Tuesday 26 November 2013

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron by Jonathon Strahan

A stellar cast of acclaimed fantasy writers weave spellbinding tales that bring the world of witches to life. Boasting over 70 awards between them, including a Newberry medal, five Hugo Awards and a Carnegie Medal, authors including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix and Holly Black delve into the realms of magic to explore all things witchy.

Another fantasy anthology! I really liked this one, it was full of cool, funny and magical stories. Most, luckily, I really liked and I'm going to talk about those in this review. But I have mention that some I didn't like. Maybe because of the content, or the writing style, whatever it was, I sometimes wished I'd skipped them. But they all offered something unique and I can appreciate that. 

So, a few stories that I liked. First up, the first story of the book in fact, was Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund. It told of a poor old stray dog that turns up at an animal shelter and the volunteer there suddenly realises she can hear its thoughts - because it's a wizard's familiar! Not only was this a great way to start the anthology, but it was sweet and funny and had a great happy ending. Next up was Payment Due by Frances Hardinge, where a girl swaps bodies with a cat to get into a bad guy's house. Not just any bad guy, the repossession man that took her grandmother's furniture and prized possessions. It might have been about revenge but it wasn't vindictive, it showed that not all important things are expensive and the value of family. Which Witch by Patricia A McKillip described a young witch, in a band no less, getting to know her new familiar, a crow, while saving the world from a creepy hag/creature. It was a bit weird but I liked it, it was funny, surprisingly sweet and you know, good conquers evil and all that. 

On to some proper witches and wizards now. There's a witch living down the road and Carlos's sister has run away to be her apprentice. But he knows its dangerous, and what's with all the tree stump statues? In The Carved Forest by Tim Pratt, the witch has appointed herself the town's protector, but it is far from selfless, she's stopping them from moving and growing and I thought it was was really sweet that Carlos helped her ease her grief. Anderson's Witch by Jane Yolen is the story behind Hans Christian Anderson's inspiration for his fairy tales. Probably. Either way, it was sad and sweet and quite clever how Yolen wove the story to be true to Anderson's life and also how Hans tricked the witch in the end by doing what he loves. And finally, B Is For Bigfoot by Jim Butcher. The only wizard in the phone book is hired to protect Bigfoot's son from being bullying. But not even that is what it seems. Full of equally funny and brave moments, this was a great tale of overcoming bullies, even if they are mythological creatures training to hunt. It was one of the longer stories but I liked it, with its blend of real and magical. 

Published 4th October 2013 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honnst review. 


  1. What a fascinating collection. I'd definitely check this out, especially since many of these authors are familiar to me from their work in the field of horror.

  2. I'm not a big fan of short stories but this does look quite good. I'd probably end up skipping quite a few though!

  3. I really love the sound of this short story collection and I plan to look out for it. I want to get into reading more short stories ...