Sister Emily's Lightship

Sister Emily's Lightship, by Jane Yolen

Happy Halloween! I can't exactly call this an RIP read, but it has elements and so I'm going to round off the event by squeaking it in here, and incidentally segue into Witch Week!  Jane Yolen is one of the grand dames of SF/F writing, I think we can all agree (RIGHT?  *ominous glare*), and this collection of short pieces that were published all over the place is well worth tracking down.

Many of these stories are twists on classic fairy tales -- "Snow in Summer," for example, is a version of Snow White set in Appalachia, or in a really genius bit, "Granny Rumple" is a realistic tale that could have been the seed for an anti-Semitic Rumplestiltskin.  "Godmother Death" is a wonderful version of a story found across cultures, in which a man outwits Death...but only for so long.

There's a nice little series of stories about fey, where the characters are related or appear in various tales.  The youngest, clumsy daughter who stayed home with a cold winds up being Sleeping Beauty's wicked fairy, and Uncle Finn is accidentally corked into a wine bottle for decades.  Brother Dusty has a (very short) crush on a ghostly Juliet, who is solely focused on her Romeo.

Other stories were straight-up fantastic tales, and several of these were my favorites, such as "Blood Sister" and "Become a Warrior."  And the title story, "Sister Emily's Lightship," features Emily Dickinson. 

I was sometimes reminded of Angela Carter's stories, which I read a couple of years ago, but I much prefer these.  There are several similar themes, but I do feel that Yolen handles her material more intelligently, more subtly....just better overall. 

This collection fits perfectly into this year's Witch Week theme, too, so check that out over at Chris' and Lizzie Ross' blogs.  Besides, look at this beautiful image they made!  It features Burd Ellen cutting her hair, and I had to go look up her story in my Child's English and Scottish Ballads


  1. Great choice for Witch Week. I've always enjoyed Jane Yolen's stories, and this sounds like a lovely collection.

  2. Hi Lory! Yeah, it was a good pick.


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