Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands (Review)

Book cover for "Welcome to Bordertown" edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner.Title: Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands

Editors: Holly Black and Ellen Kushner

Narrators: Cassandra Campbell, MacLeod Andrews, Holly Black, and Ellen Kushner

Publication Year: 2012

Pages: 544 (audio length: 18 hours 8 minutes)

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories, Poetry, Fantasy

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

Bordertown: a city on the Border between the human world and the elfin realm. A place where neither magic nor technology can be counted on, where elf and human kids run away to find themselves.

The Way from our world to the Border has been blocked for 13 long years. Now the Way is open once again — and Bordertown welcomes a new set of seekers and dreamers, misfits and makers, to taste life on the Border.

Here are 13 interconnected stories and eight poems — all new work by some of today’s best urban fantasy, fantasy, and slipstream writers: Christopher Barzak, Holly Black, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Cassandra Clare, Charles de Lint, Cory Doctorow, Amal El-Mohtar, Neil Gaiman, Nalo Hopkinson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Annette Curtis Klause, Ellen Kushner, Patricia McKillip, Dylan Meconis, Tim Pratt, Sara Ryan, Delia Sherman, Will Shetterly, Janni Lee Simner, Catherynne M. Valente, Terri Windling, and Jane Yolen.

Apparently I’m one of the few book people who hasn’t heard of the Bordertown books. Maybe it’s just not from my generation? Or perhaps it’s because my parents weren’t enthusiastic about letting me read fantasy books? But whatever the reason, I hadn’t read any of the books in the series until this one was nominated for an Audie this year.

What really helped me out here was that Welcome to Bordertown eased the reader into the world between the US and the Realm. It gave enough background information for the reader to understand the basics and to simply assimilate into the story world, but not so much background as to be overwhelming. It felt like I had about as much as any human going to Bordertown might have, and not much more, which helped with trying to put myself in to the shoes of the characters.

I really loved that there were all kinds of different narrators and other characters, that there was quite a bit of diversity apparent from the outset. I’ve read so many books, particularly fantasy works, that are supposed to stretch our minds but that are really all the same: stories about mostly white, mostly middle- or upper-class, average characters. Instead, Welcome to Bordertown included characters from different nationalities and sexualities, and from varying life experiences. The narrators really helped to bring this to light, particularly in some stories where an accent was needed. Reading this as an audiobook was also helpful when recognizing characters that crossed over between stories, since the narrators made them sound the same … so even when they weren’t named, it was possible to tell who they were.

The one thing that I would’ve liked – but didn’t get to read – would’ve been stories written from the perspectives of elves. There were many human narrators and a few non-human characters (like a really lovely werewolf-type character), but I don’t think there were any stories told from the perspectives of elves, or even really from the perspectives of “halfies”. Maybe this was done in previous books? I’m not sure, but if it hasn’t been done before, I really think it would be interesting to add into the mix.

I enjoyed Welcome to Bordertown as an introduction to the series, and I might even look for another of the books to read. Even if you haven’t read any of the books, this would be a good place to start.


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