Swords and Sorceries: Tales of Heroic fantasy Volume 6, Edited by David Riley

Off we ride again into other worlds and other times. David A. Riley brings us the sixth volume in the Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy series of anthologies. First up is Dev Agarwal who in “The Land of the Dead”, continues the tale of the Stone Snake and Princess Irene. There is a Moorcockian feel as we enter in and out of dreamscapes. There are great images; I was particularly taken by the Hall of Clocks. I am a sucker for description and Agarwal delivers.

In “The House of Bones” Carson Ray recalls his hero, Knox, whose lopsided grin insouciantly smiles on one and all, particularly when he is cutting one and all into little pieces. Knox springs to life from the pages and his protagonists are colourful, particularly Doctor Grim who is mainly coloured an evil black. A hint of Jack Vance emerges in the use of bones as furniture. Ray has built, with similar invention and craft ,a story that has five stars written all over it.

In “Threnody of Ghosts” The Corlaar Banshees surround the city of Demaghor. Zain, commander of the mercenaries hired to protect the castle, orders the arbalests to fire. Might as well shout at the wind. It’s a story with a poetic thread, poetically told, beginning in an elegant whorehouse and ending in an ethereal mist. Top marks.  

My story, Wardark and the Siren Queen, returns to the world of Gobeln and Gauntspider and the quest for a Warlock’s tomb, a quest interrupted by the dismal prospect of a watery death.

Lyndon Perry’s “Otrim” is all about rites of passage. The young boys of the tribe need to make a kill to become men. Tzedron has made his first kill. Otrim is keen to follow in his footsteps. Cozum’ll apparently isn’t. Breathing in magical air offers a vision of the future and it’s not very promising. This is followed by “Gods, Men, and Nephilim”, David Dubrow’s third story in the Swords and Sorceries series and he brings new, vivid characters to the game – Abelia Agelastus Priestes of Tiberinus, Emmer-Yahad of Enoch.  While Perry’s “Otrim” is very tribal, Dubrow is very Graeco-Roman. Although neither mode is my particular favourite in the genre (there’s a certain restraint in the use of magic) they are both consistent, polished and well told.

In Scott Mcloskey’s ‘The Golden Witch of Adzekgar’ an aspiring, and somewhat privileged witch, elects to resurrect a champion of the Ysir whose appellation Blood of Ten thousand should have been taken as a hint. This is up with my favourites. From first to last scene you are in the world.

“Raiding the Graveyard of Lost Ships”. Tais Teng, whose haunting illustration accompanies his tale, entertains again with a relaxed and easy prose which makes the unbelievable seem quite believable and the terror almost palatable.

Veteran Andrew Darlington treats us with a longer story. I’ve always been an admirer of Darlington’s imagery which, like malt whiskey only appears better with age. I wish this tale of the immortal Addsiduo Sicarious (or his host) would quietly transmogrify into a novel: Another favourite.

“Those Who Wear Their White Hair Proudly” by Lauren C. Teffeau was first published in 2017 and is only one of Lauren’s impressive bibliography: Sidika is no longer her father’s child, other purposes will guide her life. She doesn’t like it and it’s not going to be easy.

In “Trials for Treasure” Harry Elliot’s splendid prose reads like the Welsh author Kenneth Morris who remains in my top five fantasy authors. What more can I say,

Finally, there’s a reason that Adrian Cole has a story in every volume for the series and “God of the Dreaming Isles” is a pleasant reminder.

Again, the strength is in the variety. There are no duds. And, like a child in a sweet shop, you’ll find it difficult to pick your favourite. But this time I’ll go for “The House of Bones” by Carson Ray. Knox is a stand-out sword and sorcery hero and I can’t wait for his next adventure.

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