiness. In the end, Melusine follows her heart...and probably shouldn't have. It's a sad story. Compelling, but sad as hell. By itself, three stars.
Overall book review: three stars.