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Welcome to Bordertown

Welcome to Bordertown is a collection of YA urban fantasy stories and poems by numerous authors and is edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner.

Inside this large volume are thirteen short stories, one graphic novella, and eight poems – all of which are centered on the city of Bordertown. Bordertown sits on the edge of the human world and elfin realm and is a place where different rules apply. Neither magic nor technology is highly reliable there and runaways and fantasy-lovers find refuge here – sometimes.

It’s not a perfect place. Many find that they are leaving one kind of prejudice behind for another. But it is a place where music, art, and imagination flourish and people learn more about themselves.

Yet nobody has been able to enter Bordertown for thirteen years. For whatever reason, the way was blocked. On the side of Bordertown, only thirteen days passed. But now that is has reopened both sides are crashing together in the confusion of new residents, new technology, and all sorts of trouble this block has made for either side of the city limits…

Welcome to Bordertown is varied, interesting and fun – though a little dryer and sparse than I expected. Each story feels more like the beginning of a novel rather than a short story. They don’t feel complete to me. Also, I had a hard time because some of the tales felt rather superficial and even boring or mean-spirited with jabs that glare of liberal leanings. However, some of the stories do sparkle with eccentricities, inventiveness, and memorable plots.

Among my favorites were: dark hope in A Voice Like a Hole by Catherynne M. Valente, a true second chance in Incunabulum by Emma Bull, a bizarre prophecy in A Prince of Thirteen Days by Alaya Dawn Johnson, one of the more upbeat and lighter toned stories in The Sage of Elsewhere by Will Shetterly, a poignant tale of best friends in Crossings by Janni Lee Simner, an intriguing and surprising fantasy mystery in The Rowan Gentleman by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and the sad but sweet A Tangle of Green Men by Charles De Lint.

Among the others though, some interesting poems aside, I found most of the offerings to be lacking in vibrancy – flat and kind of dull. This was unexpected because I love YA fantasy and have become convinced that short stories can be awesome. This collection, however, just didn’t do it for me. I’ve only seen positive feedback everywhere else though, so make sure to read it for yourself if you are a fantasy lover – especially a fan of other Bordertown collections!

In the end I felt torn. I half liked it, half didn’t. Where I wanted creativity, entertainment and must-read status – I didn’t get it. Even in the stories I named that I liked, only a few of them would I have any real strong desire to reread. This is far away from the enthusiasm I’ve had for other YA paranormal/fantasy collections – such as Kiss Me Deadly and Corsets & Clockwork, both edited by Trisha Telep.

I can see, however, that Welcome to Bordertown has a wide fan base and there will be many readers absolutely ecstatic with this newest offering. So, please don’t be dissuaded to pick it up!

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