cover image Sister Emily's Lightship

Sister Emily's Lightship

Jane Yolen. Tor Books, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87378-3

Although Yolen (The One-Armed Queen) has published a great deal of acclaimed SF and fantasy (and children's fiction), this is her first collection of genre stories for adults--and it has been worth the wait. Three of the 28 entries here are new, and all draw deeply from themes of justice and independence, while typically spurning traditional sentimentality in favor of clear-eyed, sometimes grim realism. Yolen has a particular knack for redaction, finding new resonance by retelling old folk stories from novel points of view. The Nebula-winning ""Lost Girls,"" for example, turns the familiar story of Peter Pan into a feminist revolt. The revisionist Snow White of ""Snow in Summer"" defeats her wicked, snake-handling stepmother with her own wits--no need for any prince. The ignorance of anti-Semitism brings tragedy to characters in ""Granny Rumple"" and ""Sister Death."" Meanwhile, ""The Gift of the Magicians, with Apologies to You Know Who"" merges O. Henry's Christmas classic with a cautionary tale of Beauty and the Beast. Feuding mobsters get more than they bargained for in ""Under the Hill,"" which Yolen playfully describes as ""Damon Runyon meets the elves."" ""Blood Sister,"" ""The Traveler and the Tale"" and ""Speaking to the Wind"" echo older themes from Ursula Le Guin's work, but the powerful title story, which also won a Nebula, closes this collection on high notes of originality, creativity and hope. As Yolen writes, ""Stories are not just recordings. They are prophecies. They are dreams. And... we humans build the future on such dreams."" (July)