Children & Young Adult | Adult

Writing for Children & Young Adults

The Freedom Maze

The Freedom Maze


Candlewick Press, 2014 (paperback)
Big Mouth House / Small Beer Press, 2011 (hardcover)
Kindle (e-book)
Download the first chapter (PDF)


Audiobook from Listening Library, read by Robin Miles
* Audie Award Finalist, 2013
* Booklist Editor's Choice: Best Audio for Youth, 2013

Podcast: Interview with Delia Sherman, including her reading from The Freedom Maze

For Classrooms:

Scholastic’s Teachers’ Picks: The Long Road to Civil Rights, New books that will help your students understand the African-American experience.

Novels with Great Girl Characters: Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Books of 2011

Discussion Guide from Candlewick Press

Reviews & Praise:

“Adroit, sympthathetic, both clever and smart, The Freedom Maze will entrap young readers and deliver them, at the story’s end, that little bit older and wiser.”
Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked 

“It's 1960, but on the decayed Fairchild sugar plantation in rural Louisiana, vestiges of a grimmer past remain—the old cottage, overgrown garden maze, relations between white and black races.
   “Stuck for the summer in the family ancestral home under the thumb of her cranky, imperious grandmother, Sophie, 13, makes a reckless wish that lands her in 1860, enslaved—by her own ancestors. Sophie's fair skin and marked resemblance to the Fairchilds earn her “easy” employment in the big house and the resentment of her peers, whose loyalty she'll need to survive. Plantation life for whites and blacks unfolds in compelling, often excruciating detail. A departure from Sherman’s light fantasy Changeling (2006), this is a powerfully unsettling, intertextual take on historical time-travel fantasy, especially Edward Eager's Time Garden (1958), in which white children help a grateful enslaved family to freedom. Sophie's problems aren't that easily resolved: While acknowledging their shared kinship, her white ancestors refuse to see her as equally human. The framing of Sophie's adventures within 1960 social realities prompts readers to consider what has changed since 1860, what has not—for Sophie and for readers half a century later—and at what cost.
   “Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking, a timely read on the sesquicentennial of America’s Civil War.”
Kirkus Reviews (*starred review)

“A seamless blending of wondrous American myth with harsh American reality...younger readers and adults alike will be completely riveted by her magical journey into her own family’s double-edged past.”
N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

“Sherman has created a finely honed work of art, a novel that deals eloquently with complex and intersecting issues of race, womanhood, class and age. In transporting the reader so fully into another time, The Freedom Maze becomes timeless. This is true magic.”
Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of The Summer King

“As a coming-of-age story it is a triumph; as an exploration of racial inequality and the sharp edge of American history it is moving and enlightening; as a deconstruction of Southern myth into reality it is vibrant. I highly recommend The Freedom Maze, not only for its beauty, but because it is one of the most engaging and challenging novels of the year, filled with magic and truth.”
Brit Mandelo,

“The Freedom Maze is destined to become a classic of time-travel fantasy alongside Edward Eager’s Time Garden...But it’s also something more: a novel that slides skillfully past all the usual stereotypes about plantation life in the ante-bellum South, encouraging young readers to look at race, gender, and American history in a deeper, more nuanced way. It is, quite simply, one of the very best books I've read in years.”
Terri Windling

“[N]ot to be missed. . . . It’s one of those books that crashes into you, all at once. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”
Stella Matutina, livejournal

“Ambitious . . . vividly evokes two historical settings, turning a glaring light on the uncomfortable attitudes and practices of earlier eras.”
Jonathan Hunt, The Horn Book

“[A] deeply affecting time travel and coming-of-age novel. . . . Realistic, compelling, and not the slightest bit condescending, The Freedom Maze is all about changing your world.”
Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

“Sherman's antebellum story exposes a wide sweep through a narrow aperture, where the arbitrary nature of race and ownership, kindred and love, are illuminated in the harsh seeking glare of an adolescent's coming of age.”
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

“Vividly realized and saturated with feeling.”
Elizabeth Knox, author of DreamHunter

“There are books you just know will stay with you forever. This is one of them. Rating: 10: Perfect.”
Book Smugglers

Winner of:

* The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

* The Prometheus Best Novel Award

* The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature

* American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults

* Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011

* James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List

Interviews & Essays:

• Delia explains the Big Idea behind the novel: “Eighteen years ago, I was stuck....”

