This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, Nisi Shawl, Pamela Dean,Gwyneth Jones , Caroline Stevermer, Patricia C. Wrede,Lois McMaster Bujold, Nancy Kress,Diane Duane, Candas Jane Dorsey, Greer Gilman,Robin McKinley, Laurie Marks, and Ellen Kushner.
It’s a little strange and yet also wonderful to write two of these in a row when my favorite book by the pair of authors is the one they wrote together. Because as I said last month–The Fall of the Kings is my favorite Ellen Kushner book, and it’s also my favorite Delia Sherman book. They’re a married couple who managed to do something together that was even more amazing than what they do separately–it’s magical and immersive, and I love it so much.
But Sherman does have an entire quirky and individual body of work away from Riverside, and writing these two posts in such quick succession made me think carefully about what I like about that body of work apart from The Fall of the Kings. Remove the favorite, and what have you got? And for me the answer is that Sherman is an absolute champ at historical fantasy. The texture and detail of how the characters’ motivation and plot arise from their context and setting, the way that magic can arise from a knowledge of place and time–that’s where she really shines.
You can take a quick tour through a chocolate box sampler of these skills with Sherman’s short story collection, Young Woman in a Garden, in which she demonstrates a variety of inspirations and settings, rather than just one or two. Even within the 19th century in the United States Sherman has an ear for place, context, dialect. If you have time you can pick up one after another of the longer works to see her range–but one collection will give you a taste of it incredibly quickly. It’s a treat, and it’s a gift.