Sunday, November 22, 2020

Knaves: A Blackguards Anthology


Knaves is (by my count) the third anthology in a series of anti-heros, blackguards, and scoundrels. Released 1st Oct 2018 by Outland Entertainment, it's 287 pages and available in trade paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

One reason I prefer collections and anthologies is that short fiction is really challenging.  It's spare and the author doesn't have a wealth of wordage to develop characters or the plotting.  Well written short fiction is a delight. I also love collections because if one story doesn't really grab me, there's another story just a few pages away.  These 14 stories were a mixed bag; there were some standouts, a few middle-of-the-road, and only one I wasn't engaged enough to finish. I read it more or less cover to cover, which is unusual with me for anthologies; I generally hop around. 

I picked up this title because of my familiarity with some of the contributors (Mercedes Lackey, Cat Rambo, Anton Strout and others - at least 75% of them will be familiar to most readers of SF/F). I was surprised to find that the stories which really engaged me and kept me enthralled were from the authors with whom I hadn't developed a previous reading relationship. It's always wonderful to find authors to follow, and for this reason alone, this was a useful reading pick. 

A short search online leads me to believe that these are all previously unpublished stories. The publisher and other reviewers have provided better précis than I could. I will say that a couple of the high points of this collection for me, personally, were ones which I saw panned by other reviewers (Old Sol Rises Up, as one example).  

It's an entertaining and worthwhile collection. I'm fascinated (and happy) to find that it was a kickstarter project. I have been admittedly worried about the future of indie publishing given the current world situation and knowing that really top shelf fiction can successfully be crowdsourced is reassuring. 

Four strong stars, several 4.5 - 5 star stories here.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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