“From now on, if you wanted to tell those kinds of stories, you were going to have to have to do it in fantasy.”
— Gardner Dozois, The Book of Swords
I’ve always thought that short stories were so much more harder for authors to nail. To be able to compress a whole narrative within 30 to 100 pages seemed like a task only a God could manage. Only a few authors are able to find an idea, foreshadow it and deliver a stunning ending that will make you realize just how clever those last couple of pages were. In fact, being able to deliver a clever narrative is what I also look for in all my stories, whether they are long or short. The Book of Swords is my first venture into the world of anthologies and I can tell you all that this was such a splendid experience. I won’t be reviewing each story one by one—which would be a bloody crazy idea with the number of authors featured and the number of things I might or might not be able to say about them—but this compilation of short stories was a fantastic break of the usual long and traditional literature that I’m used to embrace. I’m pretty glad to have read this one as it opened me to the idea of always having an anthology, or even short stories, ready on my bookshelves to pick up whenever I’m looking for something short and sweet to indulge.
One of the biggest reasons why I made this new release my first anthology lies in the featured authors. Over the past years I’ve been adding books to my list left and right with a crazy desire to read them all as soon as possible. A lot of the authors I’d add would have had written at least one major title or series that had gained a huge fan base and a lot of attention by readers. Thanks to Gardner Dozois, I was able to have my first glimpse into the writing style of so many of those authors I’ve always wanted to check out. Without naming them all, authors like Robin Hobb, Garth Nix and even George R.R. Martin were some of the writers that I was simply excited to check out. Yes, as unusual as it may be, George R.R. Martin’s short story The Songs of the Dragon is my first look at what he was all about. But the best part of this anthology isn’t just that it had some amazing writers in it, but because it made me discover some authors that I hadn’t heard of before. Gardner Dozois, the editor behind this anthology, starts every short story off by giving us a short and sweet biography of the authors and their most-known books and this really helped me increase my list of books to read exponentially. Thank you, Gardner Dozois.
The Book of Swords is a return in force of a genre that had died down over the years that used to be called “Sword & Sorcery”. Essentially it refers to a fantasy subgenre that features swords, action and a little bit of magic and romance. In Gardner Dozois introduction he does an interesting overlook of how fantasy evolved ever since he first discovered “Sword & Sorcery” as a kid and reflects on the influence of some of the huge players of the game, notably J.R.R. Tolkien. Throughout these 12 stories, you’ll often run across a sword in some shape or form that’ll play a pretty important role. Each author brings forth an interesting twist to how they convey their story. But as you’d expect from a lot of anthologies, there are fantastic stories and there are dull stories. I’ve come across a couple of them where the characters felt like cardboard character and others that simply had no personality to them. Other stories delivered a richly developed world oozing with details, while others were much character-oriented and focused on their development within the short amount of time. It’s this possibility of exploring so many different styles and ways to tell a story within one book that made this anthology that much fascinating for me.
It’s probably hard to tell anyone if this is worth purchasing or not since my own experience with anthologies resumes to this volume. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed The Book of Swords and would recommend any fantasy lovers to pick it up to explore new authors or to get an extra dose of their favourite authors creativity. Some of these stories are even set in their author’s favourite worlds. While publicity-wise the book relies on the fact that there’s a Game of Thrones story that’s included in it (one that felt more like a filler than a must-read), it ain’t so bad considering that you get to read from authors like Robin Hobb and Scott Lynch (the latter being an author I absolutely love for his Gentleman Bastard’s series). Honestly, this anthology felt like a cheat meal by giving us this hugely assorted meals in a buffet style where you don’t even need to read the stories in a particular order. I guess this anthology simply served as an excellent beginning to my adventures in the world of short stories. Fans of any of these authors who are just twiddling their thumbs until their author’s next big release will find comfort in The Book of Swords. What are you waiting for?
THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★☆/