Ever have that geez, what took me so long to find this book? experience? Yeah. That pretty much sums up my reaction to The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte. I was already familiar with some of Dawe’s short stories, but I somehow managed to miss her collection. Shame on me.
A common complaint that I hear in Pagan circles is that there is just not much explicitly Pagan fiction geared towards a Pagan (and general) audience. Well, here you go! *waves book* Dawe’s anthology includes shape shifters, animal spirits, fae, dragons, Gods, a magically-gifted homeless synaesthetic, a swan queen, and so much, much more. Dawe even introduced me to an entirely new category of animal spirit: the cadejo. She even made me cry, gosh darn it, and I hate that! (“The Elk Prince.” Avoid if you are a softy.)
Another complaint that I hear among Pagans is how often mainstream writers misuse mythology and the Gods, particularly in paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels. Such is most definitely not the case here. Dawe knows her myths, she knows her Gods and spirits, and she treats them well. (Plus, no kink. I love an explicit sex scene as much as the next girl, but the raunch can get to be a bit much after a while. While several of the stories in The Fairy Queen might be classified as paranormal romances, they are sensual rather than graphic.)
I do have a few small critiques. First, the anthology lacks a table of contents (at least in its digital version). A table of contents would have been immensely helpful. Secondly, Dawe’s stories possess a wonderfully fluid (non)linearity, with points of view and events sliding back and forth to create a dreamlike quality. That usually serves to make the story stronger. In a few cases, though, such as “Those Who Guard,” an extra space is not enough to indicate a change in perspective; the use of asterixes or some other symbol to mark the break would have been helpful.
Those critiques aside, The Fairy Queen is a wonderful collection.* These thirteen tales are modern myths, in every sense of the word. Highly recommended to fans of CS MacCath, Catherynne M Valente, and Jane Yolen.
*Check Dawe’s blog for sales information.
[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]