An Uneasy Truce in Ulam-Bator- This is an amazing story because it is plainly evident that the authors had great fun writing it. The introduction explains that Allen B. Llyod and William Clunie began this collaborative writing process over some Chinese food at a favorite restaurant and it shows. It’s a very well written story that contains a series of fortunate and not so fortunate events. I can envision them sitting across the table from each other saying, “Then this happens.” “No, wait, then this happens!” “Yeah, yeah, that’s good.” The result is a couple of characters that make the best out of whatever situation they find themselves in. A clever plot coupled with a wry sense of humor which is believable and not campy. An excellent read.
The Mask Oath- Steve Goble has crafted an impressive story about duty, honor, and the things that really matter. This is a powerful tale about the son of a wizard hunting down the demons that his father released. I’m not talking about metaphorical demons like alcoholism or child abuse, I’m talking about real friggin’ demons. You can’t stick the head of anger management issues on a spike outside the city gates can you? Of course not! God bless sword & sorcery. Flying blood, flying body parts! Terrific story.
Valley of Bones- We end the new stories in this anthology with a military tale from Bruce Durham. As a United States Marine I know what it’s like to stand with your comrades and face an onslaught of undead beasts and pagan magicks. Well, that might be stretching the truth just a bit but I know the mind of a military man. The interactions between the soldiers are spot on. The sergeant character is perfectly done. (Really, so much can be revealed in a man by the way he says, “Steady, boys.”) The hero is a typical soldier, doing his job. As always, that job includes acts of unimaginable heroism when the opportunity presents itself. In the span of a few moments you can go from grumbling about the pay and the food to saving the civilized world. All in a days work.
The last story in the book is a classic by Harold Lamb that has likely been reviewed before. So there you have it. That's the anthology. It's awesome. Go buy it.