The Book of Swords
Edited by Gardner Dozois
Cover Artist: Steve Youll
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Bantam Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780399593765
Date: 10 October 2017 List Price $30.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Live by the sword, die by the sword. Gardner Dozois gathers sixteen tales of swords from many of today's top authors for this anthology.
From the very first story, no punches are pulled for the main characters in these stories. K.J. Parker's "The Best Man Wins" tells of a man in search of redemption for his actions during a war and proves you can't hide from fate and your past. This story is followed by "His Father's Sword" by Robin Hobb set in the lands of the Farseer series where tough choices have to be made to survive. Master of historical fiction Cecelia Holland brings a tale of revenge with "The Sword Tyraste".
Ken Liu brings in a more mystic element in "The Hidden Girl" where trying to avoid a prophecy doesn't go as expected. This isn't related to his Dandelion Dynasty fantasy series. Kate Elliot's "'I am a Handsome Man,' Said Apollo Crow" also mixes in some mysticism with the addition of an alternate Rome.
I wasn't familiar with Matt Hughes work prior to reading "The Sword of Destiny". This is a classic magical sword story which I really enjoyed. Another author I was unfamiliar with was Rich Larson. His "The Colgrid Conundrum" was a weird tale based around a box which needed to be opened for a price. Although I'd heard of Lavie Tidhar's Guns and Sorcery stories, I hadn't read anything from the series. "Waterfalling" is a tale of addiction and overcoming a god.
Walter Jon Williams brings a little mystery and sleuthing into the mix with "The Triumph of Virtue". This isn't a typical sword story, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.
Although not typically associated with swords, there is a subset of stories featuring thieves. Daniel Abraham's "The Mocking Tower" is one such tale where a prince and thief must protect a Kingdom. Ellen Kushner's "When I was a Highwayman" follows the adventures of a duelist who falls on hard times. Scott Lynch also brings in a thieves tale with "The Smoke of Gold is Glory".
Magic swords and gods do not always mix, but C.J. Cherryh tells the hidden story of a lost sword used by a legend in "Hrunting". A quest to retrieve the sword may bring peace to more than expected. In Garth Nix's "A Long, Cold Trail", Sir Hereward and Master Fitz must face a Godlet. Sometimes an immortal will make a sacrifice, sometimes not, in Elizabeth Bear's "The King's Evil" an eternal King must decide who will be his caretaker.
The Final story in the collection is another History of Westeros tale by George R.R. Martin. "The Sons of the Dragon" is the bloody history of King Aegon I Targaryen's sons and their descendants' battles for the throne. It is a nice complement to "The Princess and the Queen". Although not set during the same times, they both show problems facing Targaryen succession.
This is another excellent collection by Gardner Dozois. Although some are related to established worlds, most are not and are accessible to readers. There are swords galore and plenty of good adventures. It's worth the money and time spent reading this group of authors.