A lot of fantasy books are large tomes that are read and savored like fine wines on a long summer holiday. So when you open a book of fantasy short stories it feels like you are doing the fantasy-reader’s equivalent of taking vodka shots at a party. You’re having a night of fun and meeting lots of new people. Some of those people aren’t that interesting, but some of them are brilliant. And that’s perfectly okay because you only have to talk to each person for a wee bit, and then you can move on until you find someone you connect with and can form a long-term friendship with.
Generally speaking, The Book of Swords is an excellent collection of short stories and I highly recommend it. It certainly has a stellar line-up of authors. For the sake of keeping this review short and sweet I have decided to write about the best bits – those people from the party whose numbers you kept. Minor spoilers may or may not be included.
The Best Man Wins by K. J. Parker
This is a story about a dude making a sword with a bit of a twist at the end. There are glimpses of a gritty war-torn world and an impressive amount of character building within the 30 pages or so. The writing itself is truly excellent and I will definitely be looking to pick up some of his other works once I’ve made a dent in my ceiling-high TBR pile.
The Hidden Girl by Ken Liu
With ancient China as a back-drop, a young girl is taken from her home and is trained to be an assassin that can travel in a different dimension and rip holes in reality. An internal moral conflict leads her to turn and face-off against her fellow assassins and defend the very man she was sent to kill. This story was utterly exceptional. I liked it so much I bought Liu’s first book in his epic fantasy series called The Grace of Kings. I get the feeling this will be the beginning of a great friendship.
The Smoke of Gold is Glory by Scott Lynch
I may be a tad biased with this one given that Lynch is one of my all time favorite authors. I’m still pretty sure this story is objectively awesome. A thief and a group of old pals climb a mountain to steal a generation’s wealth horded by a mighty dragon. It’s kind of like the witty gritty comedy version of The Hobbit… it’s amazing.
Honorable mentions include A Long, Cold Trail, The King’s Evil, and The Mocking Tower. To be honest though, while some are better than others, there are no bad apples. Every story in this collection is worth a read.
What were your favorite stories from this collection? Have you read other books by these authors that you liked or disliked?