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Shattered Shields by Jennifer Brozek
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Shattered Shields

by Jennifer Brozek (Editor), Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Editor)

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** Ashes and Starlight (Runelords) by David Farland
Number of 'Runelords' books read by me before reading this story: 0. Number I'll read after having read this story: yeah, still likely 0.
'Classic' fantasy with a very 80's feel, mixed with 'alien-invasion.' Almost felt like a tie-in to a D&D-style game. The story is action-oriented, with a captive warrior-prince, a buffoonish king, and a winsome young princess. It felt like an episode from a longer story, not a self-contained piece. The writing is a bit clunky overall, including misspelled faux-German, and some odd word choices.
Checking out the full-length books in this series, well, sometime WYSIWYG. If covers like this appeal to you, you will probably enjoy: https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388210779l/144109.jpg

** The Fixed Stars (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire
A mix of Welsh myth and Arthurian lore appear in this tale of a besieged castle of Brocéliande, and a Nimue who betrays her native Faerie. This is apparently a tie-in to McGuire's other work; and I think it might work better in context. As it was, I remained somewhat uninvolved in the characters and uncertain why they might be making the decisions they do.

*** The Keeper of Names by Larry Correia
Like the previous selection, this felt like a prequel to a larger story. Keta is a casteless man in a rigidly structured society. He's planning a bloody rebellion against his masters. However, just when his uprising is planned; a powerful enforcer arrives in town. Coincidence - or not? Plans are thrown into chaos, but after a mysterious visitor, the way things turn out promises more adventure to come.
Not bad - but not impressive enough to get me to immediately seek out more from this author, either.

** The Smaller We Are by John Helfers
Faerie is at war against the humans who are destroying the forests to build villages and cities. I didn't feel like the story contained anything new, and the writing was rather clunky. Reminded me a bit of a blow-by-blow transcription of a D&D-style battle: each character has different 'powers,' etc. The setting felt very vague - not sure if it's our world or an alternate one.

*** Invictus by Annie Bellet
Yet another one that's definitely part of a larger work. This is one-half of a naval engagement. A ship carrying two non-human ambassadors with gifts and a treaty to be ratified, is attacked by two legendary opposing warships. Outgunned, it will take clever strategy and cooperation between the seamen and the, well, sea-men, just to survive, let alone succeed. This would be just fine as a chapter in a novel, but there's not enough here to be fully successful as a stand-alone piece.

*** Rising Above by Sarah A. Hoyt
Germany, WWI. A couple of soldiers have tried, unsuccessfully, to hide the fact that they are were-dragons: shapeshifting is shameful, illegal, and punished by death. However, in a dungeon cell, a realization occurs that may change both their fate - and the direction of the war.

**** A Cup of Wisdom by Joseph Zieja
A father prepares his young son for war by giving him magical visions of past battles. Really nicely done; the brief 'visions' are very immersive and powerful for such short segments. I felt the boy's resentment, confusion, and wavering convictions. I remain uncertain as to whether this is a winning strategy for the characters, but as a piece of writing I very much enjoyed it.
The first piece in this book that I felt was emotionally moving.

*** Words of Power by Wendy N. Wagner
In this alternate-history piece, an American-Hungarian alliance is fighting the French. There's a fierce competition to remain one step ahead of the enemy, in both technology and magic - which here, comes in the form of ceramic-enhanced fighting golems. The focus is on one overworked woman, doing her utmost to keep this military equipment serviced and functional - even under fire. Not bad at all.

*** Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rinehart
Unexpectedly, when the tough soldiers they accompanied fall in battle, a couple of young boys - one literally a little drummer boy - are the last survivors of their group. Now they must use talents of stealth to try to accomplish the final mission they were tasked with.

*** Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo
A rag-tag band of military survivors seek to retreat to safety through dangerous territory. Insubordination, hunger, and stress make their difficult task even harder. The soldiers just happen to be female centaurs (and one snake-handling witch). This story was very much what I was expecting from the theme of the anthology. Pretty good.

*** Vengeance (Frost) by Robin Wayne Bailey
A classic-style sword-and-sorceress tale, which I felt would've fit right in to Marion Zimmer Bradley's extensive anthology series. (And indeed, checking the bibliography, I see that Bailey's been featured in 'Swords and Sorceress' more than once!) This story in a tie-in to the 1980's 'Frost' trilogy, which I haven't read.

*** Deadfall by Nancy Fulda
Villages are being attacked by hordes from the sky... One remote outpost's military leader notices that they don't seem like normal attackers... are they possibly bewitched into their aggression? He risks leaving his post, against orders, to bring the dismaying news to the King. This is another story that feels like the beginning of a novel.

*** Yael of the Strings by John R. Fultz
After a disastrous rout, a minstrel is pressed into military service. I very much liked the minstrel as a character, and his strength and doing what he must - and incorporating his natural talents into what he must do of necessity - but the sword-and-sorcery battle action is a little cheesy. ("Ghothian" wizards that control spiders? That's... pretty goth, I guess.)

*** The Gleaners by Dave Gross
Another classic-feeling sword-and-sorcery tale, but this one contains some nicely original touches and some very horrific images. Three partners make their living collecting the valuable magic from enchanted weapons that are found on the field after a bloody battle. It's dangerous and unpleasant work - but becomes even more so when one day they encounter a witch.

*** Bonded Men by James L. Sutter
An argument against the idea that gay people in the military will weaken an army, harking back to the Greek idea that men will fight fiercely for their lovers. Of course, here it's portrayed in a classic fantasy setting.

**** Bone Candy (Black Company) by Glen Cook
This one is yet another in this collection that feels more like an introduction to a longer story than a complete work. However, in this case, I don't really care. I really enjoy the Black Company tales, but I didn't feel that a previous familiarity with the series is necessary to enjoy this. I was quickly engaged by this episode featuring the down-and-dirty mercenaries and some sly and slippery wizards.

**** First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon
Moon is deservedly one of the biggest names in military fantasy, and this anthology closes on a high note with this selection. Set in the world of her 'Paksennarion' series, fans will find tie-in of interest, but the story fully works as a stand-alone. (Yes, this is how it's done!) The tale is a classic theme: young yet noble squire is sorely tested and rises to the occasion in battle, gaining the respect of his men and a new level of maturity. The execution makes it a strong and enjoyable piece.

Many anthologies seem to start with a bang and then fizzle out... my personal experience with this one was the opposite; I felt like it got stronger as it went along...

Many thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I received an early copy of this book through NetGalley.

Epic fantasy was my preferred genre through my teen years and feels like a cozy read for me. As with most anthologies, this was hit and miss for me, in part because I was not familiar with all of the existing settings that were used and that did make it difficult to follow along sometimes. It was nice to see diversity reflected through the stories, from varied skin colors to bonded pairs of warrior lovers. It definitely felt like a collection of modern epic fantasy stories--a good thing--not the old-fashioned white-washed tales out of the '80s.

My favorite story by far was Elizabeth Moon's "First Blood," set in her Paksenarrion series. I have read the full series and am sad it recently ended, and this short story was like a perfect bite of fudge--sweet, cozy, and just the right amount.

Another strong one was Wendy N. Wagner's "Words of Power," which evoked golems, magic, and a machinist in way over her head.

"Cup of Wisdom" by Joseph Zieja shows a boy on the eve of his first battle, being provided a hard lesson by his father. It struck me as odd at first, how it hopped around, but I like how Zieja developed a full perspective of battle and the toll in takes on participants. ( )
  ladycato | Sep 23, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brozek, JenniferEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schmidt, Bryan ThomasEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cook, GlenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lockwood, ToddCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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