Misspelled (ed. by Julie E. Czerneda)

Misspelled is a short story collection edited by Julie E. Czerneda.
Finished on: 5.2.2021

Misspelled is an anthology with stories all about spells that go wrong somehow. The stories are all humorous in tone, but, as usual, not all of them work equally well. Each story in this collection is introduced by a narrator who also comments on it at the end – a bit like an MC. I found that a little irritating, but not so much that it actually bothered me. Overall, the collection didn’t blow me away, though I liked more stories than I didn’t like.

The books cover showing a young woman leaning on a stone table with a key on it, with a kind of lens-flare effect over the image that includes a couple of ghostly figures.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

Tripping Off the Tongue (Lesley D. Livingston)

Mickey and Vinx are lab partners and have to prepare for their final spell exam. It’s only that Mickey is still suffering from the aftereffects of another spell that leaves her not quite saying what she means.

Tripping Off the Tongue is a fun start to the collection, a pun-filled adventure that is a very nice read.

8 rms, full bsmt (Kristine Smith)

Caro and Jamie work as cleaners – they rid houses of supernatural pests. But there is a little more in the house they are currently working on than they signed up for.

I liked this story that starts like a ghostbusters thing and turns into a bit of a family drama, mixed with a buddy cop feeling.

Eye of the Beholder (Kevin G. Maclean)

Content Note: lookism

Many years ago, the Queen asked for her daughter to be the most beautiful. But the spell hasn’t turned out that way and every attempt to fix things has failed. In a desperate attempt, the peasant girl Beth gets sent to the faeries to ask for their help.

I wasn’t taken with this story that never once questions the entire thing of the princess needing to be beautiful or that really everybody recoils from her ugliness. I did like Beth and the Puck, though.

Cybermancer (Janet Elizabeth Chase)

Eppie is just working on a spell on her computer when her little sister Bernie comes to visit. Or rather to flee their parents who threaten Bernie with consequences to her actions. But Bernie’s presence also means trouble for Eppie.

I liked the idea of how magic works here – a very technological kind of magic, but still magic. But the fact that Eppie would leave her computer unlocked feels a little too convenient to make the story happen.

Eye of Newt (Marc Mackay)

In the magic school Griffith, Nina and Mildred are preparing for the school dance. Or rather, they are trying to. For the spell they like, they are missing one ingredient: eye of newt. But that’s probably only an outdated requirement anyway. Or is it?

Eye of Newt is cute. The whole thing with magic schools and bitchy teenage girls seems a little played out, but I did like that we get a queer couple who are utterly adorable.

Chafing the Bogey Man (Kristen Britain)

Bob MacDuff is a golf player stuck in a crisis – he isn’t playing anymore as he once was, his wife left him and there’s an IRS audit waiting for him. When he stumbles upon a spell in a book that has been in his family for a while, he decides to give it a try. What’s the worse that could happen.

The story was okay. I just didn’t like Bob a whole lot as a person and had a hard time rooting for him, especially with his half-misogynistic-half-desperate ramblings about his ex-wife.

A Perfect Circle (Kent Pollard)

Thorn knows how good a mage he is. All that is missing for him to achieve everything he ever wanted is to draw a perfect circle. It eludes him. But in his attempts, he learns more about his world than he ever thought possible.

I liked this one. It’s another story that combines technology and magic in a very interesting way and with a fun twist. Very nice.

Reading, Writing, Plagues (Kell Brown)

When William’s master Bartybus goes out, William decides to give his Arcanum reading skills another try. But the result is not what he expected and may be too big to fix all by himself.

This story is fine. I admit, it didn’t stay with me very long, but at least that also meant that it didn’t annoy me.

Totally Devoted 2 U (John Zakour)

Content Note: sexism/misogyny

Tina is worried about her boyfriend Jerry. Or rather, his love for her. When she stumbles upon Marla in a magic shop, she gives her a spell to ensure his devotion. But Tina needs to follow all instructions to the letter.

Ugh, Tina is such a caricature of a woman, it was hard to read – only preoccupied with her looks and the man in her life, with the ultimate twist sealing the disparaging narrative of “what women expect”. No, really, no.

The Mysterious Case of Spell Zero (Rob St. Martin)

Inspectors Nightingale and Frankford are on the case of a sudden increase in spells that went wrong. But it’s a politically loaded topic and they need to tread carefully.

I rather liked the tone of this story – its dry humor reminded me a little of Terry Pratchett’s Guard novels. The plot itself was also nice, but it’s the tone that stands out to me.

Crosscut (S.W. Mayse)

Rainy lives on Sparr Island and is lucky enough to be able to live off of her writing. Well, more or less. Her landlady and kinda friend Ros seems to begrudge her her success, though. When Rainy discovers just how much, she let’s her desire for revenge get the better of her, at least for a second. But sometimes a second is enough.

Crosscut was fun. Rainy was a sweet character, but the real star here is Thornyspine who was a really nice take on demons. I liked it.

Bitch Bewitched (Doranna Durgin)

Taliya has a baby just as her dog Shiba has puppies. But they live at the edge of magic, and unpredictable things can happen, as they are both wont to find out.

The story was nice. Maybe a little hung up on the dog perspective (and I say this as someone who lives with dogs and who loves them), but otherwise cute.

The Witch of Westmoreland Avenue (Morgan S. Brilliant)

Ellison Pride is a problem solver for all things magical. Together with her trainee Shelby, she gets called to help with a supernatural kidnapping. But it appears that the problem is different from what Ellison assumed at first.

The twist in this story is a little too obvious – so much so that one wonders why Ellison didn’t think of it like 15 pages earlier than she did. But I really liked Ellison and her relationship with Shelby.

A Spell of Quality (Kate Paulk)

Sharae is an indentured servant, obliged to do quality control for her boss and his ready-made spells. She is very good at what she does. But unfortunately, spell maker Sehkin isn’t.

I liked this story a lot. Sharae is a very nice character and the world-building here – especially regarding the rules of magic – is interesting and impressive for a short story.

Demon in the Cupboard (Nathan Azinger)

Content Note: heterosexism

All he has to do in preparation for the dinner party is stir his wife’s spaghetti sauce. But when the husband decides to add some ingredients, the result is unpredictable.

Oh man, the views of husband, wife and marriage in this one are straight out of the 50s and pretty much unbearable. That Steve is a delightful little demon doesn’t help with that, unfortunately.

Untrained Melody (Jim C. Hines)

Content Note: ableism

Laura always thought that she was rather unremarkable musician. But when she finds a man in her apartment who tells her that there is more to her talents, she may have to adjust her own view of herself.

Apart from a very, very unfortunate “dwarf, no, little person” joke, this one was okay, but didn’t really have staying power for me.

Yours for Only $19.99 (Shannan Palma)

Brandie isn’t really happy with her life, but then what teenager is? Still, she wonders why her life couldn’t be more like a fairy tale. When she finds an ad that promises just that, Brandie is willing to give it a try. But fairy tales are tricky, and mail-order is, too.

This was a very nice end for the collection – funny and sweet and a little romantic, with an excellent idea at its core. Lovely.

Summarizing: mixed, but mostly positive collection.

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