Claimed by Birthright- A great story, cleverly written. It takes on the age old question of who would win a duel between a sorcerer and a barbarian. What may first strike you as an incredibly contrived scenario of an arena duel featuring Barbarian King Brom versus, in the red corner, Mage Lord Kahzvax instead turns out to be well told tale. The chief string puller in the story has maneuvered his puppets into place and while he is a bit of a cardboard character, the other two are real enough and the fight is believable enough to make the clever ending all the more satisfying. You’ll like this one a lot.
The Hand That Holds the Crown- This one is outstanding. I loved every sentence, every word. It is now on the top of the list as the best of the book. A classic tale of two half brothers dueling for the crown. The fight scene between them is one of the best yet. All the brutality and cunning savagery of desperate single combat is played out by the author, Nathan Meyer. The writing is solid, the settings are vivid, and the characters are clearly drawn. I knew it was good from paragraph one but the last two pages really cinched it up for me. Outstanding in every way.
The Dawn Tree- A well told, powerful story that reads like mythic fable. Perhaps a little out of place in a sword and sorcery anthology but it is good enough to hold its own and the two main characters have some outstanding scenes with each other. Our intrepid hero, Dermanassian the desert elf, takes up the quest of replanting the Dawn Tree by escorting the tree’s guardian to a suitable location. There’s one problem though; the four Elementals have joined forces in order to destroy the Tree before it is planted. This leads to a battle royale at the end but of course everything winds up happy happy. Or does it?