________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 38 . . . . June 1, 2012


Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands.

Holly Black & Ellen Kushner, eds.
New York, NY: Bluefire/Random House Children's Books (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2012.
517 pp., trade pbk., $11.99.
ISBN 978-0-375-86705-7.

Subject Heading:
Supernatural-Literary Collections.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

*** /4



So Trish needed to find a job. Even here in Bordertown, it seemed, girls had to waitress or work behind store counters if they wanted to eat. Trish wandered up Plum Street, her knapsack on her back. She passed boarded-up buildings covered with graffiti. Some of it sparkled with fairy-dust in the noon-day sun. Trish snorted. They had fairy-dust here and all they could use it for was stupid tags on ugly ruins? She'd told her baby brother that Bordertown would be beautiful, but the crumbling buildings weren't so different from the boarded-up storefronts in the factory town where she'd grown up. She turned onto Ho Street and walked till she came to a stone building with towering pillars. It looked really fancy, out of place here on Soho, but a crooked sign over the door read "Hard Luck Café." Maybe they needed a waitress. She went in.

And that's when she saw him. (From "
Welcome to Bordertown".)

Welcome to Bordertown is a collection of 22 short stories and poems all set in the same exotic location, Bordertown, a city located half-way between this World and the Realm of Fairie. The way into Bordertown opens infrequently, and it is a city inhabited by humans, elves, and the halflings who are those of mixed breed. Magic works here, sometimes, and is not always reliable when it does. The inhabitants are frequently runaways seeking something they may not be sure of, and may, or may not be, searching for the city when they suddenly find themselves there. The urban fantasy world of Bordertown came into existence with the first published stories in 1986. This book is a new collection of tales about this sometimes dangerous place located in-between.

      The anthology opens with separate introductions written by each of the two editors and a "Bordertown Basics", an "information leaflet" to acquaint the reader with some of the general facts about the place.

      The first story is "Welcome to Bordertown," a tale of two siblings, one in Bordertown and the other trying to find the way in to search for her. This is followed by "Shannon's Law," a tale of an entrepreneur trying to make his way in this unusual city. "Cruel Sister" is a poem about what the title says it is.

      Next we have "A Voice Like a Hole" which about a girl who ran away from home at age 15 to try and find someplace better. "Stairs in Her Hair" is a poem about a strong girl. The next story, "Incunabulum," is about an Elf who wakes up in Bordertown having lost his identity and his memories.

      "Run Back Across the Border" is a poem that suggests the reader should return home. This is followed by "A Prince of Thirteen Days," a story that teaches an old statue about sex. Next is "The Sages of Elsewhere," a tale of interracial problems and greed.

      The next poem is "Soulja Grrrl: A Long Line Rap" which tell of a late night conflict. "Crossings" is a story of two girls with romantic ideas about vampires and werewolves. The story of "Fair Trade," about a runaway girl, is presented in graphic format with black and white illustrations.

      "Night Song for a Halfie" is a lullaby attempting to put a difficult child to sleep. The next story, "Our Stars, Our Selves," is a tale of a new arrival and an elf's attempt to seduce her, not knowing she is a lesbian. "Elf Blood" tells of a young vampire trying to make a living.

      "Ours is the Prettiest" tells of the strange goings-on at a parade in Bordertown. The next poem is "The Wall" about the Border between the different worlds. This is followed by "We Do Not Come in Peace" which revolves around racial-based mob violence even in this place in-between.

      "A Borderland Jump-Rope Rhyme" is supposedly a translation of a fairy jump-rope rhyme about Mab. After that poem is "The Rowan Gentleman," an adventure tale set around a theatre troupe. Following is "The Song of the Song," a poem sung when no one is there. "A Tangle of Green Men" tells a story about a search for redemption and lost love.

      At 517 pages plus author's bios, this volume contains enough stories and poems of varying length to satisfy most lovers of urban fantasy. The elves in this book are of the tall, glamourous, and not always pleasant, sort. While I admit being unable to remember having read any of the earlier stories set in Bordertown, I found no difficulty in following along. Well–written, and with a variety of themes, this collection should appeal to a broader readership than just hardcore fantasy fans, or teenagers, even if it does mention punk-rock and coming-of-age runaways.


Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, dabbles in writing fantasy in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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