Edition 20: Book Review: Phantazein edited by Tehani Wessely
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
When I picked up Phantazein it was the exquisite cover by Kathleen Jennings that first drew me in, knowing what an incredible publishing professional Tehani Wessely is upon seeing her name, and the recognition of several of the contributors.
What I didn’t realise was that this wonderful collection, that surprised Ms Wessely in the way it came together, was the antidote to my frustration at the lack of women’s voices and stories promoted in our genre.
Each and every one of the stories in Phantazein leapt off the page at me with a vivacity and clarity of storytelling. There’s no doubt of its unintended fantastical theme, though there’s a little steampunk snuck in with some myth.
It’s really hard to detail what I enjoyed best about this collection. That the women were warriors, holding the world together, integral to their communities, as they are in life? That each protagonist and supporting female characters were whole, more than a shadow or a spectre, flawed and different? Or even how several different cultural styles of storytelling were given the nod in this collection.
It was a thrill to have Wollongong’s Nan Tien temple peek out from Cat Sparks’ story, The Seventh Relic. The tussle of shifting of relationships between mothers and daughters was almost too real in S.G. Larner’s, Kneaded, and the sacrifice of letting go covered in Thoraiya Dyer’s Bahamut. How the Jungle got its Spirit Guardian turned gender roles on their heads, eloquently through Vida Cruz’ story. Each wonderful tale spoke to some struggle of life.
But most of all, each of these stories spoke to me of freedom.
The only piece that seemed out of place in the collection was Scales of Time by Foz Meadows and Moni, a very short piece of prose with illustrations brimming with beautiful heart. Not for its lack of substance, but only by the virtue that it wasn’t a short story, though very emotive.
There wasn’t a single weakness in Phantazein, and it’s a credit to Ms. Wessely and the authors. Each and every characterisation and narrative spun a different world view, and the collection is stronger for it. The book is a well-crafted product, from its striking cover to the engaging stories inside.
This is one of the best (largely) Australian collections I have ever had the pleasure to read. Phantazein is my first Fablecroft reading experience, but I can guarantee you it will not be my last.
Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely
Fable/Myth-Inspired Fantasy anthology
Publisher: Fablecroft, 2014
Sophie is a scientist, aspiring writer, sci-fi and fantasy nerd. She is an editor with IFWG Publishing and has been Editor In Chief of SQ Mag and SQ Magazine, the previous incarnation. She also contributes book and film reviews. She is currently living in Vancouver, Canada.
You can find her in a few different places: @Smoph on Twitter, Sophie Yorkston – writer on Facebook, and at her blogs: Smoph’s Musings and Smoph Writes.