Called to Battle, vol. 1
No editor credited
Skull Island Expeditions
The Iron Kingdoms is fast becoming one of my favorite fantasy worlds. Eschewing the traditional medieval milieu for a steam-powered industrial setting, The Iron Kingdoms is a fresh take on military fantasy. This collection of four novellas is a good example why that is.
“Heartfire” by Howard Tayler concerns a group of soldiers taking some new warjacks to the front. The new design seems to be having trouble, more trouble than would be expected. It seems there’s a saboteur in their midst. It’s up to the captain in charge to ferret out the traitor.
This one was a good introduction to the type of combat that occurs in The Iron Kingdoms. It also introduced a set of characters who were at once sympathetic and somewhat flawed. The fact that this story didn’t have an entirely happy ending added to its impact.
Larry Correia is an expert on firearms, and his brings that expertise to bear in “Destiny of a Bullet”, the tale of a sniper who has been hired to take down a mage. Much of what snipers do is wait, and it takes a skilled writer to make waiting interesting, never mind suspenseful. Correia handles it masterfully. This was probably my favorite.
Erik Scott de Bie puts a mage hunter in the position of having to team up with the mage he’s hunting in order to combat a greater threat in “Judgment”. The balance between character and action in this one was nicely done. The mage hunter has to confront his preconceptions of mages and reevaluate what lines he’s willing to cross in order to accomplish his mission, and I found this raised the story above a standard action piece.
“Under the Shadow” by Orrin Grey tells the tale of a ship that’s highjacked single-handedly by a member of one of the most deadly races in this world. The bleakest tale in the book, I found this one chilling. That’s a good thing. I’ve always felt that the best fantasy is infused with an element of horror. This story has it.
Called to Battle is a short volume, just over 100 pages, but it’s a great read. If you’ve not read anything from Privateer Press before, this is a good place to start. I’d like to thank Simon Berman at Privateer Press for the review copy.