Tuesday, September 15, 2009

By Blood We Live on Dragonbones and Ashes Lie

John Joseph Adams continues to assemble impressive themed-anthologies, gathering a wide range stories on a specific theme. His latest, By Blood We Live is no different and just as impressive as his previous efforts.
Having edited two definitive themed anthologies for Nightshade (The Living Dead and Wastelands), John Joseph Adams turns his deft and careful hands to one of the most iconic of genre characters – the vampire. Adams provides a nice introduction, wherein he goes over the various incarnations of the vampire over the past couple of hundred years. The stories then begin with an appropriately dark vampiric twist on the Snow White story in Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman. Here, Snow White is not white for being pure as much as she is for being undead, Gaiman skillfully twists the classic villain of the stepmother into the struggling heroic character of the piece.

Norman Partridge has received a number of awards and award nominations for his long and short fiction. Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu is a great ‘continuation’ of Dracula, which takes place in Texas and features Quincey Morris following the climactic confrontation between Morris, Jonathan Harker and the Count. Partridge captured the local flavor and put a terrific twist on the classic Stoker novel. One of the standout stories in the anthology

We’ve put up two other reviews in recent days. First, Bridie Roman reviewed the opening volume of one of the modern classics of Epic Fantasy (and one of my all-time favorite series) – Tad Williams’s The Dragonbone Chair, book one of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.

Dark developments later in the book make for nail-biting stuff as the force of High Kind Elias clash with his brother Josua’s armies in the siege of Naglimund. Not only do the battle scenes have a superb tense atmosphere but also become quite brutal after a deadly pact is made. This story line in the book displays to me just why Memory, Sorrow and Thorn played such a large role in influencing the (now in)famous George R.R. Martin. They are epic, full of unexpected twists and turns and the true harshness of a real battle.

The Dragonbone Chair was first published in 1989; that makes it twenty this year, and it would be quite easy for a novel that old to get lost in the more recent plethora of novels that are currently being raved about. But as a dedicated fantasy fan I feel that this would be a crime. This is a book that to me should be seen as ageless - something that keeps the old traditions of save the world quests and rags-to-riches tales and brings in new ones: epic, dark battles and underhanded politics.

Last but not least, Mark/Hobbit takes a look at Marie Brennan’s follow-up to Midnight Never Come - In Ashes Lie

Without going too deeply into historical details, (but for those who perhaps don’t know), it was a time of revolution and change in England. It was a period of civil war, with those supporting Charles I fighting against those supporting elected Parliament, a choice that split regions, towns, villages and families. Ultimately it led to the death of a King, a time of national unrest when ‘the world was turned upside down’, compounded by the fact that the Civil War was followed by plague and, at its demise, the Great Fire of London in 1666.

All of this is here. Even if it were fiction and not fact, this should make a great tale. After my enjoyment of MNC I was looking forward to In Ashes Lie a great deal. Unfortunately, a number of issues meant that, in the end, the book changed from being an enjoyable one to a frustrating one, and stopped me enjoying this as much as I would’ve liked.

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