Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery (Paperback)
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Short Description for Swords & Dark Magic A truly breathtaking new anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, Swords & Dark Magic offers stunning new tales of sword and sorcery action, romance, and dark adventure written by some of the most respected, bestselling fantasy writers working today--from Joe Abercrombie to Gene Wolfe. An all-new Elric novella from the legendary Michael Moorcock and a new visit to Majipoor courtesy
- Published: 22 June 2010
- Format: Paperback 522 pages
- ISBN 13: 9780061723810 ISBN 10: 0061723819
- Sales rank: 55,164
Reviews for Swords & Dark Magic
An anthology that contains new stories by a very impressive array of fantasy greats. Amongst the seventeen authors there are the well established legends like Michael Moorcock (Elric, amongst so much else), Glen Cook (creator of the Black Company) and Gene Wolfe (the New Sun series); and then there are the newer shining lights: Steven Erikson (the Malazan epic), Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastards series) and Joe Abercrombie (the First Law trilogy). Surely only the likes of GRRM or LeGuin could add further kudos to this heavyweight line up?
But what of the stores? Well, invariably, in any collection like this some of the stories are better than others. The two stand outs for me were Lynch's, In The Stacks, and Tim Lebbon's, The Deification of Dal Bamore (which, were it not for its slightly disappointing "twist" ending, might have been the best of the lot). Both were very well written and it felt like the authors had a real understanding of the short story format.
Some of the major authors here do themselves proud. Moorcock's new Elric tale, Red Pearls, is very good and one of the better stories featuring the albino. Erikson's story, the collection's opener, Goats of Glory, is good too. If the story had been a bit longer, with the suspense played out a bit longer at the start, it would have stood alongside Lynch and Lebbon's efforts.
I'm a huge fan of the Black Company but I had to say that Cook's tale was slightly disappointing. The writing was fine and it was nice to see old characters again but... I was actually hoping for a slightly more original episode from the Company's history, something which didn't involve one of the Taken again, for a change. Similarly, I'm a big admirer of Abercrombie - the First Law trilogy is the best modern fantasy series I've read in years (since ASOIAF was begun). Abercrombie's tale here, The Fool Jobs, set in the North of the First Law's fictional world, is a minor let down. It's well written but it feels a little inconsequential TBH. It could either have done with some established characters or visiting a part of the First Law's world that we haven't seen yet (perhaps the Gurkish lands?). I haven't read Gene Wolfe, I have to admit, but I can't say Bloodsport blew me away. It's a nice idea but it felt somewhat rushed.
There were only two other stories I'd consider above average - Garth Nix's, A Suitable Present For A Sorcerous Puppet, (just an all round well crafted short story) and Robert Silberberg's, Dark Times At The Midnight Market, which had a nice lightness of tone and story compared to most other stories in this collection.
The rest of the entries in this anthology were fairly average, some better than others, but I won't go into detail on them as they're much of a muchness IMO.
There were two that I thought considerably weaker than the rest - Greg Keyes' The Undefiled (an okay story but the style of writing was off-putting) and Hew the Tintmaster by Michael Shea (a not too brilliant adventure which perhaps felt like it should have been a more developed full length rather than a short story).
So, a couple of very good shorts, a couple of poor ones, and then a load in between. Hence, my middle of the road rating. I think this is a worthwhile collection to buy, as the decent / good far outweighs the bad, and it's nice to see fantasy authors try their hand at short stories rather than the usual multi-volume epics. Just expect things to be a bit patchy. by DRFPunder review
- Top review
The premier hard fantasy anthology of 2010
Erikson, Cook, Lynch, Abercrombie. Throw in some Michael Moorcock Elric, and Robert Silverberg's Majipoor. K.J. Parker and a whole pile of others also appear. Out of the 17 authors who have written for this anthology, there are bound to be a number whose work you love. The only other recent anthology that comes close is Warriors, and I think Swords & Dark Magic shades it for consistency.
The volume is dedicated to RE Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock. That tells you a lot about the kind of fantasy you are getting here: this isn't David Eddings or Shannara.
I'll only touch on the high(est) points here, and say I did enjoy every story: that's rare for an anthology, and especially a multi-author one. There are no weak links, and after reading this I am minded to give a number of these authors I'd not read before a closer look.
The opening story is by Erikson, The Goats of Glory. It's good - kind of like Aliens, if the Marines were actually prepared for what they were in for.
Glen Cook then gives us a tale of the early days of the Black Company, with Croaker, One-Eye, Goblin and co in fine form. It's not "new" in the sense that a lot happens to these characters after the story is told, at least for those of us who have read the Black Company novels, but that just adds poignancy.
"Red Pearls" is an Elric tale - set at which point in Elric's adventures I am not exactly sure - which was surprisingly good, as I had not read Moorcock in 20 years and wondered how he would hold up to "adult" eyes. It shows up something new of Elric's world, which is a little disturbing when you think about it, but romps along merrily on the way there.
At first, I was disappointed Scott Lynch's tale was not a Gentleman Bastards short story. About 30 seconds later, I was glad he chose to tell the story he did: a small group of apprentice wizards venturing into a living - but not wholly sentient - library to return books. The vocabures were as new and frightening a monster as I ever read - not just Tolkien's orcs by another name.
Finally, Abercrombie gave us a brief look at a mercenary band of Northmen on a job - practical, hard and ruthless. Apparently this is related to his upcoming novel "Heroes", which is nice.
This is an excellent collection, not be missed. by John Middleton