Thursday, June 30, 2011

YA Fantasy: Welcome to Bordertown (Borderland series)

Publisher: Random House
Date: May 24, 2011
Format: hardback
Acquired: won from Random Buzzers
Read: for my own enjoyment
Pages: 516
Reading time: three days

From GoodReads: Bordertown: a city on the border between our human world and the elfin realm. Runaway teens come from both sides of the border to find adventure, to find themselves. Elves play in rock bands and race down the street on spell-powered motorbikes. Human kids recreate themselves in the squats and clubs and artists' studios of Soho. Terri Windling's original Bordertown series was the forerunner of today's urban fantasy, introducing authors that included Charles de Lint, Will Shetterly, Emma Bull, and Ellen Kushner. In this volume of all-new work (including a 15-page graphic story), the original writers are now joined by the generation that grew up dreaming of Bordertown, including acclaimed authors Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. They all meet here on the streets of Bordertown in more than twenty new interconnected songs, poems, and stories.

My review: I've never read the original Borderland series, but this anthology has convinced me that I need to. I wasn't really expecting much (a bunch of stories and poems about runaway punk kids is only interesting for so long...), so I was really surprised by what I found. Quality: the authors featured in the anthology are really good writers. Not just exciting, attention-holding good, but well-written good as well. Also, the references to classic literature, everything from traditional fantasy stories to Kipling to Aphra Behn to Flatland, were surprising. Yet the authors keep their writing styles and main subjects distinctly YA because, after all, that's the intended audience. Anyway, I have a much more positive view of urban fantasy now than before, and it was quite interesting to trace through some of its beginnings (and how they're connected to older works and tales) as mentioned in the introductions at the start of the anthology.

As to my comment about stories of runaway punk kids only be interesting for so long: I found that there's so much more to the stories than just whiny teenagers. The characters of Welcome to Bordertown come from diverse backgrounds and each has traveled to Borderland for his or her own reason (some trivial, most not), making every work in the anthology come with its own unique characterizations, subsetting, purpose, and style. Basically, the anthology never gets boring. The stories and poems retain diversity; some are sweet, some humorous, some...odd. Vampires even popped up at one point and actually managed to be successfully integrated into the Borderland mythos! (On a side note, Twilight gets referred to by one character as "tween abstinence porn"). Welcome to Bordertown is a very enjoyable read and will draw readers into the blend of fantasy and realism that is Borderland. It's YA fantasy writing at its best.

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