Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, in the dark days pre-Buffy, it was hard to find a female action hero. And yes, little girls need them, and teens, and even young women. So when the first Sword and Sorceress was published, I immediately grabbed it, and it was love at first sight of the cover. The back cover of this 23rd volume boasts that in the years the anthology has existed, it's included such authors as "Mercedes Lackey... Jennifer Roberson... C.J. Cherryh, Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Deborah Ross, Diana L. Paxson, and Laurell K. Hamilton." (I'd add Elizabeth Moon, a favorite author of mine.) I haven't lost my fondness for kick ass heroines, particularly in fantasy and science fiction, so that and nostalgia would be reason enough to be favorably inclined towards the book. There's another reason though--I'm not an unbiased reviewer here. My good friend Gerri Leen is one of the contributors, and I was a first reader (beta) for her story "The Vessel." And yes, it's very good indeed, a favorite of mine among her short stories; in the introduction to the story, the editor noted, "You can tell a story is good when you finish it and then wonder what will happen to the characters next." And it's humor, which there's not enough of in speculative fiction if you ask me--the last line still cracks me up. There's more good stuff here though. No one will mistake this for a collection of literary fiction mind you--only two first person stories, Pauline J. Alana's "Daughters of Brightshield" and Melissa Mead's "The Fairest of Them All," even depart from the usual third person, past tense. Maybe part of why besides "The Vessel" they're my favorites--both have a real voice. And besides, that, Mead's was a humorous take on Snow White--it was a nice departure. Another of the stories was based on a fairy tale, one on Arthurian legend, three others I'd describe as historically based and one could be described as urban fantasy: the rest were high fantasy. I found all the stories entertaining and well-written, with no clunker in the bunch. So if you like speculative fiction with strong woman characters, this is definitely a fun way to spend some hours.