Book Review: Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

66657Title: Magic for Beginners

Author: Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (Illustration)

Genre: Short Stories, Fantasy, Fiction, Magical Realism

Publisher: Mariner Books

Published: September 5, 2006

Page Amount: 297 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: The nine stories in Link’s second collection are the spitting image of those in her acclaimed debut, Stranger Things Happen: effervescent blends of quirky humor and pathos that transform stock themes of genre fiction into the stuff of delicate lyrical fantasy. In “Stone Animals,” a house’s haunting takes the unusual form of hordes of rabbits that camp out nightly on the front lawn. This proves just one of several benign but inexplicable phenomena that begin to pull apart the family newly moved into the house as surely as a more sinister supernatural influence might. Not only does Link find fresh perspectives from which to explore familiar premises, she also forges ingenious connections between disparate images and narrative approaches to suggest a convincing alternate logic that shapes the worlds of her highly original fantasies.

Why Read: Book Riot recommended this to me a few months past, and I have been ignoring it for practically no good reason. Magical realism is 100% definitely in my wheelhouse, but there’s something about short story collections that has never quite jived with me. There’s something about Magic for Beginners though – that did it for me.

Review: Short story collections are pretty fantastic, regardless of how you feel about magical realism or zombies. If you begin a short story and decide the plot or writing style is not your cup of tea – there’s no obligation to finish it. Simply move onto the next one. In all of the nine stories in Magic for Beginners, I felt no such urge (which is saying something). There’s everything to family drama to the story of people who live in a handbag – my personal favorite.

The characters vary in each story, and obviously so does the plotline, so I cannot really rate it in those merits alone. The overall writing style, however, I can discuss. Link writes with a unique mixture of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Certain passages made me roll my shoulders back in something resembling disgust when at others, I found myself intrigued beyond measure. If I had to choose one particular favorite, I would choose The Faery Handbag. This story follows the origins of the main character’s grandmother and how her village ended up within one side of the Handbag and on the other, there was a guardian dog of sorts. It reads like a Neil Gaiman book, but all contained within a shorter length.

Tempting as it is to describe each short story in excruciating detail, I will not. I can settle for telling you, as a reader, that each story brings something slightly different for you. Whether you want something with zombies or stone rabbits – each story has a different tone. Link has that magical quality about her writing that makes it seem as though each story is written by a separate author, and not all by herself. Perhaps the reason I do not give the collection a 5/5 rating is that it was not completely immersive. That is the curse of anthologies. Alas, the novellas were each fantastic and although I cannot give the collection as a whole 5 stars, I can recommend it to anyone who has the slightest love for magical realism.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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