|Submitted by Helen Kerslake |
(Jan 27, 2005)
The idea of collecting various short stories by different fantasy writers and putting them together in one book excited me as an avid reader of this genre. I recognised many of the authors who contributed to this book and looked forward to reading new stories based around the worlds I was already familiar with. I was greatly disappointed with the stories in general and think that these writers should stick to writing the brilliant novels for which they are famous for. In fact, the only reason I finished reading the entire book was because I wished to remain fair to each writer as an individual, and therefore approached each new chapter with an open mind only to discover yet another poorly written short story.
The main criticism I would offer is that the stories were not complete enough in their own right. As short stories they needed to have a clear plot and resolution, but I could not discover any such plot and the endings were premature or non-existent. I appreciate that these stories are based on worlds which already exist and must retain some sense of consistency in relation to novels which have been published in the past, but I believe the authors could have found much more interesting areas/characters to write about. If you are unfamiliar with the ‘mother’ series of books of each short story you will find it extremely difficult to understand and unsatisfying to read.
Having said all that, there were a few enjoyable parts to the book. The first story by Robin Hobb was interesting as it offered a new perspective on the ‘Rain Wilds’, a region of hardship and peculiar people which is featured heavily in the ‘Liveship Trader’ series of books. Initially I found the story difficult to read as it was written in the format of a personal diary and was unsure whether this was the best way of getting the story across, but the daily entries quickly settled into a flowing script and was highly effective at getting the reader involved emotionally on a one-to-one level. It was just a shame that there was no real focal point and the story ended up being just another piece of history to support other events.
George Martin’s story ‘The Hedge Knight’ had some original twists in it which had me laughing and cringing – a great start. The author is well-known for creating cleverly written, complex characters and he has retained this ability even though he did not have the pleasure of endless pages. Raymond E Feist’s story about ‘The Messenger’ was probably the only one which came close to fulfilling the guidelines of a short story. I think that the reason why he succeeded where all the other writers failed was because he limited the amount of previous knowledge needed in order to understand the story. While I may have enjoyed this brief piece of literature slightly more for having read other books in the ‘Riftwar Saga’, I am sure that any fan of fantasy/action will love reading this tale. There is plenty of action and vividly described chase scenes which create heart-in-throat moments, and we learn just enough about the character to understand the choices he makes and to relate to him when in danger.
Overall, this collection of short-stories by the ‘great’ fantasy writers of the modern world was a letdown. I think that someone should take another stab at creating a collection of short fantasy novels, as the majority of fantasy books available at the moment are lengthy volumes and sometimes I, and I’m sure other readers, crave just a slice of entertainment. However, perhaps the writers should give more consideration to the plot of their story rather than it being a small chain link left to function on its own.