• Charles Tan asks Delia about inspiration, race, class and the future: “My original inspiration for the novel was a dream…. Something drew me into those deep waters, and I had to explore them. Here are some thoughts, long after the fact, about why.”

• Anthony R. Cardno interview on Rambling On touches on Neil Gaiman, The Lord of the Rings, and Delia’s love for C.S. Lewis.

• It was Delia Sherman Week at Fantasy Matters! Read a review, interview, “Judging a Book by Its Cover: The Freedom Maze,” and “The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: The Work of Kathleen Jennings.”

• Delia’s guest post on Diversity in YA: “When I began writing The Freedom Maze, back in 1987, I didn’t intend to write a book about race....”

the Maze

The Freedom Maze

Cover art to the hardcover edition by Kathleen Jennings See her original cover sketches here!

Audiobook Reviews:

[To come]

  New York Between Map | List of Rules

The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen

Viking/Penguin, June 25, 2009 (hardcover)


Neef, the official Changeling of Central Park, has gone on a life-threatening quest and faced down a dragon, but that looks like a piece of cake compared to her first day at school. At Miss Van Loon’s School for Mortal Changelings—and that’s pronounced “Van Lo-en’s,” if you please—she meets her counterparts from all over Manhattan, learns the basics of diplomacy and simple magic, and memorizes what seems like an endless list of rules. She also makes an enemy: Tiffany of the Upper East Side, queen bee of the school.

But all that pales when Central park and all of Manhattan’s green places are threatened. If New York Harbor’s Mermaid Queen doesn't get her magic mirror back, she's going to turn the city's fresh water to salt… and everything and everyone Neef knows will die.

It’s up to Neef to save the day. Again. And this time, she has changeling friends.

The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen
New York Between Map | List of Rules
New York Between map New York Between map

  New York Between Map


Viking Juvenile, 2006 (hardcover); Firebird, 2008 (paperback)


Neef is a Changeling, a human baby stolen by fairies and replaced with one of their own. She lives in “New York Between,” a Manhattan that exists invisibly, side by side with our own, home to fairies, demons, mermaids, and other creatures of Folk lore. Neef has always been protected by her fairy godmother, Astris (a very lovely white rat), until she breaks a Fairy Law. Now, unless she can meet the challenge of the Green lady of Central Park, she’ll be sacrificed to the bloodthirsty Wild Hunt. Neef is a native New Yorker, and she’s determined to beat the rap—but New York Between is a maze of magic and magical rules, and time is running out…


From School Library Journal
“Grade 5–8—Sherman’s tongue is firmly and delightfully in cheek in this contemporary fantasy that blends children’s literature and pop culture in an effervescent witch’s brew with a strong scent of edgy attitude… The novel is delightfully full of allusions to children’s books (the Water Rat and Stuart Little live in Central Park), fairy-tale motifs, and contemporary culture (the Green Lady talks as tough as a character on The Sopranos). Readers will love the feisty, irrepressibly optimistic Neef, delight in the sheer cleverness of the story, and never look at New York in the same way again.”
—Connie Tyrrell Burns, © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

“Do[es] for Central Park what Peter Pan did for Kensington Gardens.”
The Washington Post



“Delightful, witty, and magical, Changeling shows us New York as we secretly believe it is.”
Holly Black, author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

“I love it: contemporary fantasy with plenty of urban hipness and a girl hero who thinks on her feet!”
Tamora Pierce

“There’s so much to love about this book—Sherman’s incorporation of the contemporary with the timeless is both seamless and endlessly amusing.”
Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, and author of Little Brother

Stories in Anthologies

The Witch in the Wood”Under My Hat, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Random House, 2012.

