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Five-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, Terri Windling has been a guiding force in imaginative literature for more than a decade. Now with The Wood Wife, a heady, luminous novel filled with passion, mystery, and wonder, Windling takes her place beside such authors as Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, and Patricia A. McKillip as one of modem fantasy’s finest talents.

The Wood Wife is the story of Maggie Black, who walked out of her life as the wife of a trendy West Coast musician to pursue her dreams. When Maggie’s mentor, prize-winning poet Davis Cooper, died mysteriously in the canyons east of Tucson, he left her his estate, and the mystery of his life—and death.

Now, in Cooper’s desert home, Maggie begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery that will change her forever. She is astonished by the power of that harsh but beautiful land and intrigued by the uncommon people who call it home—especially by Fox, a man unlike any she has ever known, who understands the desert’s special power.

As she reads the letters and papers left behind by Cooper and his lover, Anna Naverra—a gifted painter driven mad by the visions she saw—Maggie will come face-to-face with the wild, ancient spirits of that place and undertake a quest to discover their dark, long-hidden secrets.


Title Page





Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven


Author’s Note

About the Author

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.


Copyright © 1996 by Terri Windling

Introduction copyright © 2020 by Delia Sherman

All rights reserved.

The author is grateful for the permission to reprint the following works: Excerpt from “Ars Poetica” by Jorge Luis Borges, from Dreamtigers by Jorge Luis Borges; translated from the Spanish by Mildred Vinson Boyers and Harold Morland; © 1964 by Jorge Luis Borges; published 1970 by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., by special arrangement with the University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. “Trees” by Michael Hannon, from Ordinary Messengers by Michael Hannon; © 1991, Floating Island Publications, Point Reyes Station, CA. Excerpt from “Rain (Rapa Nul)” by Pablo Neruda, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems; translated from the Spanish by Anthony Kerrigan; © 1970 by Anthony Kerrigan; published 1972 by Dell Publishing Co., Inc., New York, NY. Excerpt from “The Gardens” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive by Mary Oliver; © 1983 by Mary Oliver; published by Little, Brown and Co., Boston, MA. “Evening” by Rainer María Rilke, from The Selected Poetry of Ratner María Rilke; translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell; © 1982 by Stephen Mitchell; published 1982 by Random House, New York, NY.

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

A Tor Essentials Book

Published by Tom Doherty Associates

120 Broadway

New York, NY 10271


Tor© is a registered trademark of Macmillan Publishing Group. LLC.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the first trade paperback edition as follows:

Windling, Terri.

The wood wife / by Terri Windling.—First edition.

p. cm.

“A Tom Doherty Associates book.”

ISBN 978-0-7653-0293-9 (trade paperback)

1. Poets—Fiction. 2. Biographers—Fiction. 3. Arizona—Fiction. 4. Fantasy fiction—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3573.I5175 W66 1996

813’.54—dc23 | 96016113

ISBN 978-1-250-23755-2 (trade paperback)

Our books may be purchased in bulk for promotional, educational, or business use. Please contact your local bookseller or the Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department at 1-800-221-7945, extension 5442, or by email at MacmillanSpecialMarkets@macmlllan.com.

First Edition: October 1996

Second Trade Paperback Edition: January 2021

Printed in the United States of America

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by Delia Sherman

When Maggie Black, the East Coast poet and journalist who conducts us through the first pages of The Wood Wife, arrives in Tucson, she finds it bleak and difficult.

Everything here had spines or thorns. The sky was too vast; the light was too clear. There was nothing soft or hidden in the land, and it made her feel raw, overexposed, like a photograph left in the sun.

When I started going to Arizona in the 1990s, my initial reaction to the desert was pretty much the same. Everything looked brown and grey, low, spiky, and absolutely unwelcoming. There seemed to be an unnecessary amount of dust and strip malls and thorny plants. But Terri Windling lived there, and Terri was my partner Ellen Kushner’s best friend and was becoming one of mine, and I loved the dry, warm fall and the sunsets and the conversation, so we kept going back.

I didn’t know, at first, that Terri was writing a desert book. Terri doesn’t talk about her fiction much—she’s reticent about her stories until they’re complete. This one, I found out later, had been meant to be the final volume of a series of novellas based on Brian Froud’s fairy paintings. When the publisher decided that the time was not yet ripe for stand-alone novellas, Terri’s sketch-draft was free to grow into the subtle, complex novel the desert demanded.

In the meantime, everything in Terri’s life reflected her love of this beautiful, demanding, uplifting country. The walls of her house were hung with paintings and sketches of the beauty she’d found in what seemed to be a barren land—not landscapes, but soulscapes, alive with spirits of tree and plant, animal and bird. She painted women with branching hair or drooping rabbit’s ears, troops of children with feet like birds and wings hanging in tatters from their shoulders, narrow-faced men with long black hair who reminded me of birds or animals or wind or the occasional desert storms of pelting rain that drummed on the roof of the camper we slept in when we visited. Journey by journey, image by image, they persuaded me that the Sonoran desert was not only beautiful, but very much alive.

In The Wood Wife, Terri gives her images voice and movement: they not only are, they act. If the desert is a study in contradictions and interdependencies, where heat and poisonous snakes and flash floods are inseparable from the clarity of the air and the glory of the

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