What about the Wizards?

“Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy” is a collection of various short stories with a magical theme. 

Of course, it is quite surprising that very few of the stories are actually about wizards. 

Perhaps the editors are not fond of the classic magic-user, or perhaps good stories about them are rare.

I was expecting a book full of stories about people who can use or mold magic to their will in some way.

Yet, there were only a few stories out of the eighteen that had what I would call wizards in them. Most of them dealt with magic in some way, and all of them had some supernatural element, to be sure. 

Maybe I was just thrown off by the juxtaposition of the title and the content, but I didn’t enjoy this collection as much as I thought I would.

The most disappointing was the first story – Neil Gaiman’s The Witch’s Headstone. 

After seeing his name on the cover as a headlining author in the collection, I was looking forward to Gaiman’s take on wizards.

Instead I got a story about a little boy who is being raised, tarzan-esque, by ghosts in a graveyard. 

He’s learned how to make himself invisible, like a ghost, but otherwise has no power, and even that’s not actually magic.

Another example is Yolen’s Slipping Sideways Through Eternity, which was about a Jewish girl who could see the prophet Elijah. 

Elijah takes her time-traveling to visit the horrific events surrounding the Holocaust, but that really isn’t an example of traditional wizardry, at least not in the classic sense.

Nix’s Holly and Iron was about a magic-using princess, and so I had high hopes for it, but it turned out to be full of clichés and it was way too predictable. 

The girl is the daughter of the defeated king of England, and her mother is a Norman. She tries to repress that she can cast English and Norman spells (thus the title), but in the end defeats the evil Norman King, and takes the throne to unite the two peoples under her dual magic. Snore.

My favorite story from the collection, and one of the few that I enjoyed at all, was Colfer’s A Fowl’s Tale. 

Almost a short-short, this story was from the point of view of Merlin’s parrot, who had escaped, and was trying to con a wealthy kingdom into thinking he was their long-lost heir transformed. It was clever and interesting, despite not really having any wizards in it.

The real issue with most of these stories is that they didn’t draw me in. 

Some of them had interesting themes like Lee’s Zinder, and others had cool magic systems, like Bisson’s Billy and The Wizard, but none of them had an opening paragraph that really made me want to dive in. 

I might have put down the book entirely if not for my desire to actually figure out where the wizards were.