The first in a series of reviews for Return of the Sword.
Altar of the Moon- A story about the aftereffects of a sword of power and the person forced to wield it in order to save a kingdom. Just one problem, the burden of bearing the sword becomes unbearable and it won’t let itself be cast aside. This is a good emotional story with two characters that struggle with each other but are not technically enemies. Both protagonist and antagonist are sympathetic and the ending is written well. Two swords up.
The Wyrd of War- Bill Ward delivers an outstanding tale of dark magic and violent war. A doomed army defends against the mindless onslaught of an eldritch horde, twisted and corrupted by a mysterious evil. The thing that stands out immediately in this story is the use of language and mood. The hero faces impossible odds and is driven on by precious memories of a past denied him. It’s the kind of thing I was trying to do with Raven Kill and it’s done better. This could be my nomination for best of the book.
The Last Scream of Carnage- This is an interesting and odd story. The protagonist is definitely not heroic in any way. He’s simply arrogant and violent and looking for the next thing to kill. What makes for compelling reading here is the physical arrangement of the prose, often assembled in poetic forms. You get the feeling you’re reading something special and that must be why it is the feature story for the anthology. It is cleverly crafted but doesn’t leave you with a character to care about so the impact it makes is not personal but rather an appreciation of its clever crafting.