Bordertown has been missing from the mortal world for thirteen years, but Ellen Kushner and Holly Black have managed to bring it back to us. "Welcome to Bordertown" picks up exactly where the last collection left off, bringing back a magical array of authors who have explored the Borderlands before (Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Patricia McKillip) as well as new arrivals (Tim Pratt, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman).
Thirteen years ago, Bordertown vanished from the mortal world. No one knows how or why, but when it reappeared, only thirteen days had passed for those inside.
In Terri Windling and Ellen Kushner's opening novella, teenage "fixer" Jim arrives there to find his sister Trish, who ran away to live in Bordertown. But Trish has learned that even magical places have their hardships, even as she befriends a grad student named Anush, whose studies went horribly awry when he was cursed by a cruel elf lady.
Some of these stories are by longtime Borderland contributers. Emma Bull's "Incunabulum" is the tale of a young Blood who lost his memory, and must now forge a new one, and Will Shetterly's "The Seven Sages of Elsewhere" is a feud between two bookstores over a rare, magical tome.
But many of these authors are new to Bordertown anthologies -- Cory Doctorow, Catherynne Valente, Janni Lee Simner, Christopher Barzak, Annette Curtis Klause, Tim Pratt, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.
Their stories include a technonerd bringing modern tech to Bordertown, a runaway named Fig who doesn't believe in magic, a girl who falls in love with a statue, a pair of best friends in search of werewolves and vampires, a musician stalked by a lonely love-talker, an artist cursed with blood magic, a gang of Caribbean lesbians haunted by love and magic, a failed musician's relationship with a boy-terrorist, deception and death at a tiny theatre, and a grief-stricken young man looking for his true love.
And then there are poems and songs, such as Jane Yolen's lullaby, and Amal El-Mohtar's delicately surreal poem. Not to mention Neil Gaiman's odd, lilting poem and Patricia McKillip's lush ballad of two sisters.
The 21st century has sapped none of Bordertown's eerie charm -- it's still full of ragged teens, rock concerts, silver-haired elves and odd twists that take people's lives where they never could have expected. And while it shows us that magic and the fantastical will always be alluring, it also has its hidden dangers and sorrows.
This is probably one of the best anthologies I have ever read. While the authors have their own individual quirks, the same silver threads run through almost all of the stories -- a mixture of moonlit magic and grimy, rambunctious urban reality. And they come up with some truly enchanting characters, some of whom are not what they seem. Some are destined to stay in Bordertown, and some merely need the magical to set them on their path.
"Welcome to Bordertown" is a welcome return to one of the classic realms of urban fantasy -- and it's no less enchanting after a wait of thirteen years.