'Nicholas Sayre will do anything to get across the Wall. Thoughts of Lirael and Sam haunt his dreams, and he has come to realize that his destiny lies with them, in the Old Kingdom. But here in Ancelstierre, Nick faces an obstacle that is not entirely human, with a strange power that seems to come from Nicholas himself.
With "Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case," Garth Nix continues to explore the magical world of the Abhorsen Trilogy. In additional short stories that range from two widely different takes on the Merlin myth to a gritty urban version of Hansel and Gretel and a heartbreaking story of children and war, Garth Nix displays the range and versatility that has made him one of today's leading writers of fantasy for readers of all ages' (Amazon).
Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case is a short story entry in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. Set six months after the events in the novel Abhorsen, it tells of Nicholas's encounter with a Free magic creature in Ancelstierre and his return to the Old Kingdom. The story begins with Nicholas recuperating from the injuries he received at the hands of the Destroyer. After several idle months in Ancelstierre, he is desperate to return to the Old Kingdom, so when the opportunity arrives to actually do something, he accepts immediately. As a favour to his Uncle Edward, the Chief Minister of Ancelstierre, he travels to spend the weekend in a remote country house, the home of a family which would make a good political alliance. That seems easy enough, till he discovers that the house holds many secrets, and the worst of them is a relic of the Old Kingdom, too far from the Wall for any spark of its magical life to reignite. Unless someone finds a way to unleash its power...'
'The Lady of the Lake is in her underwater realm of 'water as cold and hard as steel'. She and Merlin negotiate, needing something from each other. The Grail and Excalibur were spun by the Lady from 'harvested dreams and breath, nets of light, and consumed lives'. The Lady changes to an eagle, and back to human, before morphing to an unpleasing form' (J. A. Kaszuba Locke, Bookloons)
Written for the War Child charity anthology, Kids Night In (2003), 'Charlie Rabbit' is an emotive tale about two brothers caught up in a bombing raid with only themselves and a clockwork rabbit to protect them.
'Set in a remote community which has echoes of the familiar, until Nix injects the bizarre as everyday objects, reminding us that this is nowhere anyone has been' (Nathan Brazil, SF Site)
A great-grandfather of 108 years of age refuses to sell the family's last piece of property, The Hill, to developers.
A story of a young boy's encounters with a man who has the same supernatural ability to perceive auras, and manipulate powerful electrical energy but who does for his own dark ends.
'Down to the Scum Quarter' is a fantasy genre parody presented as an elaborate 'choose your own adventure' format. The story, set up in a prologue section, concerns the kidnapping of the beautiful Lady Oiseaux. The reader is given a choice of five objects/weapons to take on his or her rescue quest, with the storyline path being made by a combiantion of dice or preference.
As with Nix's other story, 'Under the Lake,' 'Heart's Desire' is also a take on the Lady of the Lake myth. Whereas the first portrays her as a somewhat psychopathic goddess who gives the dubious gift of Excaliber to mankind, the latter explores her relationship to Merlin and the reason behind why she entrapped him beneath the earth.
In this contemporary and somewhat macabre version of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale, the two children are abandoned by uncaring parents and subsequently fall into the clutches of a techno-witch who harvests children to sell their body parts for transplant surgery.
'A steamer trunk and a baby girl are found with a note attached to her blanket, "Alice May Susan, born on the Summer Solstice, 1921. Look after her and she'll look after you." The Hopkins family adopts Alice, storing the trunk in the attic - Alice only succeeds in opening it on her 16th birthday. It contains a rifle, pistols, ammunition, a white dress, and a star badge that shines when she touches it' (J. A. Kaszuba Locke, www.bookloons.com). A blending of the wild west with the rise of a Hitler-like demagogue.
A tongue-in-cheek parady on the fantasy genre, "My New Really Epic Fantasy Series" is essentially a pitch for a forty-seven book series chock-full of every possible fantasy cliché.
'"Three Roses" is a straightforward old-fashioned fairy tale, about a grasping king and a grieving gardener, which subtlety shows us the value of true love' (Nathan Brazil, SF Site)
Reads as a lost document of the Clayr library: the journal of a power hungry necromancer.