As with most anthologies, in 'Beyond Magic' you get a bit of a mixed bag. The first story, 'The Shimmering' by Susan Kearney, was very enjoyable. Despite the too-unlikely-to-believe premise, even for a paranormal story, there was a good plot (if you could ignore how unlikely it was!) and the characters were also good, if a little sketchily drawn in such a short story. There were some rather convenient bits woven into the story to make it all wrap up nicely but I did enjoy reading it and learning of a new world where weather is controlled by a magic totem which has been stolen and where our heroine has to impersonate someone else and tame a much-feared warrior.
Elaine Cunningham's story 'Beyond Dreams' was also fairly good. With a rather large cast of characters I didn't feel I entirely got into the head of any of them, except perhaps Cassie the heroine. Cassie finds herself reconnecting with her former fiancé Nick after he confesses to some murders - for which he has complete alibis. The reason Nick and Cassie broke up was because his rational, scientific mind couldn't believe in her psychic skills; however Nick is beginning to discover that he, too, has some spooky talents. Can Nick and Cassie work together to discover who is murdering young people? The plot in this story was well constructed and there were some side-plots about various family members which worked well. However the romance side of the book was fairly underplayed and I was never entirely sure why Cassie left Nick originally.
The third story is 'Hill and Sky' by Kassandra Sims. I've read two full-length novels by her and really not liked them and unfortunately the same happened with her short story. She has an interesting writing style and a good way with words but I can never really tell what's going on, I can't follow the plot properly and I find my attention wandering. The story was nominally about a witch who finds herself involved in a quest to safeguard someone magical, despite her general apathy about this kind of thing, but the plot was obscured by lots of random people who wandered in and out of the story doing random things. No doubt there are some people who get on well with Sims' writing but I'm not one of them and it rather spoiled the book for me as it left it on a rather low note. The first two stories are worth reading but I'd give the third a miss.
Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2008