Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

Another thematic fantasy anthology by the trio of Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling, and Charles Vess is Coyote Road: Trickster Tales. There's a good twenty six stories and poetry in this particular collection with each story preceded by art by Vess and ends with a short bio and afterword from the authors. In the Introduction, Windling gives us an extensive account of trickster tales around the world. The last few pages of the book is a Recommended Reading list of titles that tackle that subject as well. Perhaps the best description I have for the stories here is that they're sophisticated and well-written. They're not easy reading and some have a slow pace but they tend to leave a resonating emotion by the time you're done with them. This is probably one of the more "literary" anthologies, the type you read not because they're exciting but because they're well-crafted. What impressed me however was how diverse the stories were, especially the latter parts, as the authors explored the trickster theme and did not limit themselves to coyotes and ravens and foxes (but there is a fair share of those). Here's my top three stories in the book: "The Fiddler of Bayou Teche" by Delia Sherman not only has good characterization but carries with it the flavor of bayou country and could easily be a modern legend; "The Other Labyrinth" by Jedidiah Berry feels like an epic despite its actual brevity and was quite enjoyable; Last but not least is "The Dreaming Wind" by Jeffrey Ford which features the most unusual trickster of all and contains elements of magic-realism that work out quite effectively. There were other interesting stories in the collection as well but these were probably the ones that I appreciated the most. Is Coyote Road for everyone? Well, the writing is solid but the stories within isn't the type to immediately catch your attention but rather develops over time. Instead of action and adventure, you have protagonists and antagonists that outwit their foes (just as any good trickster should do). And while I generally liked most of the stories, there really wasn't a lot that gave me that emotion high because of their pacing. This is a good anthology with solid writing and a definite literary style but if you're looking for simple and quick reads, this isn't the book for you.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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