... as far as Magdalene knew, there were only two copies of the Booke of Demonkind still in existence and she had one of them -- it had been rather drastically overdue when the library'd burned down, so she'd kept it. (p.116)
This collection includes all Tanya Huff's short stories (at least as at 1999, its first publication date) featuring Magdalene -- the most powerful wizard in the world, given to tropical living, skimpy outfits and 'an avid observer of young men' -- and Terazin, the best thief in the city, who happens to be the lover of fiesty female mercenary Swan.
I'm a big fan of Huff's 'Blood' series and I wanted to see what she'd written before she discovered Henry Fitzroy. There are some pleasing stories in here: Magdalene and Terazin subvert the usual epic fantasy, either by refusing to play by the usual rules (Terazin gets around a potentially unpleasant assignment by a Portia-esque interpretation) or by simply applying common sense. They are quintessentially female protagonists without a hint of girlish weakness (or even feistiness): both smart, independent and able to make a play for what and who they want. Neither is interested in killing opponents, even if that's the easiest way out, even if the opponents are not human. On the other hand, Magdalene seems to be on remarkably good terms with Death (who's a 'dark-haired, pale-skinned young woman ... hands on hips, eyes flashing', not a million miles from Mr Gaiman's rendition).
Witty, warm and likeable.