Book Review: Mary Catelli _Curses and Wonders_

Catelli, Mary Curses and Wonders  (2016) Kindle Edition

Once again, Mary Catelli’s short stories take her readers into realms of dragons and shadows, of curses and queens, of great quests and caring fathers of unusual children. Although the world of fantasy is familiar, her twists and shadings make these stories quiet gems, pulled together into a delightful anthology.

The collection begins and ends with two thoughtful twists on familiar patterns. “The Dragon Slayer” centers on a knight in search of an evil fire-breathing dragon. But first he must get there, and for once, the trail is not signposted. The land is as much of a danger as is the dragon. The final story, “Fever and Snow” is about a curse that a brave, kind man accidentally turns into a blessing.

One of the things I really enjoy about Catelli’s writings is that her women and womanly and her men are manly. All are strong, all must find ways to overcome trials and to do their duties or achieve their goals and dreams, but I have yet to collide with (as one submitter to Sword and Sorceress phrased it) “Beowulf wearing a wig.” her female characters are strong in their own ways without trying to be guys in a guys’ world. Their husbands, brothers, fathers, and helpers compliment them, both halves making stronger wholes. There are several stories where women act on their own, but they do so using their own strengths – mother, wife, sorceress, daughter. Especially after some of the what I call black-leather-jacket urban fantasy I’ve nibbled recently, it’s refreshing to read a take on women and magic that doesn’t seem locked into the “I can do anything you can do – better” approach to female characters.

Catelli is deft at using a few brush-strokes to color her worlds and to describe characters. The stories are not connected but flow well and all illustrate her title, many of them focusing on undoing (or coping with) curses, and others focused on wonder-tales. They are short, and I finished the collection in two hours of steady reading, or perhaps devouring was a better phrase. But as with her longer works, the stories repay the reader who nibbles and savors them, enjoying the details and twists. You can spot the fairy-tales under several of the accounts, but others are original in idea.

This collection is not marketed for YA, but is suitable for readers over age 12 or so. I suspect teenage boys might not be as excited about some of the stories, but each story is also available on its own, so you could buy a few as gifts in a “sampler pack” so-to-speak. Girls who like fantasy but get turned off by over-the-top violence will find these entertaining.

Mary’s cover art is lovely and fits the mood of the collection well.

Highly recommend this collection, especially if you want relaxing fantasy with great stories.

FTC Notice: I purchased this collection and received no remuneration for the review.