Terri Windling, The Wood Wife

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Terri Windling has crucially shaped the speculative genre over my reading lifetime, editing some of my favorite books and collections. The Wood Wife is her only novel-length adult work to date, and here it is back in a new Tor Essentials edition.

The Wood Wife is full of artists interacting with other artists and their work. It’s also steeped deeply in the desert, saguaros and scrubby trees as seen for the first time by those of us from wetter lands. With the shapeshifters that fill this story, the two intertwine, coyote girls dancing to local music. While there are various romances and families, the central relationship of the book is between two poets who are long-distance friends, who discuss their own and other people’s work in letters but have not, as of the beginning of the book, met in person. And then one of them dies and leaves the other his house, and the tale–from our perspective–is set in motion.

The old letters interspersed with the main narrative address themselves from a fictional poet to real ones, and to artists, agents, gallery owners, editors. Working in the arts is central to this book not just in characterization but in plot. I sometimes get tired of characters who work in the arts in urban fantasy, but 1) only when it’s done without thinking about what that means to them, which in this case it’s not and 2) this is one of the early examples, this is what sparked imitators. It holds up quite well from the perspective of a few decades of the field growing from its roots.

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