Book Review: Jonathan Strahan’s Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron

Posted October 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jonathan Strahan’s Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron

Under My Hat


Jonathan Strahan

It is part of the , , The Dresden Files #2.5, series and is a fantasy, paranormal fantasy in Hardcover edition that was published by Random House for Young Readers on August 28, 2012 and has 424 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

An anthology of eighteen short stories revolving around a theme of witches and magic.


“Threefold World” (The World of Riverside, 0.5)
B is for Bigfoot” * (Bigfoot, 1 chronologically; Bigfoot Trilogy, 3 published; The Dresden Files, 2.5; Dresden Files: Short Stories, 15)
“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” (Innkeeper’s World, 1.5)

* If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Dresden Files on my website.

The Stories

Diana Peterfreund‘s “Stray Magic” is so sweet! Peterfreund created a lovely story that really pulled my heartstrings with a seemingly abandoned dog who desperately wants his master back.

Frances Hardinge‘s “Payment Due” is wicked good! Even short stories can suffer in this economy and Caroline does her best to ensure the bailiff understands how his attitude affects those upon whom he preys.

Garth Nix‘s “A Handful of Ashes” was excellent! A nice turnaround in which evil is repaid while saving a world. Nix creates an entire world with amazing characters in such a short span of pages.

Holly Black‘s “Little Gods” is about a teenager’s search for belonging and the Beltane celebration she and her new friends attend. It’s an eye-opening weekend for Ellery. This was okay. I know Black wanted to make a point, but it was too laid back for me.

Charles de Lint‘s “Barrio Girls” is both typical and atypical de Lint. I haven’t read all of de Lint yet so I may well be wrong. The typical is the kindness Abuelo requires of them to offset the bruja and gain revenge for Pepé. A sweet read by a master.

Tanith Lee‘s “Felidis” is in the fairytale style, but with a twist. It’s sweet.

Neil Gaiman‘s Witch Work is actually a two-page poem about time, revenge, and hurt.

Ellen Klages‘s “Education of a Witch” is scary! It was Lizzy’s obsession for Maleficient in Sleeping Beauty that prompts Lizzy along the path of magic. And it’s her baby sister Rosemary’s arrival and need for attention that encourages its use. Klages understands children very well and provides a chilling scenario of vengeance. New parents should read this and pay special attention to their children. Lizzy’s feelings are reasonable; it’s her child’s viewpoint and all that she knows.

Ellen Kushner‘s “Threefold World” is another excellent story! Set back in time in Finland when it was ruled by Sweden, Kushner uses the conflict of oppressor versus oppressed to create an ambitious character, Elias, who believes that his own Finnish background is nothing to be proud of. He sets off at the end of the school year to earn the money needed for the next year’s tuition and it’s a Finnish folktale come to life that changes his mind and his life.

Delia Sherman‘s “Witch in the Wood” is another fairytale combining several different elements from the genre. The prince forced into stag form by day, the evil wizard, and the orphaned young witch who rescues the stag. It’s cute.

Patricia A. McKillip‘s “Which Witch” is not a typical McKillip, lacking her lyrical turns of phrase. I’d have thought more de Lint or Lackey with the witches who form a band, dress artistically, and the urban setting. It is an excellent read and I’d love to see it develop into a series.

Tim Pratt‘s “Carved Forest” is safety in a cage. Carlos definitely takes a chance in this one when he takes action to rescue his sister and keep her memory alive. Scary with a sweet ending.

M. Rickert‘s “Burning Castles” was very confusing with a very obscure ending. It’s more like the author had an outline that was dashed off and somehow a lot of the details were forgotten. It doesn’t encourage me to seek out other works by Rickert.

Isobelle Carmody‘s “Stone Witch” was excellent! A quest of a test with thrown-in confusions in true fairytale style, albeit with a contemporary twist and a chance for a mutual rescue.

Jane Yolen‘s “Andersen’s Witch” provides a theory as to why Hans Christian Andersen wrote his fairytales and incorporates its own fairytale elements.

Jim Butcher‘s “B is for Bigfoot” is supposedly the third in the Bigfoot Trilogy, but reads more like it should have been the first. So, I’m confused. It’s Harry Dresden’s first meeting with River Shoulders, Irwin’s dad, and his first meeting with Irwin where he helps him defuse an escalating situation at school.

Peter S. Beagle‘s “Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” is another good tale incorporating fairytale elements with a short peek into a catastrophe that hits a small family and requires intercession from the dead.

Margo Lanagan‘s “Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow” is another sweet tale incorporating fairytale elements with a grandmother wanting to grant a grandchild wishes. Lanagan includes the age-old “mother-in-law versus wife” conflict. It reads more like the start of a tale than one complete in itself.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a glowy brown background with a black cauldron at the base pouring forth purple steam with authors’ names and, just to ensure that we remember the theme of this collection of short stories, a witch’s hat is parked right next to it.

The title reflects the theme as well — it’s all Under My Hat.