Monday, November 28, 2011

The Coyote Road - Trickster Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Coyote. Anansi. Brer Rabbit. Trickster characters have long been a staple of folk literature—and are a natural choice for the overarching subject of acclaimed editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s third “mythic” anthology. The Coyote Road features a remarkable range of authors, each with his or her fictional look at a trickster character. These authors include Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Charles de Lint (The Blue Girl), Ellen Klages (The Green Glass Sea), Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners), Patricia A. McKillip (Old Magic), and Jane Yolen. Terri Windling provides a comprehensive introduction to the trickster myths of the world, and the entire book is highlighted by the remarkable decorations of Charles Vess. 

Datlow and Windling are two of my all-time favourite editors when it comes to putting together anthologies of mythic nature, and The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales anthology is one of my all time faces.

The Coyote Road - TCR - like its companions The Green Man and The Faery Reel makes great reading for anyone interested in myths, legends and folk tales.  Some are new stories, some are old and are being retold, but they are all fresh and unique and great to dip in and out of for tired minds in need of inspiration.

I am a great big fan of trickster tales and am therefor the one who loved Loki's duplicity and interesting character in the newest Thor movie. This collection of short stories and poems, with artwork by Charles Vess, is one of my desert island books.

In The Listeners by Nina Kiriki Hoffman we meet Nysa, a young slave in ancient Greece.  She is fourteen and pretty enough to draw the attention of her owner's one friend.  After overhearing the men speak after too much to drink one night, Nysa discovers that her owner has agreed to sell her, for one night, to his friend.  The thought of having sex with this odious man does not appeal to Nysa and she mentions it to a friend of hers, at the well as they draw water together.  Her friend hands her a small cake of incense to burn and assures Nysa that it may not be that bad after all.

Nysa ends up burning the incense and saying a prayer to Hermes, the god of thieves, travellers and guardian of roads and boundaries, begging him for help, to set her on another path.  And miraculously, Hermes does appear and places his mark on her...changing her path and life irrevocably.

It is a great story - a strong heroine bargaining with a god, yet she remains humble enough to accept his grace and guidance. The story is set in ancient Greece and a lot of terms are unfamiliar to the english reader yet the author takes great care to explain what each of these words mean through making use of context.  It is a trick that works really well and she has a light hand giving us lots of info about ancient Greece and the way women were treated (not nice) without us realising it.

It is a thoughtful story and well written.  The author is new to me, which is silly as she's been around for some time.  I had recently bought a book of hers which I'm reviewing in December and would like to say thank you to Kaz Mahoney for putting the ear worm about this writer in my brain.


Jenni (Juniper's Jungle) said...

This anthology sounds brilliant, and the story sounds like something I would really enjoy reading.

Vivienne said...

Oh this sounds like a beautiful book. The cover is to die for.