Sunday, January 9, 2011

Swords and Dark Magic (2)

I just finished "Swords & Dark Magic" an anthology of sword and sorcery stories edited by Johnathan Stroud and Lou Anders. It contains 16 short stories by various authors and a new Elric novella by Michael Moorcock and it does not disappoint. Contributing authors include; Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, Gene Wolfe, James Enge, C. J. Cherryh, K.J. Parker, Garth Nix, Michael Moorcock, Tim Lebbon, Robert Silverberg, Greg Keyes, Michael Shea, Scott Lynch, Tanith Lee, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Bill Willingham and Joe Abercrombie.

Not surprisingly, I bought it in anticipation of the Caitlin Kiernan story; "The Sea Troll's Daughter" and was surprised when it was not my favorite story in the anthology. C.R.K. is probably my favorite living author and I enjoyed her contribution very much. I think the real surprise was that the story I liked best was Mr. Moorcock's; "Red Pearls:an Elric Story." I have never had any especial fondness for Moorcock's writing and never made it through even the the first of the Elric books, but Red Pearls was a beautifully wrought tale that pulled me straight in and kept me captive till the end. The Sea Troll's daughter was a close second, being the story of a heroine who tries to claim a reward for ridding a town of a menacing monster but finds herself in a kind of stalemate with the town leaders because she did not have proof of the kill. As always, Ms. Kiernan's words evoke a real and gritty sense of the rather bleak town where her tale takes place. Her heroine is also real; flawed and sometimes less than heroic, she is a character I would gladly read more about.

For Biliophiles like myself, lovers of books old and new, "In The Stacks" by Scott Lynch is another excellent story. It concerns the library at a magical college and the quest of a small group of students facing the most harrowing test thus far in the whole of their studies; they must return a library book. The library is full of grimoires; the journals of wizards, and over the centuries the accumulated magics have turned the library into something of a dangerous jungle filled with hazards I found both novel and clever. I highly recommend it.

There are too many tales for me to comment on all of them, but I think that anyone interested in fantasy will find something to their liking. There is enough variety here that it was hard to put down and it was certainly never boring. Available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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