Raul Allen Allen từ Ieriķi, Drabešu pagasts, LV-4139, Latvia
This book is esentailly a collection of (mostly) original fairy tales of the classic variety. "On Lickerish Hill" is a straight-forward retelling of "Rupelstiltskin", though the rest of the stories are original. Some of them are so traditionally plotted and structured (Ms. Mabb, Mr. Simonelli) that I couldn't tell if Clarke had invented the stories or was retelling fairy tales I had never read, and some are obviously original, though perfectly set within the older English "faerie" tradition - none of these tales are about the flittly little things that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in, but the darker Sidhe that occupy "Mr. Norrell". A few of the stories are specifically set within the world of Clarke's novel (Strange makes a cameo in the title tale, and the last has John Uskglass in it). The book itself is gorgeous, nicely bound with an old-fashioned cover and numerous full page illustrations and title pages by Charles Vess; even the font (Caslon) was obviously chosen to match the tone and content of the book. What is most impressive, however, is how Clarke manages to cover a lot of stylistic territory within the very limited world of the fairy tale. "On Lickerish Hill" is written like a primary source from the late 17th century (archaic spelling and all, which, while clever, does get a bit tedious); some fall firmly into the mold of the classic folk-tale collection piece; and some are a bit more modern, with a little more clever self-awareness, playing on the fact that they are fairy tales. As with "Mr. Norrell," Clarke creates an entire false academia to back her works, and the stories are repleate with foot-notes, textual references, and other gems that make this a joy to read. It is a much slighter work than "Mr. Norrell," and anyone looking for anything more than simply a collection of fairy tales won't find it here.