cover image Xanadu 3

Xanadu 3

. Tor Books, $21.95 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85898-8

Those who want to know what's right-and wrong-with contemporary fantasy need look no further than this exemplary series. Editor Yolen (The Devil's Arithmetic) describes this third annual entry as ``an all-purpose fantasy melange.'' It opens with Shira Daemon's ``Dairy Queen,'' which tells of a young runaway whose capture by cruel fairies ironically frees her from her lonely life. In a minimal number of words, the author manages to walk the delicate line between the ancient and the contemporary with grace and skill. Other lesser-known writers also make good showings. Micole Sudberg's ``Calliope'' delightfully yet frighteningly links fantasy and horror, while Michelle Stone's ``The Lizard Queen'' is a promising first sale. Elsewhere, a few selections-Nancy Etchemendy's ``Mollusk Dreams'' and Claire Parman Brown's ``East of the Sun and West of the Moon'' being the best among them-suffer from presenting any male character as cruel, unless he is an artist, or at least (as in Jo Clayton's ``The Man Who Loved the River'') claims to be one. There are some unfortunate juxtapositions as well, such as the pairing of Susan Palwick's exquisite ``Jo's Hair'' with Astrid Julian's ``The Hunter and the Stag,'' a perfectly capable tale that suffers only by comparison. In addition to the stories, Yolen includes several poems, including a nifty bit of doggerel from Lawrence Schimel, making this, despite some flaws, the clearest picture available of the state of the art of modern fantasy. (Jan.)