Return of the Sword by Jason M. Waltz
S.E. Lindberg Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Highly recommended for new and veteran fantasy readers.
The “Return of the Sword” is aptly titled: the Heroic Fantasy (Sword & Sorcery) genre may have originated with R.E.Howard’s Conan ~1920’s, but it is alive and well; this anthology captures the renewed direction(s).
Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors (well, new for the reader anyway). They offer a buffet of stories, so a well-done anthology should contain some stories that, despite being well written, are not what one may normally read. “Return of the Sword” does this job in superb fashion. It is full of great stories with wondrous variety. I wanted to discover more contemporary S&S authors/styles and am well satisfied. Some of my personal favorites I marked to re-read are:
-Wyrd of War (Bill Ward)
-The Last Scream of Carnage (Phil Emery)
-To Be A Man (Robert Rhodes)
-The Hand that Holds the Crown (Nathan Meyer)
-The Red Worm's Way (James Enge)
-The Mask Oath (Steve Goble)
-Storytelling(E.E.Knight) was an entertaining but serious primer--nice addition.
Amazon Reviews capture the synopses of all 21 stories well enough that I need not repeat them here. But to highlight the effectiveness of this anthology, I list three of my take-aways:
1)Author Discovered (for me): I was completely taken with Phil Emery's "The Last Scream of Carnage" (notably the editor's pick). It was poetic like his “Fifteen Breaths” contribution to the Demons: A Clash of Steel Anthology, and pushed the bounds of the genre a bit. The delivery may prove off-putting to many others; I had to read it twice to really absorb it all. RESULT: not only did I enjoy this author, I enjoyed his style enough to want to track down more of his work (I just ordered Emery’s novel “Necromantra”).
2)Humor can be ok: I have a personal bias toward liking the grittier-horror side of the genre, but this book showed me that humor can be applied well without distracting or “cheesy”. “To Be A Man” (Robert Rhodes) and “The Red Worm's Way” (James Enge) were engaging, well written, and laced with well-delivered humor.
3)Another Author Discovered: Key ingredients for tales I like include: deep motivations, vivid horror, realized myths, and a touch of artistic flare (poetic or aesthetic). The “Mask Oath” had these, and left me hungry for more. More “Faceless Sons” short stories are out there, but those stories were harder to track down than the author Steve Goble (whom I connected with in the Goodreads Sword and Sorcery group). RESULT: even though I considered myself a veteran S&S reader who read just about everybody in the genre, Return of the Sword revealed another author that hooked my interest again and set me searching for more.
In summary, Return of the Sword is recommended for fantasy readers looking for contemporary Sword & Sorcery authors… and to veteran readers who have exhausted the works of R.E.Howard, F.Leiber, M.Moorcock, and D.Gemmell.
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