cover image Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams: Stories

Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams: Stories

Ysabeau S. Wilce. Small Beer (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-61873-089-3

The Republic of Califa—remarkably like the U.S. Old West, were it saturated with chaotic and cunning magic—is long past its glory days, but the wild stories remain. Wilce (the Flora Segunda series) leaps into this rollicking past with the “true” story of Springheel Jack in “The Biography of a Bouncing Boy Terror!” and only gets more fantastical from there. “Quartermaster Returns” demonstrates that great lengths are sometimes required to get someone to square their debts. In “Scaring the Shavetail,” Arizona soldiers invoke dangerous magic to rid themselves of a naïve and inexperienced commander. Each rowdy and bloody story is followed by an afterword judging its historical and mythical merits, in one case determining that the work was “utter balderdash.” Magic and mundane mix and crash like a party falling in with a bar fight; sigils might be dug out of a mine alongside gold nuggets, and settlers die by daemon attack as often as by high-noon showdown or an Apache knife. Historical fantasy fans will want to saddle up with Wilce’s boisterous and skewed chronicle. Agent: Michael Stearns, Upstart Crow. (Nov.)