The book of swords

Book - 2017

An anthology of original fantasy tales by some of today's leading genre masters includes contributions by George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Garth Nix, Cecelia Holland, and Elizabeth Bear.

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1st Floor SCIENCE FICTION/Book Checked In
Short stories, American
Fantasy fiction
Short stories
New York : Bantam Books [2017].
Other Authors
K. J. Parker (-), Robin Hobb, Ken Liu, 1976-, Matthew Hughes, 1949-, Kate Elliott, 1958-, Walter Jon Williams, Daniel Abraham, C. J. Cherryh, Garth Nix, Ellen Kushner
First edition
Physical Description
xviii, 524 pages ; 25 cm
  • Introduction / by Gardner Dozois
  • The best man wins / by K. J. Parker
  • His father's sword / by Robin Hobb
  • The hidden girl / by Ken Liu
  • The sword of destiny / by Matthew Hughes
  • "I am a handsome man," said Apollo Crow / by Kate Elliott
  • The triumph of virtue / by Walter Jon Williams
  • The mocking tower / by Daniel Abraham
  • Hrunting / by C. J. Cherryh
  • A long, cold trail / by Garth Nix
  • When I was a highwayman / by Ellen Kushner
  • The smoke of gold is glory / by Scott Lynch
  • The Colgrid conundrum / by Rich Larson
  • The king's evil / by Elizabeth Bear
  • Waterfalling / by Lavie Tidhar
  • The sword Tyraste / by Cecelia Holland
  • The sons of the dragon / by George R. R. Martin.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Winner of 15 Hugo Awards, Gardner Dozois commissioned these original stories from the best writers of modern sword and sorcery, including one by George R. R. Martin set in the Westeros of his Game of Thrones novels. As you would expect from this editor, each story is different, each a gem. Scott Lynch's The Smoke of Gold Is Glory features a ten-thousand-year-old dragon who sits on a volcano strewn with treasure. K. J. Parker's The Best Man Wins provides a detailed description of how swords are made as well as of how a swordsman is made. Ken Liu weaves a tale about The Hidden Girl trained in ancient ways of assassination during the Tang Dynasty in China. Robin Hobb presents a FitzChivalry Farseer tale about a village visited by her take on zombies. With wry humor, Matthew Hughes spins a tale of wizards, demons, the Sword of Destiny, and a minion who prefers being lucky over being smart. More stories by Elizabeth Bear, Garth Nix, Kate Elliott, Walter Jon Williams, Daniel Abraham, C. J. Cherryh, Ellen Kushner, Rich Larson, Lavie Tidhar, and Cecelia Holland round out this fabulous sampler of writers who know the long and short of epic fantasy.--Vicha, Don Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Swords and sorceries abound in this massive anthology, featuring several luminaries of the fantasy genre. A few of these stories stand out, including Ken Liu's "The Hidden Girl," in which a girl in mythical China is kidnapped by a sorceress and trained to become a brilliant assassin who walks between worlds. "'I Am a Handsome Man,' Said Apollo Crow" by Kate Elliott also breaks the mold with a man, or maybe a banished god, who's bound by a curse to serve but may remain wily enough to choose his own master. Robin Hobb's "Her Father's Sword" will take her regular readers back to familiar territory as a young village girl struggles to cope with an attack in the setting of her Farseer novels. Other works, such as Daniel Abraham's "The Mocking Tower" and Ellen Kushner's "When I Was a Highwayman" (which takes place in her Riverside setting), feel familiar for a different reason, differentiating themselves very little from general fantasy tropes. The anthology has strengths and weaknesses, but many readers will pick it up just for a new George R.R. Martin short story tied to the Song of Ice and Fire series. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

This anthology of stories inspired by sword and sorcery (S&S) tales such as Robert E. Howard's Conan, Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, and Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné boasts 16 pieces by a roster of modern fantasy star authors, including George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, C.J. Cherryh, Elizabeth Bear, and Ellen Kushner. Settings range from historical China and the Scandinavia of Beowulf to created worlds like Martin's Westeros and Hobb's Six Duchies, and most feature a sword or swords in a prominent role-though -Lavie Tidhar's "Waterfalling" stands out as one exception for its gunslinging warriors in a bizarre cityscape. Each entry is narrated by a different reader, all top-notch. The variety of tales offers something for most fantasy fans to enjoy-the tones mostly range from the grim to the slightly less grim, occasionally seasoned with a few laughs. VERDICT Recommended for fans of any of the included authors or of the S&S genre in general, and for fantasy readers looking to discover a new favorite author. ["With original stories from [multiple] contributors...this is a great collection for any fantasy fan": LJ 9/15/17 review of the Bantam hc.]