Modern Classics of Fantasy - Gardner R. Dozois CAVEAT EMPTOR - This is not a review/commentary on the entire collection. Though I read many of the other stories in the anthology & enjoyed most of them, my primary focus was on Thomas Burnett Swann's "The Manor of Roses," whose existence was made known to me by Werner A. (thanks, Werner, you were right :-) in a comment on my review of Swann's Green Phoenix here.

"The Manor of Roses" is a tale about three children (two boys & a girl) on the cusp of adulthood and the lady of the manor. John is the son of a Norman baron in early 13th century England, despised by his father because he'd rather study than join his father's retinue in a hunt; Stephen is one of John's father's villeins and John's closest friend (read "only friend"); and Ruth is a young, mysterious girl found by Stephen in the ruins of a Roman-era Mithraeum. Stephen has dreams of voyaging to Outremer and joining a Crusade. His discovery of Ruth and a final humiliation of John by his father prompt the trio to run off to London, where they'll take ship to the Levant.

Before they're even a day's journey from home, the boys are abducted by the Mandrake People, faerie-like inhabitants of the wood, who mistakenly believe they've killed one of their children. Ruth rescues them by bribing the Mandrakes with a bejewelled crucifix but incurs John's suspicions that she may be a Mandrake herself - a changling who's lived among humans long enough to pass for one of them. But John's paranoia may be a product of his jealousy as he sees Ruth coming between himself and Stephen.

Having escaped the Mandrakes, the children come upon the titular manor and are taken in by its mistress, Lady Mary, the widow of a Crusader, who has lost not only a husband but a son as well, when he hared off to follow in his father's footsteps but was cut down by a thief before he could even set sail. There follows a confrontation with Ruth over her real identity, and a revelation of Lady Mary's that isn't wholly unexpected but nevertheless gives the story a moral power it otherwise might have lacked.

Swann resembles one of my favorite authors - Edgar Pangborn - in style and sentiment. Both authors' focus on themes of love, trust, friendship & faith, and the bittersweetness of life, without be preachy or self-righteous.

I left Green Phoenix sitting on the fence but in the face "The Manor of Roses," I'm putting Swann on my favorite authors list and will hunt down more of his work.