In case you’re wondering why I titled this post the way I did, it’s because this book is a perfect gateway drug into heroic fantasy. All of the stories are well written and fast-moving, and with the exception of a couple that simply weren’t to my taste, I enjoyed every single one of them. I’d like to thank Baen Books for the review copy.
There are seventeen stories here, so I’m not going to give a summary of each one. I’m gong to focus on the ones that stood out to me. Those of you who’ve read my reviews for a while know how my tastes stack up against yours, so even if we don’t always like the same things, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect from Shattered Shields.
One of the reasons I picked the title for this post is that a number of these stories are set in established series. Some were labeled as such, while others seem to be part of a larger story based on their structure and the way a few of them ended. What that means is that I’m going to be picking up some new series over the next few months.
The first new series is one from Larry Correia. I’m not sure what the name of series will be. I don’t recall seeing it anywhere, but “Keeper of Names” is the first installment in that series, sort of a taste to whet our appetites. It’s the tale of a man who leads a failed rebellion. It’s obvious that there’s more going on than he knows and some history his people have forgotten. This looks like an interesting world to explore.
“Invictus” by Annie Bellet is a tense nautical fantasy full of scheming and swashbuckling. It also seems to be part of a series. Or at least the ending certainly leaves an opening for a continuation of the story here.
Sarah A. Hoyt takes us to an alternate World War I, one in which the Baron von Richthofen is a red dragon, in “Rising Above”. This was a great idea that had great execution. I’d like to read more in this universe.
I’m not familiar with Joseph Zieja, but I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more of his work. “A Cup of Wisdom” is the story of the son of a general who, on the eve of his first battle, is ready to lay waste to the enemy. That is, until his father has him drink a potion that causes him to experience the final moments of great leaders on both sides of the war. One section opens with the line : “I ran into battle only because there was an army running behind me and stopping would have meant being trampled.” Critics of heroic fantasy say the genre lacks depth. The next time you here someone say something stupid like that, point them to this story. There’s a lot of depth here.
Wendy N. Wagner is another relatively new author, but if this story is any indication, she’s going to be around for a while. “Words of Power” is about warfare using golems. It’s another that feels like it’s part of a series. I certainly hope so. What the author shows us of the magic system behind the golems is intriguing and well-thought out.
John R. Fultz takes a minstrel and puts him in the thick of a battle in “Yael of the Strings”. Here we see that being a hero is often being in the right place at the right time and having the courage to do the right thing. This is another story that had intriguing hints about the magic. And the attack of the tarantulas was great.
Not everything that happens on a battlefield happens during the battle. There’s a lot that goes on after the fighting is over. In “The Gleaners”, Dave Gross shows us just how dark some of those goings-on can be. Again, this one has got to be part of a series. At least I hope so. That ending is really creepy, and I want more.
The anthology closes out with what are probably two of the biggest names in fantasy, Glen Cook and Elizabeth Moon. (No, not a collaboration. But how cool would that be?) Both stories are top-notch, and both are parts of series. As good as they are, though, some of the newcomers are just as good.
Cook’s tale is another installment in the annals of The Black Company with “Bone Candy”. I’m not current on the series (don’t’ judge me), so it took me a minute to put things in context. But this is a solid tale, with the subtlety and layers you would expect from Glen Cook. It’s been years since I read one of the Black Company novels, and it reminded me that I need to get back to them.
Elizabeth Moon shows us an adventure of a son of a noble house who is on his first assignment as a squire in “First Blood”. Before it’s over, he’ll be tried in battles of both wits and weapons. The themes of duty and honor are strong in this story. Like “Bone Candy”, “FirstBlood” reminded that I need to get current on this series.
Those were my favorites. Since your tastes are different than mine, YMMV. Regardless of which stories you like the most, you’ll have fun with this book. And if you’re like me, you’ll want more when you’re done. I highly recommend Shattered Shields. It’s one of the most solid anthologies I’ve read this year. I’m hoping for a followup volume. Please, Toni?