-Jason Puckett, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Dozois, an indefatigable editor (The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection, 2017, etc.), introduces an all-new compendium of 16 original stories, many set in their authors' established fantasy universes.In his extensive and knowledgeable introduction, Dozois explains that the term "sword sorcery" was coined by fantasy great Fritz Leiber (the Fafhrd/Gray Mouser yarns) and ranges from its birth in the old pre-WWII pulps through Tolkien up to today's doorstoppers and blockbusters. Many of the entries group themselves naturally. K.J. Parker and, less successfully, Cecelia Holland take up the theme of revenge. Other authors expose the moral ambiguities implicit in much of the subgenre's culture (Ken Liu, Ellen Kushner), and a Rich Larson standout features a pair of curiously principled rogues. Of those set in established worlds, Robin Hobb writes of FitzChivalry Farseer and the Red Ship raiders; Matthew Hughes draws inspiration from Jack Vance's renowned Dying Earth scenario; Walter Jon Williams offers a promising sampler of a forthcoming series; Garth Nix's tales of Sir Hereward and the sorcerously animated ventriloquist's dummy, Master Fitz, are justly famous; Elizabeth Bear writes enthrallingly about the Dead Man, formerly an emperor's guard, and his companion mercenary, the Gage, a brass automaton with a human soul, the stars of her latest novel and series; Lavie Tidhar weighs in with one of his guns-and-sorcery tales about Gorel of Goliris; and, disappointingly, George R.R. Martin offers an undramatic, ultraviolent chronicle set in an era well before the current Game of Thrones books. The remainder defy classification. Kate Elliott's fine effort portrays a mysterious exile from the spirit world who challenges the emperor of Rome; Daniel Abraham captivates with his fine knotty tale of a thief, a prince, and a mysterious magic tower; C.J. Cherryh wonders what happened after Beowulf slew the monster Grendel; and a thrill-a-minute yarn from Scott Lynch somewhat resembles a sorcerous Raiders of the Lost Ark. When fine writer and expert editor Dozois beckons, authors deliverand this surely will be one of the year's essential anthologies. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The Best Man Wins K. J. Parker He was in my light. I didn't look up. "What do you want?" I said. "Excuse me, but are you the sword-­smith?" There are certain times when you have to concentrate. This was one of them. "Yes. Go away and come back later." "I haven't told you what I--­" "Go away and come back later." He went away. I finished what I was doing. He came back later. In the interim, I did the third fold. Forge-­welding is a horrible procedure and I hate doing it. In fact, I hate doing all the many stages that go to creating the finished object; some of them are agonisingly difficult, some are exhausting, some of them are very, very boring; a lot of them are all three, it's your perfect microcosm of human endeavour. What I love is the feeling you get when you've done them, and they've come out right. Nothing in the whole wide world beats that. The third fold is--­well, it's the stage in making a sword-­blade when you fold the material for the third time. The first fold is just a lot of thin rods, some iron, some steel, twisted together then heated white and forged into a single strip of thick ribbon. Then you twist, fold, and do it again. Then you twist, fold, and do it again. The third time is usually the easiest; the material's had most of the rubbish beaten out of it, the flux usually stays put, and the work seems to flow that bit more readily under the hammer. It's still a horrible job. It seems to take forever, and you can wreck everything you've done so far with one split second of carelessness; if you burn it or let it get too cold, or if a bit of scale or slag gets hammered in. You need to listen as well as look--­for that unique hissing noise that tells you that the material is just starting to spoil but isn't actually ruined yet; that's the only moment at which one strip of steel will flow into another and form a single piece--­so you can't chat while you're doing it. Since I spend most of my working day forge-­welding, I have this reputation for unsociability. Not that I mind. I'd be unsociable if I were a ploughman. He came back when I was shovelling charcoal. I can talk and shovel at the same time, so that was all right. He was young, I'd say about twenty-­three or -­four; a tall bastard (all tall people are bastards; I'm five feet two) with curly blond hair like a wet fleece, a flat face, washed-­out blue eyes, and a rather girly mouth. I took against him at first sight because I don't like tall, pretty men. I put a lot of stock in first impressions. My first impressions are nearly always wrong. "What do you want?" I said. "I'd like to buy a sword, please." I didn't like his voice much, either. In that crucial first five seconds or so, voices are even more important to me than looks. Perfectly reasonable, if you ask me. Some princes look like rat-­catchers, some rat-­catchers look like princes, though the teeth usually give people away. But you can tell precisely where a man comes from