Saturday, February 12, 2011

Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories

by Garth Nix, 305 pages

First off, if you are a lover of fantasy fiction, go read Nix's excellent Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen (if you haven't already). Then you'll be safe picking up this collection, the first story of which is a novella-sized follow-up to the Abhorsen trilogy (the ending of which you DO NOT WANT to spoil). Ignore the cheesy cover art and enjoy!

When I picked this up, it was purely to extend my Abhorsen fix, which the first tale successfully does (almost too much so, as now I want to read still more about the Perimeter and the mysterious kingdom across the Wall, and there doesn't appear to be much else out there...yet?). But I'd no idea what to expect from the rest of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the "other stories" here are all "across the wall" in one way or another in that they each have a fantasy element, whether just a hint or a steeping, and are a fascinating hodge-podge of pieces the author has published in journals and genre collections over the years. Among them, there are two original takes on secondary characters (the Lady of the Lake and Nimue) from Arthurian legend, a modern-day retelling of "Hansel and Gretel", a story written to call attention to the effects of war on children, a supernatural alternate history western, a tale sprung from the author's obsession with lightning, a "science fantasy" piece about a greedy man who thinks he's bought an island, and, of all things, a "choose your own adventure" spoof that had me flipping pages back and forth, snickering, to make sure I'd read every possible option (and even the impossible ones). Nix provides an introduction to each piece, describing its origins in his imagination and why and where it was first published.

If you're just looking for more of the Old Kingdom, you may be sad that it's represented in only one selection here. But if you'd like more time with and insight into Nix's crazy creative brain, then I don't think you'll be disappointed for long.

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