The Ghost of Cwmlech ManorSteampunk!, ed. Grant & Link, Candlewick Press, 2011.

FlyingTeeth, ed. Datlow & Windling, HarperCollins, 2011.

“The Wizard’s Apprentice” Troll’s Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales, ed. Datlow & Windling, Viking, 2009 ; The Way of the Wizard, ed. John Joseph Adams, Prime Books, 2010.

“The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, ed. Datlow & Windling, Viking Penguin, 2006.

“CATNYP” The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, ed. Datlow & Windling, Viking Penguin 2004; The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, ed. Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tor, 2005.

“Cotillion” Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Sharyn November, Viking Penguin, 2003.

“Grand Central Park” The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, ed. Datlow & Windling, Viking Penguin, 2001.

“The Twelve Months of New York City” A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, ed. Datlow & Windling, Simon & Schuster, 2000.

Troll's Eye View Coyote Road
The Faery Reel anthology Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Green Man A Wolf at the Door

  Children & Young Adult | Adult

Writing for Adults

The Fall of the Kings

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, Bantam Books, 2002


Theron Campion, an aristocratic student, is drawn into a controversy about the nature of the ancient kings and the northern wizards. Basil St. Cloud is at the center of this dispute and as his relationship with Campion deepens, he finds that his historical findings have modern, highly political implications. As all scholars know, the kings were corrupt and their wizards were simply charlatans, but St. Cloud has discovered an ancient source that promises something altogether different. However, the Council of Lords becomes aware that the northern-most parts of the country are murmuring for a return to monarchy and, suspecting the University as a source for the discontent, they send a spy to ferret out information. St. Cloud and his students become the focal point for an explosive denouement that is as tragic as it is inevitable.


From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—A return to the marvelously complicated world of witty court intrigue and deadly University scandal last seen in Swordspoint (Tor, 1994). Kings stands on its own in all its intricate, fascinating glory… Kushner and Sherman inject plenty of humor and bawdiness into their tale, providing grounding for some of the abstruse historical debates. This is high fantasy at its best—literate, passionate, and compelling.
—© 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Kushner and coauthor Sherman (Through a Brazen Mirror) craft a sensual and evocative tale that should appeal to fans of Tanith Lee and Storm Constantine. Highly recommended for readers of mature fantasy.
—© 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Literate, absorbing, and with bite to it, the book shows that Kushner and Sherman together are quite up to the standards of either on her own.
—Roland Green, © American Library Association.

“Immensely appealing, intelligent, and great fun.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The authors tap into fantasy’s genuine source of drama, its ability to haunt, appall, transform.”

“Embraces the age-old struggle between scholars and mystics… to bridge the gulf that separates history from mystery.”
Fantasy & Science Fiction

“One of the bawdiest and most intellectually stimulating novels of the year!”

“Richly textured… authentic… A fantasy novel that won’t insult your intelligence.”
Science Fiction Chronicle


cover image of The Fall of Kings

“Gorgeous prose and a galloping story, with… a deep understanding of a true scholar’s passion for his subject.”
Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow

“Stunning… If Oscar Wilde were writing high fantasy, he’d want to write The Fall of the Kings.”
Sarah Smith, author of A Citizen of the Country

“Attractive characters, realistically enmeshed in social, political, and personal concerns… realized with a robust depth and realism.”
Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Vampire Tapestries

“Kushner and Sherman don’t spin fables or knit fancies: they are world-forgers, working in a language of iron and air.”
Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Lost

The Fall of the Kings is, if possible, even better [than Swordspoint]— twistier and deeper.”
Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods

“Splendid… one of my favorite books this year!”
Charles de Lint, author of The Onion Girl

“This is how fantasy should be written!… sweeps you in and lets you live the story with the characters.”
Lynn Flewelling, author of The Bone Doll’s Twin