and how well-off his parents were after a couple of words; hard data, genuine facts. The boy was quality--­minor nobility--­which covers everything from overambitious farmers to the younger brothers of dukes. You can tell immediately by the vowel sounds. They set my teeth on edge like bits of grit in bread. I don't like the nobility much. Most of my customers are nobility, and most of the people I meet are customers. "Of course you do," I said, straightening my back and laying the shovel down on the edge of the forge. "What do you want it for?" He looked at me as though I'd just leered at his sister. "Well, for fighting with." I nodded. "Off to the wars, are you?" "At some stage, probably, yes." "I wouldn't if I were you," I said, and I made a point of looking him up and down, thoroughly and deliberately. "It's a horrible life, and it's dangerous. I'd stay home if I were you. Make yourself useful." I like to see how they take it. Call it my craftsman's instinct. To give you an example; one of the things you do to test a really good sword is make it come compass--­you fix the tang in a vise, then you bend it right round in a circle, until the point touches the shoulders; let it go, and it should spring back absolutely straight. Most perfectly good swords won't take that sort of abuse; it's an ordeal you reserve for the very best. It's a horrible, cruel thing to do to a lovely artefact, and it's the only sure way to prove its temper. Talking of temper; he stared at me, then shrugged. "I'm sorry," he said. "You're busy. I'll try somewhere else." I laughed. "Let me see to this fire and I'll be right with you." The fire rules my life, like a mother and her baby. It has to be fed, or it goes out. It has to be watered--­splashed round the edge of the bed with a ladle--­or it'll burn the bed of the forge. It has to be pumped after every heat, so I do all its breathing for it, and you can't turn your back on it for two minutes. From the moment when I light it in the morning, an hour before sunrise, until the point where I leave it to starve itself to death overnight, it's constantly in my mind, like something at the edge of your vision, or a crime on your conscience; you're not always looking at it, but you're always watching it. Given half a chance, it'll betray you. Sometimes I think I'm married to the damn thing. Indeed. I never had time for a wife. I've had offers; not from women, but from their fathers and brothers--­he must be worth a bob or two, they say to themselves, and our Doria's not getting any younger. But a man with a forge fire can't fit a wife into his daily routine. I bake my bread in its embers, toast my cheese over it, warm a kettle of water twice a day to wash in, dry my shirts next to it. Some nights, when I'm too worn-­out to struggle the ten yards to my bed, I sit on the floor with my back to it and go to sleep, and wake up in the morning with a cricked neck and a headache. The reason we don't quarrel all the time is that it can't speak. It doesn't need to. The fire and I have lived sociably together for twenty years, ever since I came back from the wars. Twenty years. In some jurisdictions, you get less for murder. "The term sword," I said, wiping dust and embers off the table with my sleeve, "can mean a lot of different things. I need you to be more specific. Sit down." He perched gingerly on the bench. I poured cider into two wooden bowls and put one down in front of him. There was dust floating on the top; there always is. Everything in my life comes with a frosting of dark grey gritty dust, courtesy of the fire. Bless him, he did his best to pretend it wasn't there and took a little sip, like a girl. "There's your short riding sword," I said, "and your thirty-­inch arming sword, your sword-­and-­shield sword, which is either a constant flattened diamond section, what the army calls a Type Fifteen, or else with a half length fuller, your Type Fourteen; there's your tuck, your falchion, your messer, side-­sword or hanger; there's your long sword, great sword, hand-­and-­a-­half, Type Eighteen, true bastard, your great sword of war and your proper two-­hander, though that's a highly specialised tool, so you won't be wanting one of them. And those are just the main headings. Which is why I asked you; what do you want it for?" He looked at me, then deliberately drank a swallow of my horrible dusty cider. "For fighting with," he said. "Sorry, I don't know very much about it." "Have you got any money?" He nodded, put his hand up inside his shirt and pulled out a little linen bag. It was dirty with sweat. He opened it, and five gold coins spilled onto my table. There are almost as many types of coin as there are types of sword. These were besants; ninety-­two parts fine, guaranteed by the Emperor. I picked one up. The artwork on a besant is horrible, crude and ugly. That's because the design's stayed the same for six hundred years, copied over and over again by ignorant and illiterate die-­cutters; it stays the same because it's trusted. They copy the lettering, but they don't know their letters, so you just get shapes. It's a good general rule, in fact; the prettier