One of the reasons I like anthologies and collections is that they're often full of new-to-me authors for further reading. Another is that often with fantasy collections, there are tie-in stories giving background or side stories for my favorite characters or set in well-loved universes. Third, they're usually a fairly mixed bag and if there's a story which doesn't appeal to me right there and then, there's always another one available without a huge time investment. This collection's no exception.
The quality of the stories is very high. They are well written, varied, well curated stories, and all have at least a hint of romance(and/or danger) and fantasy. Of the 13 included stories, most were from authors familiar to me. As far as I can see, all the stories are new and published for the first time in this anthology.
The complete table of contents and authors list is copied from the publisher website and included below.
|At the Sign of the Crow and Quill||Marie Brennan|
|On the Peacock Path||Judith Tarr|
|Sunset Games||Robin Wayne Bailey|
|Sorcery of the Heart||Lawrence Watt-Evans|
|The Butcher’s Boy and the Piri Folk||Pat MacEwen|
|Gifts Tell Truth||Heather Rose Jones|
|A Sword for Liberty||Diana L. Paxson|
|Hearts of Broken Glass||Rosemary Edghill|
|The Game of Lions||Marella Sands|
|The Sharpest Cut||Doranna Durgin|
|Pawn's Queen||India Edghill|
|The Heart's Coda||Carol Berg|
|The Wind's Kiss||Dave Smeds|
For me, selecting three standout stories was pretty difficult, they're all entertaining and engaging. In the end, I chose the following three:
Sunset Games - Robin Wayne Bailey
Parisian vampire vs. master thief and woman of mystery - sexy and a really superlative use of dramatic tension. While I was reading the story, I was not sure what I wanted to happen. It's a very taut and extremely spare narrative.
The Butcher's Boy and the Piri Folk - Pat MacEwan
I really loved this one. It's witty and fun and serious by turns. I love the message; it's what's inside a person that makes them truly great and not what's on the outside. I also love English civil war fiction. Additionally this is a really well written story and at 21 pages, a lovely diverting length for one sitting.
The Heart's Coda - Carol Berg
I love dragons, always have and always will. This is a breathtaking story about traumatized dragons (PTSD) and the bard who has the ability to sing them whole again. I actually teared up reading this story. It's only 36 pages, but it felt much longer (in a GOOD way). I intend to chase down Song of the Beast by the author, set in the same universe as soon as I can. Really lovely story.
284 pages, Ebook format.
Release date: 14th February 2018
Available for pre-order now (rrp $6.99)
Four and a half stars
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.