“A delicious read… dark, sexy, and wickedly funny by turns. I loved it. You’ll love it too.”
Terri Windling, editor of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror

The Porcelain Dove

Dutton, 1993; Plume, 1994
Mythopoeic Award winner, 1994


Eighteenth-century France is the setting—a time and place where age-old superstitions shadow an age of enlightenment, where the minuet of aristocratic life is deaf to the approaching drumbeats of revolution, where elegance masks depravity and licentiousness makes a mockery of love. Against this background, Berthe Duvet, maid to Adele du Fourchet, later mme la duchesse de Malvoeux, tells her tale of a doomed society and of a family seeking to break a terrible curse. Vivid in its re-creation of a vanished age and delightfully iconoclastic in its view of women and history, The Porcelain Dove is a triumph of the imagination.


From Publishers Weekly
Fantastic in every sense of the word, Sherman’s (Through a Brazen Mirror) second novel is a skillfully crafted fairy tale that owes as much to E.T.A. Hoffman as to Charles Perrault…The Porcelain Dove is no dainty vertu but a seductive, sinister bird with razored feathers. BOMC alternate.
—© 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
A mixture of fantasy and historical fiction, this work traces the fortunes of the ducs de Malvoeux during the last days of the ancien regime and the beginnings of the French Revolution. Narrated by the duchesses’ devoted maid, it is both a careful portrait of those brutal times and the tale of an ancient curse and a magical quest.… Of interest to devotees of French history or literature. BOMC selection.
—Cynthia Johnson, © 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews
Combining history, fairy tale, and period literary fashions, Sherman (the paperback Through a Brazen Mirror) offers a sprawling 18th-century epic,… [a] dazzling display of period detail, and a slew of authentic-seeming characters…
—©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

cover for The Porcelain Dove

Through a Brazen Mirror

Dutton, 1993; Plume, 1994


In a medieval kingdom both like and unlike 13th C. England, a mysterious young man appears at the door of the palace kitchen, seeing to serve the king. In a lonely stone tower, a woman watches the world through her mirror of bronze. The young king mourns the death of his friend in battle and and puts off choosing a bride. A child abandoned on a farmer’s doorstep grows up to be a powerful witch. The lives of these characters intersect and intertwine in strange and fateful ways as the young man rises from cook to steward to chamberlain and the king becomes more dependent upon him as the sorceress turns his country upside-down in her attempts to defy the fate her mirror has shown her.


From Publishers Weekly
When it first appeared in print in mass market in 1989, Sherman’s (The Porcelain Dove) debut novel, a queer fantasy, won a John W. Campbell Award nomination. No wonder: Sherman’s grasp of setting, language and human behavior snare the reader deeply into the story of a widowed woman’s search for peace and survival. The handsome king in this tale has a taste for the strapping young men around him. The gentle maiden is a woman in disguise and swoons over a quiet and romantically somber youth, who is, in fact, a woman in disguise. And the sorceress that bedevils the kingdom of Albia grows queasy at the thought of being touched by another man after her reluctant submission to the sorcerer who trained her. Is this a ribald escapade of explicit sex? Hardly. Sherman’s deft touch reveals her characters’ desires in a subtle yet unapologetic manner. She presents not the typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy, but a tale that takes a realistic—and captivating—look at medieval times.
—© 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

cover for Through a Brazen Mirror

Stories in Anthologies

How the Pooka Came to New York City” Naked City, ed. Datlow, St. Martin's, 2011.

“The Red Piano” Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Ellen Datlow, Solaris, 2009.

“La Fée Verte” Salon Fantastique: Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy, ed. Datlow & Windling, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006.

Poe Anthology of 19 New TalesSalon Fantastique: Fifteen Original Tales of Fantasy

READ a Short Story

click here for “The Tragedy of King Alexander the Stag”

click here for “Nanny Peters and the Feathery Bride”