the coin, the less gold it contains; the uglier, conversely, the better. I knew a forger once. They caught him and hanged him because his work was too fine. I put my cup on top of one coin, then pushed the other four back at him. "All right?" He shrugged. "I want the very best." "It'd be wasted on you." "Even so." "Fine. The very best is what you'll get. After all, once you're dead, it'll move on, sooner or later it'll end up with someone who'll be able to use it." I grinned at him. "Most likely your enemy." He smiled. "You mean I'll reward him for killing me." "The labourer is worthy of his hire," I replied. "Right, since you haven't got a clue what you want, I'll have to decide for you. For your gold besant you'll get a long sword. Do you know what that--­?" "No. Sorry." I scratched my ear. "Blade three feet long," I said, "two and a half inches wide at the hilt, tapering straight to a needle point. The handle as long as your forearm, from the inside of your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. Weight absolutely no more than three pounds, and it'll feel a good deal lighter than that because I'll balance it perfectly. It'll be a stabber more than a cutter because it's the point that wins fights, not the edge. I strongly recommend a fuller--­you don't know what a fuller is, do you?" "No." "Well, you're getting one anyway. Will that do you?" He sort of gazed at me as if I were the Moon. "I want the best sword ever made," he said. "I can pay more if necessary." The best sword ever made. The silly thing was, I could do it. If I could be bothered. Or I could make him the usual and tell him it was the best sword ever made, and how could he possibly ever know? There are maybe ten men in the world qualified to judge. Me and nine others. On the other hand; I love my craft. Here was a young fool saying; indulge yourself, at my expense. And the work, of course, the sword itself, would still be alive in a thousand years' time, venerated and revered, with my name on the hilt. The best ever made; and if I didn't do it, someone else would, and it wouldn't be my name on it. I thought for a moment, then leant forward, put my fingertips on two more of his coins, and dragged them towards me, like a ploughshare through clay. "All right?" He shrugged. "You know about these things." I nodded. "In fact," I said, and took a fourth coin. He didn't move. It was as though he wasn't interested. "That's just for the plain sword," I said. "I don't do polishing, engraving, carving, chiselling, or inlay. I don't set jewels in hilts because they chafe your hands raw and fall out. I don't even make scabbards. You can have it tarted up later if you want, but that's up to you." "The plain sword will do me just fine," he said. Which puzzled me. I have a lot of experience of the nobility. This one--­his voice was exactly right, so I could vouch for him, as though I'd known him all my life. The clothes were plain, good quality, old but well looked after; a nice pair of boots, though I'd have said they were a size too big, so maybe inherited. Five besants is a vast, stunning amount of money, but I got the impression it was all he had. "Let me guess," I said. "Your father died, and your elder brother got the house and the land. Your portion was five gold bits. You accept that that's how it's got to be, but you're bitter. You think; I'll blow the lot on the best sword ever made and go off and carve myself out a fortune, like Robert the Fox or Boamund. Something like that?" A very slight nod. "Something like that." "Fine," I said. "A certain category of people and their money are easily parted. If you live long enough to get some sense beaten into you, you'll get rather more than four gold bits for the sword, and then you can buy a nice farm." He smiled. "That's all right, then." I like people who take no notice when I'm rude to them. "Can I watch?" he asked. That's a question that could get you in real trouble, depending on context. Like the man and woman you've just thought of, my answer is usually No. "If you like," I said. "Yes, why not? You can be a witness." He frowned. "That's an odd choice of word." "Like a prophet in scripture," I said. "When He turns water into wine or raises the dead or recites the Law out of a burning tree. There has to be someone on hand to see, or what's the good in it?" (I remembered saying that, later.) Now he nodded. "A miracle." "Along those lines. But a miracle is something you didn't expect to happen." Off to the wars. We talk about "the wars" as though it's a place; leave Perimadeia on the north road till you reach a crossroads, bear left, take the next right, just past the old ruined mill, you can't miss it. At the very least, a country, with its own language, customs, distinctive national dress and regional delicacies. But in theory, every war is different, as individual and unique as a human being; each war has parents that influence it, but grows up to follow its own nature and beget its own offspring. But we talk about people en Excerpted from The Book of Swords by Robin Hobb, Scott Lynch, Garth Nix All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.