Twelve takes on ‘fantasy’ as individual as the authors.
Not every story was to my personal taste, although all were interesting enough to keep me reading to the end.
I found myself with three favourites:
It’s Always Sunny at The Fortress of Bones by Jaleta Clegg is a whimsical take on the forbidden castle trope – I have to admit quite a fondness for the fate of the hapless hero.
The Rogue of Averrath by Tom Jolly pits wits against magic in a hugely enjoyable way.
Out of the Dust by Leo McBride: what happens when danger walks out of a sandstorm?
This book is genuinely recommended to anyone who enjoys either fantasy and/or short fiction
A solid four stars.
This is an excellent collection of stories from that pedigree stable of speculative fiction, Inklings Press. It is – to use a cliche – a smorgasbord, offering a variety of tasty excursions into diverse worlds, such as the richly described and peopled one of Jeanette O’Hagan’s Wolf Scout, and creative concepts – such as the powers of the magical sword in Rob Edward’s Virtue’s Blade.
Tropes were overturned. Dramatically, as in Brent Harris’ chosen one of prophecy dying in the opening paragraph of The Heroine’s Journey or more humorously as with the sorcerer’s apprentice trope in Tara. E. Woods’ brilliantly delightful Chanter.
Whilst I found the conceptual creativity and worldbuilding consistently superb – new worlds unfolding like origami flowers – in a few of the stories the way characters interacted and reacted to those worlds, didn’t always quite gel. On more than one ocassion I felt a character seemed to be shoe-horned into their actions to serve the plot rather than them flowing from the context. But this was a minor irritation and little distraction from the overall excellence of the whole.
My personal favourites were:
The Fearsome Lambton Worm by Kerry Buchanan. Alright, I admit it, I live in Lambton Worm land and love the song so I was already half-sold by the name of the story. But that prejudice aside, its understated and quirky humour and the unexpected ending really worked for me.
Out of the Dust by Leo McBride. This is a story that feels like it is a scene from a full-blown epic that yet can stand alone. It leaves the reader with more questions than it answers for them and desperately hoping that the world created has more within it for further reading than just this one passing glimpse.
Asherah’s Pilgrimage by Ricardo Victoria. A story that has high-stakes and drama, personal courage and friendship, action and introspection, humour and pathos. For me, it captures the essence of what it is to be an individual overcoming their own limitations to achieve something that really matters.
The other stories in this anthology were all worth reading, just those stood out for me as the ones I most enjoyed. But in any such collection, everyone will have their favourites and I strongly suggest you snag a copy and see which ones are yours.