The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories - Susanna Clarke, Charles Vess 3.5 stars

I have to admit that I found the first four stories in this collection only fair-to-middling, though the title tale had some nice moments of understated menace. From the point of "Mr. Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower" on, however, I was fully on-board and greatly enjoyed the rest of the collection.

Simonelli is a great character, equal parts self-aggrandizing rogue (for, we learn, obvious cultural reasons) and concerned pastor of his flock. I'd love to see more of his reminiscences in a longer format from Clarke. He's quite a resourceful and entertaining character.

Tom Brightwind shows us that while fairys are generally unpleasant in their interactions with others (both of the human and fae persuasion), they are somehow capable at times of maintaining the friendship of those that are their betters (morally, if not socially). I'm surprised that David Montefiore hasn't met a sad fate due to his constant remonstrances to his self-satisfied Fairy Friend, but I imagine his equanimous and generally pleasant character helps to protect him. This tale was, in some ways, most like _Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell_, at least in the inclusion of copious notes giving amusing and enlightening details on the fairy culture which the tale displays.

"John Uskglass and the Cumbrian Charcoal Burner" was great for several reasons: first it is the first tale in which we get a first-hand look, however erroneous, at the mythical Raven King; second it had some of the best, laugh-out-loud moments in the whole collection.

Overall an entertaining set of stories, though I wish Clarke would get around to writing another, more substantial tome in the vein of Strange & Norrell. (Perhaps Mr. Simonelli is available?)