by Josh Smith & r & Across the Wall & r & by Garth Nix & r & Garth Nix anchors his new fantasy short story collection with the novella Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case -- a fantasy with "a dash of country-house mystery" coupled with a 1920s tale of espionage. This is an extended sort of epilogue to Nix's Abhorsen trilogy. In it, Nix further explores the country of Ancelstierre, a country reminiscent of 1920s England except for the border it shares with the Old Kingdom, where science breaks down and magic takes over.

Nix's ability to create an engaging reality in his fantasy fiction is one of the many reasons he quickly moved up on my favorite authors list. His stories are carefully framed glimpses of a much larger canvas. Even in his short stories, Nix merely hints at things that lie beyond the boundaries of the fictional world he has created. My fondest wish as a reader, more than a nicely wrapped-up plot, is the possibility for more. I'm not even picky about what we get more of -- whether it is further tales of known characters or just a look at a completely different time and place in a well-established reality.

Aside from the novella, the rest of the stories in the collection are taken from various points in Nix's career. Almost every tale frames just a small portion of what seems to be going on inside of a larger setting. One provides a prose snapshot of the Lady of the Lake, who has her own reasons for surrendering Excalibur to Merlin; in another, a pair of young brothers escape the rubble of their home following a rocket attack on their city. Each story is prefaced by Nix's recollections and commentary. These conversational introductions provide a satisfying look at his process as a writer and creator and satisfy (however briefly) that immediate urge to know more about the story.

If one were to have any complaints about the collection, it would be that Nix succeeds too well. With exception of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure parody, I was left with a large appetite for more. I devoured this book too quickly; my only option is to go back and read it (and the Abhorsen trilogy) again and to try to fill in the picture outside of the stories on my own. But then that's exactly what I'm looking for from an author.

Summer Parkways @ South Hill

Through June 20
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