Book Review: Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic

Book Review: Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic edited by David Sklar & Sarah Avery

Disclaimer:  I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic

This fantasy anthology has a dual theme, as indicated by its title; magic as transaction, and magic while traveling.  The former theme brings to mind the classic Faustian bargain story, and the preface mentions that the editors got a bushel full of them, only a few making the cut.

There are eighteen stories, nine for each theme, divided into groups of three by subtheme, such as “Bad Roads.”  Most of the stories are new, but some have been previously printed.  Some standouts include:

  • “Ghost Diamonds” by Scott Hungerford.  A woman and her niece discover that compressing  crematorium ashes into a diamond allows calling the ghost of the deceased.  But they aren’t the only ones who have made this discovery, and someone’s been switching the ghost diamonds with fakes.  But why?
  • “Across the Darien Gap” by Daniel Braum.   A guide attempts to take a hunted woman through the rain forest between Central and South America.  His two-dimensional thinking may doom them.  This one has been made into an episode of Psuedopod, a horror podcast, and is now being lengthened into a book.
  • “Only a Week” by Joyce Chng.  This one might actually be science fiction, set in a futuristic Chinatown.  A courtesan seeks to regain her youthful beauty, but the medicine has side effects and can be taken only for one week….
  • “And the Deep Blue Sea” by Elizabeth Bear.  A courier must cross the postapocalyptic Southwest to deliver vital supplies.  But a deal she made years ago is coming due.  Can Harrie finish her delivery with the devil himself in the way?

There’s a good diversity of protagonists, and both happy and sad endings.  A couple of stories are perhaps a little too cliche, but the quality is generally good.

Unlike many small press books I’ve read lately, the proofreading is excellent.

I would recommend this book to fantasy fans in general, and modern fantasy fans in particular.

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: Trafficking in Magic, Magicking in Traffic”

  1. The title of the book sounds very promising, but I was disappointed to find out that it was a collection of stories. Usually I prefer longer reads.

    1. Many of the authors do have longer works; Elizabeth Bear in particular has several well-received novels. My friendslist likes her “Range of Ghosts.”

  2. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be able to get books for free if you are a big reader. Sounds like overall you enjoyed this book. I like short stories when my time is limited because I tend to get sucked into longer reads that consume my life for a short period of time (which is sometimes also quite nice).

    1. Anthologies are great for when you only have a few minutes at a time. The extreme end of that idea is the “daily read” book, often seen as devotionals or affirmation books, with only a page or two for each entry. Just enough to get your day started or ended.

      Free books are a blessing–for most people, the library will suffice, and I love my library card.

  3. I like the word play allowing for a dual theme – a fun concept. It’s nice having an anthology around for quick dips into and this sounds like one I’d enjoy.

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