Overall Rating of the Anthology: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
When Shawn Speakman fell seriously ill with cancer and was unable to pay his medical bills, he asked his friends to help out with a story. This is the anthology that resulted from it, with the proceeds going towards paying those bills.
Imaginary Friends – Terry Brooks
Jack McCall has just been diagnosed with leukemia and he can hardly understand it. He is only thirteen, after all, too young to die. This is when he things of his old friend Pick, an Elf that lives in the woods behind his house.
This story was just okay. The world was not very interesting and everything was resolved just too neatly and with what felt like very little effort.
How Old Holly Came to Be – Patrick Rothfuss
There’s a holly growing close to a tower and a lady that sings to it.
I’m gonna be honest here, I’m not sure I understood the story. A holly falls in love with a woman I guess? And defends her from some unspecified enemies? It was a lousy story and I didn’t like the style at all.
There was warm sun, which was good. There were climbing vines, which were bad. There was wind, which was neither. It merely made leaves turn and branches sway.
The Old Scale Game – Tad Williams
Sir Belvik is a retired monster-hunter, driven out of his retirement due to lack of funds. But instead of fighting the dragon Guldhogg, he proposes a congame.
This story was great. It was funny and the characters were amazing. I loved the relationship between the dragon and the grumpy old knight.
Game of Chance – Carrie Vaughn
There’s a group of uniquely gifted individuals that live outside of time. They can see the strands connecting everything and their leader, Gerald, is determined to use their gifts to change the fate of humanity. But the longer she spends with them, the less sure Clare is of what they’re doing.
This was a really intriguing concept. A group of people that can manipulate small things in this world, like removing a bottle of ink in a room and thereby change the course of events.
The Martyr of the Roses – Jacqueline Carey
Chrétien, dauphin of d’Angeline, spends time with his friend in Vralia, where trouble is brewing, in the town of St Sithonia. There’s a legend of how the saint danced besides the lake and hundreds of roses bloomed.
I liked this story. To be honest, I just love the world of Terre d’Ange. The way Jacqueline Carey creates these different cultures and perfect atmosphere is great.
Mudboy – Peter V. Brett
Briar is a young boy tormented by his older siblings by day and living in fear of the demons by night. For a six-year-old, his life is not easy. But it’s about to get worse.
Great characters I wanted to know better and a very moving, sad story.
The Sound of Broken Absolutes – Peter Orullian
Belamae is a student at the cathedral of Descant, trying to learn about music so he might sing the Song of Suffering. But when war breaks out in his country, he abandons everything to help his people, hoping to be able to help them fight the only way he knows how: with music.
More of a novella than a short story. I loved the worldbuilding and magic system and wanted to know more about the different cultures.
The Coach With Big Teeth – R.A. Salvatore
A boy who’s not very good at baseball plays a game and is afraid of his coach.
As you can probably guess by the description, this story did not have much substance. Basically, a baseball story and a boring one a that.
Keeper of Memory – Todd Lockwood
Daen is an apprentice to the Keeper of Memory, tasked with keepint the history of his city alive. But it is threatened by the forces of the Dahak, a dark dragon against whom the few dragonriders of the city stand little chance.
I really like the world, though I was left a bit confused about the dragon-villain. I particularly enjoyed the ending and its revelation.
Heaven in a Wild Flower – Blake Charlton
After some sort of apocalyptic event, some people were transformed into light and went to what is called their Heaven by the survivors. But people don’t stay there, sometimes they come back as light-babies and when people gather them in, they are reincarnated. However, if you catch a baby girl, your life is bound to hers and you die when she does.
There were so many things wrong with this story that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all, the premise of light-people is a bit dumb. Second, there are very few women in this world and very few natural births. If you catch a baby girl, it means other women will come from far and wide for a chance to be a mother to a girl. Because apparently being a mother to a boy is not as interesting. And as a man, you want to risk death by catching a baby girl for a chance to bang prospective mothers.
Dogs – Daniel Abraham
Most dogs are good. Most. But Alexander was assaulted by a pack of three dogs, who almost killed him. Ever since then, he is having trouble living with his fear.
