There’s something to be said for an anthology from a bunch of authors I like which includes a bunch or stories that (more or less) introduce you to the author’s writing style, or (perhaps a little ‘and’) the worlds they have created.
So, of course, when I was offered a copy of this a bit early, I happily accepted. Who wouldn’t? 😀
Hidden pasts. Secrets untold. Legends half-remembered. Fifteen fantasy writers gather to bring fifteen tales to life, each one a unique glimpse into a wholly original world.
On the Emerald Road, a dead Sage triggers a brutal trial beneath the forest floor. There, a young man must fight—and kill—both friends and enemies to become the next wielder of the fabled Emerald Blade.
In Midgard, a priestess of humble birth forges a strange bond with an ancient being as she searches for justice in a land that often rewards cruelty, betrayal, and bloodshed.
And in the Yarnsworld, the Magpie King teaches two brothers a dangerous lesson about the power of stories. Sticks and stones may indeed break bones . . . but they cannot hurt the Bramble Man.
In worlds ravaged by flood, fire, and frost, mere mortals strive to make their own legends amidst demons and deities alike. And in lands racked with human strife—where evil endures and no one is ever safe—scarred heroes fight forces even darker than their own personal demons.
Why do they fight?
Some seek to better the world, or themselves. Others are out to right old wrongs. But whatever their goal – reward, redemption, or just respite – the truth will out eventually. For no story is ever truly lost so long as there exists one to tell it.
‘Every fantasy world sits icebergian (yes that’s a word) upon a hidden nine tenths lurking below the waterline, a history that the reader sees only as hints. This hidden lore, replete with its own stories, mythology, lies, feuds, and vendettas, can be wholly real as in the case of the great JRR Tolkien, where endless notebooks heavily outweigh the final manuscript. Or it can be imagined, just as the scenery in many films extends no further than a facade supported by canvas and wood.’
I’d say it’s not often that I find an anthology in which I like every story presented, or at least not dislike any of them, but I find that this is happening more and more as of late. I don’t know if it’s the books that’ve changed or if I’m just making better reading decisions. I mean in the last two cases, it were books that were given to me (that I would have read either way), so maybe it’s a bit of both?
I’ll take it!
So, I once again really liked 99.9% of this anthology, which is rare (but not, I guess?) for me. It was a really great blend of different kinds of stories, and some are darker than others. Some are funnier than others.
Anyways, here are a few favorites of mine from the anthology:
No Fairytale by Ben Galley – This is an introduction to his Emaneska series. It’s the story of a young girl named Hereni who has recently found that she’s got magic powers. She wakes one night to disaster striking her family, and is then saved by another group of magic users, led by a man named Farden, who bring her to their enclave. It was a really well written bit of story, and I’m definitely going to check out the Emaneska series in the future!
And They Were Never Heard From Again by Benedict Patrick – This was a fantastic story to bring someone into the Yarnsworld. It takes place in the forest of They Mostly Come Out at Night, and as such, is pretty dark and creepy. It follows brothers Felton and Tad as they get caught outside after dark, and shows just exactly what harm spinning yarns in the Yarnsworld will bring.
A Tree Called Sightless by Steven Kelliher – This is, more or less, a bit of the background on how the Emerald Blade became the Emerald Blade. It follows some characters from the second book of the Landkist series, primary Maro, the greatest warrior of the Emerald Road, but don’t worry anyone, it doesn’t spoil anything from any of the books in the series. It fleshes out a little bit of background for one of the characters in a way that leaves the main plot well enough alone. Well done!
Into the Woods by Timandra Whitecastle – This story brought to mind all kinds of folktales. Everything from Red Riding Hood to Sleeping Beauty and more. It follows Jalena, who has just ‘become a woman,’ as she visits her grandmother, who tells her a story of a man who ran away from his life into the woods and had a very interesting adventure. This story was riveting, often kind of creepy, and felt very ‘old world,’ if that makes sense, while still seeming to take place in the same world as The Living Blade series.
Paternus: Deluge by Dyrk Ashton – Paternus is a mixture of many mythologies, which is something I have always loved about it. In this universe (and ours, too, but maybe in a different fashion) there are a few large events that happen to and surrounding the Firstborn, usually along the line of an extinction event. Things like the great Flood and Ragnarok and so on. This is the story of one of those (guess which, lol), which follows the story of Fintán mac Bochra, the man who, so the stories say, brought Noah’s granddaughter to Ireland before the flood, and survived it by becoming a salmon. This story has a lot of good imagery. I’ve recently learned what it’s actually like to run from a flood, and this one made me feel like I was there (though I don’t mean this in a bad way).
I, Kane by Laura M. Hughes – What a fantastic little bit of story this is! It is the transcribed notes of one Diabolos Kane, Senior Elder One, Bane of Wizards (and lizards), et cetera, scribed word for word just as he spoke them. He’s clearly a being from a higher plane of existence than humans, but he is among them, just after WWII, being interrogated by one. This story is hilarious at times, and was really unique! It also went from 0 to ‘well, that just happened’ very quickly. 10/10
The Prisoner by Phil Tucker – A short story (shortest in the whole anthology, but that’s not a criticism – it’s exactly as long as it needs to be) that introduces the reader to the world of the Chronicles of the Black Gate. A young Enderl Kyferin is at his first battle, leading his first regiment, and it’s not really going how he thought it would. This is a really interesting look at one of the (probably many) factors that made Enderl the character we all know and love.
Palesword by T.L. Greylock – It started out a little slowly for me, and I wasn’t sure where it was going, but suddenly I was like ‘FUCK YEAH EYJA!’ and the rest of it was literally just me cheering for her. This was a great introduction to T.L. Greylock’s Midgard, which seems to me, a lover of most things Norse mythology, to be pretty damn entertaining while staying pretty close to what folklore tells us. The ending of this bit of story was fantastic. This story was only about 20 or so minutes of me sitting there reading it, but my emotions went from meh, to outrage, to cheering, to more outrage to more cheering. 10/10, would emote to again.
The First Thread by Alec Hutson – Wow this story was awesome! I don’t know what I really expected going in. I haven’t ever read any of Alec Hutson’s work. I have one on the kindle waiting to go, and I know it’s a finalist in this year’s SPFBO, but that’s all I knew going in. This is the story of a girl from the steppes who is now an imperial consort in the Shen empire. She befriends the prince, and together they go watch a ritual performed by the imperial warlocks that is… not what they expected. And the consequence of the ritual is doubly unexpected. My eyes were riveted to this story from beginning to end, so it’s pretty clear that The Crimson Queen is in my near future!
A really good anthology for exploring some really, really cool worlds! The best part is that it’s free!