Four separate stories in the “fantasy/romance” genre – two from successful fantasy authors and two from successful romance authors.
The Gorgon in the Cupboard – Patricia McKillip
The moral of the story is that men put women on pedestals, and the women don’t always appreciate it.
In this tale of a group of artists and their models, the “pedestals” are almost literal. The spirit of the gorgon Medusa speaks to one artist through one of his paintings, helping him to see a woman for who she is as a person, rather than one of the idealized mythological figures he paints women as.
It’s a bit heavy-handed, and the fantasy element is really not even particularly necessary to the story.
The Tale of the Two Swords – Lynn Kurland
You know how sometimes you watch a bad fantasy movie, and the actors look completely embarrassed to be wearing medieval-style costumes, and you can tell they’re barely holding back snickers as they say their “thee”s and “thous”s? Well, this story is kind of like those movies. A completely generic medieval-style setting, generic, unbelievable characters, anachronistic dialogue…. If it were just a bit more tongue-in-cheek, it might succeed as humor, but as it is, I found it to just fall flat. Framed as a story read to a child (which also didn’t work for me), our heroine runs from an arranged marriage, encounters magic, and finds love with a handsome prince. Blah.
Fallen Angel – Sharon Shinn
This one, I really liked. Shinn’s Samaria, setting of several of her novels (which are still sitting on my TBR shelf!), is a Middle Eastern-type land where human tribes and winged angels co-exist, and serves as a well-realized backdrop to her story of a young woman of a wealthy human family who is expected to marry for money and political advantage – but instead falls for a young angel of dubious reputation. A age-old tale – but done here with some original twists, and fascinating characters.
An Elegy for Melusine – Claire Delacroix
The cursed fairy Melusine tells her story to two human women who chance to enter the ruined castle where once she lived with her human lover. Although the character makes a fairly big deal about telling the story from her point of view rather than from the ‘mortal’ point of view that has come down to listeners through the years, the story, as written, is a fairly straight recounting of the basic French legend, right down to the details, without any major changes. Nice, but not exceptional.