The publisher is calling To Weave a Web of Magic “romantic fantasy,” and that is very accurate. Out of the four stories in this anthology, only one shows the fruition of the romance within. The other three have romantic elements that form the basis of the novellas, but they are either left unresolved or have another type of ending. All four tales are superbly written and readers will appreciate their varied themes.
Patricia A. McKillip starts the quartet with The Gorgon in the Closet, a fascinating study of a young artist’s obsession and inspiration. Harry Waterman is a contemporary Alex McAlister and John Grainger, and struggles with his passion for painting. He has an unrequited desire for Aurora McAlister that tends to distract him from his current project. When he paints her mouth on an unfinished canvas, it becomes enchanted and provides him with a subject too compelling to resist. Harry’s search for the right model leads him to Jo, a young woman who has borne more than a fair share of grief, yet clings to hope that things will get better. Her gaunt features and shadowed eyes are perfect, yet Harry cannot help but worry about her and take steps to insure her safety and well-being.
The Tale of Two Swords reads like a child’s bedtime story. Mehar is a beautiful young woman who has fled from her powerful father’s betrothal plans, searching for the King’s mage so that she can learn how to control the magic she has discovered within. Finding the castle in ruins, she discovers that the royal family has been decimated, leaving only a few retainers. Gil, a pleasant young man with the light of the fey in his eyes, and Alcuin, a rascal who seems to delight in prodding Gil at every turn. Neither young man is what he appears to be, and soon Mehar discovers that young princes can wield magic, too. This is the most romantic tale in the book, and I found it to be my favorite. Mehar and Gil are both enchanted and enchanting, and Lynn Kurland’s skill as a storyteller is quite evident. I was sorry to see the story end.
Sharon Shinn brings Fallen Angel to the collection, and it was my first experience with angelic romance. In Samaria, angels and mortal man have a strained co-existence. The angelic host watches over the businesses of man to make sure that they are within the law, and that the taxes are being paid. The men of Samaria try to trick them at every turn, yet are forced to deal with them socially. Young Eden Karsh has met plenty of angels in her young life, but none have impressed her as much as Jesse, a brooding, rule-breaking angel. His beautiful countenance and rebellious ways attract plenty of feminine attention. Although Eden is a dutiful daughter who knows she must marry as directed, she cannot stop her heart from longing for what will never be. Call me old-fashioned, but my beliefs did not want to stretch this far. While I am open to the notion of a displaced angel walking among us, or a guardian angel watching over us, a story where angels live in the mortal realm and behave in un-angelic ways is not to my taste. The tale is compelling though, in a strange sort of way. While I did not identify with the characters, I also had to keep reading, like when you are reading a Stephen King novel and you must keep going, no matter how scared you are. I had to know what happened to Eden and Jesse, even though I found it a bit distasteful.
The final story in the book reveals the truth behind a curse. An Elegy for Melusine exposes the truth behind La Belle Dame Sans Merci, in which an enchanted woman takes a human husband, bringing success and power to his family. Such gifts come at a price though, and no one escapes unscathed. Melusine falls in love with her mortal husband, Raymond, and longs to be a good wife. Raymond is also deeply fond of his wife, yet her secrets and inability to bear untainted children will be his downfall. As the spirit of Melusine weaves this tale for two young noblewomen, she explains that her love for Raymond and her belief that love would conquer all caused the tragedy. The vain and thoughtless young women do not believe her tale, and will also pay a heavy price.
To Weave a Web of Magic is just the kind of book to relax with this summer. The four stories are hauntingly beautiful and skillfully wrought. They will hold your interest and stir your imagination as the journeys take you far from the everyday world.