Anthology Thursday is a series of posts breaking down and reviewing an anthology every month. Because I need to read more short fiction. This month is The Sword & Sorcery Anthology edited by David G. Hartwell & Jacob Weisman.
Terrifying barbarians, cunning mages, and daring heroes run rampant through these exceptional examples of the exciting sword and sorcery genre. In “Tower of the Elephant,” Conan takes up jewel thievery but proves to be far better with his sword. “The Flame Bringers” finds antihero Elric infiltrating a band of bloodthirsty mercenaries and outwitting a powerful sorcerer. “Become a Warrior” is the unexpected tale of a child who loses all she holds dear, only to gain unforeseen power and unlikely revenge. Further entries come from early legends such as Jack Vance and Catherine Louise Moore, the next wave of talents including Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock, and modern trendsetters like George R.R. Martin, Karl Edward Wagner, and David Drake. This essential, fast-paced anthology is a chronological gathering of influential, inventive, and entertaining fantasy—sure to appeal to action-oriented fans.
The Tower of the Elephant by Robert E. Howard
Brief synopsis: Conan will scale the walls of the Elephant Tower and attempt to steal the fabled gem at it’s heart.
Firstly, I had no idea that Conan was considered Sword & Sorcery let alone that it basically defined the genre. I also didn’t realize Conan was historical fantasy instead of high fantasy. The things you learn when you step outside your comfort zone.
This short had a lot that I really liked and it’s was clear that the author is extremely skilled in writing short fiction. In a handful of paragraphs I felt steeped in the world, a handful more and Conan was a real person with depths waiting to be revealed. The ending felt abrupt but the story had been told so there wasn’t any reason to continue.
Black God’s Kiss by C. L. Moore
Brief synopsis: Jirel, the lady of Joiry, will seek a weapon capable of killing the conqueror of her land…..even if she must travel beyond Hell.
Wow…..That was a wild journey. Not really my kind of story but I can appreciate it for what it is. I picked up on somethings that ended up happening but I was hoping for a different ending. Still, the journey “beyond hell” was stark and twisted in unexpected ways.
The Unholy Grail by Fritz Leiber
Brief synopsis: Wizard apprentice Mouse returns after a successful quest to find his master slain by the nearby Duke Janarrl.
I did not like this one at all. I thought the characters and plot were flat. The flowery language didn’t really convey the story. It also lacked any sort of hooks for me when it came to the setting. I didn’t care about the world or the magic. It also switched POV between three different characters that could have been done with just two easily and just one would have helped keep it focused.
The Tale of Hauk by Poul Anderson
Brief synopsis: A viking tale of family….and all that goes with it.
I can’t say that I’m particularly fond of the style that this is written in. It’s a touch to expositional for my taste but it worked for me. Something about it fit the setting and plot and almost enhanced them. A larger story would have floundered under this style but for this short work it did well.