A collection of olde faerie and magical tales mostly of sinister intent.
Magic, madam, is like wine and, if you are not used to it, it will make you drunk.
If you read and enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then all you think on completion is getting your hands on anything else Susanna Clarke has written. Unfortunately for us, she's only written one other work, the above short story collection.
I was left in two minds over this one. As stories, they are enchanting, charming, and all those suitably quaint words, with a good dash of the sinister and disturbing. However, they're more whimsical than meaty, nor are they terribly imaginative - all but one are actually re-workings of old tales. No story blew me away.
Yet, it's an important collection, for two reasons. Ms Clarke has passed on authentic English folklore. Inasmuch that we have cruel, sly and powerful faerie rather than sweet and dainty fairies. We're taken back to a time where magic was an integral part of the land, it belonged to the olde faerie kingdom and also to the common folk. There is a deep naturalness here that is lost in many magical stories of today. It's something of which those attuned to English folk history are most appreciative.
Secondly, magic and power in this collection, is, for half the stories, placed in the hands of women. I was delighted to read about women using feminine crafts, such as embroidery, to work their magic. This is old wisdom - not a wand in sight. Magic here is not about books and study, but rather about heart and soul. It also exists alongside daily concerns of marriage and home. Taking magic back to emotion and the domestic sphere is a wholly feminine sensibility. It's an organic, intuitive, and practical magic. A style worth preserving amongst the scholarly and exclusive Potter-world of today.
Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.
I think that the best way to enjoy this collection is by appreciating it's worth and to not hope for a similar impact as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It hovers somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, and I recommend it mostly to fans of Clarke.