Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction - Nancy Springer, Delia Sherman, Laurel Winter, Elizabeth Wein, Emma Bull, Meredith Ann Pierce, Sharyn November, Megan Whalen Turner, Sherwood Smith, Kara Dalkey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Lloyd Alexander, Diana Wynne Jones, Nancy Farmer, Michael Cadnum, Garth Nix, Charles Vess This is one of the better anthologies I've read. All anthologies are something of a mixed bag. The reader's taste very seldom meshes exactly with the editor's, or the editor has had to make some compromises along the way. Firebirds is substantially above average.

The book is helped, of course, by having some very big names in SFF - Lloyd Alexander, Patricia A. McKillip, Garth Nix, to name a few. Aside from her first couple of books, I've never read anything by McKillip that wasn't terrific, and that's true here.

The value of anthologies is in introducing readers to new authors. Here, I read a story ("Beauty") by Sherwood Smith, an author I'd never heard of. I was struck by how well developed the world was for a short story. It turns out that's because it is a well developed world. But I nonetheless immediately went out and bought the related novel, Crown Duel. I'll be looking up Nancy Farmer as well. But this anthology also has some other surprises. "Max Mondrosch" was a startling departure from the Lloyd Alexander of the Chronicles of Prydain (The Book of Three), but no less good because of it.

The editor says she built the book around a graphic novel by Emma Bull and Charles Vess, and I looked forward to it. I'm sorry to say that that story is by far the weakest in the book. Happily, almost all the other stories range from good to excellent.

In short, well worth picking up.