An alright story. It is creepy and manages to paint dogs as terrifying pretty well.
The Chapel Perilous – Kevin Hearne
When Atticus Finch was younger, he was tasked by one of the Tuatha de Dannan to bring Dagda’s cauldron back from a pict that stole it. To do that, he has to face a mysterious myth, a dangerous chapel and the Fisher King himself.
Yeah, Atticus is a bit of a Gary Stu. Everything just falls into his lap. Turns out, he is the origin of the Gral stories and called himself Gawain. It was an interesting story but didn’t offer much in terms of tension.
Select Mode – Mark Lawrence
Jorg and the Nuban are captured by a brotherhood and brought to the arch to be judged. The arch is a remnant of the builder’s civilization and only those who it judges worthy are allowed to live.
I love Jorg’s world and the whole idea of the builders, but this story just didn’t work for me. It was a nice little story but compared to the Prince of Fools? It was missing the spark.
All the Girls Love Michael Stein – David Anthony Durham
Michael Stein has two problems: one, he’s dead. Two, his owner, Lucy, has been crying since he died. But Michael has a plan to help her, and the other dead cats at the same time.
This was a very sweet story.
Strange Rain – Jennifer Bosworth
When Iris and Ivan were born, they were connected at the hip. Ever since they have been separated, Iris’ felt like something of hers was missing. And now Ivan is drifting apart, eager to find other friends and belong somewhere. However, everything changes when Iris is hit by lightning.
The relationship between the twins was interesting, though the lightning magic was really, really odd: After being struck by lightning, Iris has a little black cloud following her.
Nocturne – Robert V.S. Redick
I don’t even know how to describe this story. It’s basically a fever-dream. A soldier keeping watch in an old palace except he’s not.
I did not like this story at all and it’s mostly to do with the style. It read like a feverish dream, was utterly confusing and I did not care one whit about any of the characters.
Unbowed – Eldon Thompson
Kylac is the son of the owner of the most famous combat school in the city. Training is brutal. But to the disappointment of his father, he is loath to kill anyone. That is, until his father is arrested, accused of being the head of a sect of assassins.
This was a nice fantasy story set in an interesting world. Though the set-up was a bit weird. I mean, why would Kylac’s father even go through all this trouble? The ending didn’t live up to the rest of the story.
In Favour With Their Stars – Naomi Novik
There’s a colony full of the most precious metal in the universe. This metal needed in the war waged across the stars. The problem: the colony is also inhabited by huge dragons.
There’s dragons. In space. This had to be awesome and thank God, it was.
The Jester – Michael J. Sullivan
Hadrian and Royce find themselves trapped in a labyrinth created by a mythical jester, said to contain a legendary treasure. The jester, however, has littered this labyrinth with traps and tests and they wonder whether they’ll ever find their way out again.
There were many adventures that were only related in hindsight. The characters tell of the traps or tests they encountered but we don’t get to experience them with them. That was a bit disappointing. But overall, a good story.
The Duel – Lev Grossman
The Lorians have invaded Fillory and Eliot is determined to not only beat them back but to make sure they never set foot on his land ever again.
I haven’t read the Magicians series yet but I enjoyed this story. It was an odd mixture of Narnian battle and sassy teenager. I liked it.
Walker and the Shade of Allanon – Terry Brooks
A druid visits the shade of Allanon to ask the dead for advice.
Short and weird. I guess you have to read the books to understand this one. It felt more like a single scene. And one that should have ended up on the cutting board at that.
The Unfettered Knight – Shawn Speakman
A powerful vampire has infilitrated the Vatican and the bearer of the Dark Thorn is tasked with getting it back to where it came from.
I liked this one. The whole biblical references were a bit too much for my taste, but overall it was a nice, action-packed story.
The Twilight Dragon – Shawn Speakman
A very old dragon has come to Glastonbury Abbey and the pope sends Bishop Donato there to bargain with the beast.
This one just didn’t stand so well on its own.
A nice anthology with some great stories. Unfortunately, there were also some in there that weren’t as good and some that didn’t stand well on their own – it was necessary to have read the author’s series first.