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Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery

by Jonathan Strahan (Editor), Lou Anders (Editor)

Other authors: Joe Abercrombie (Contributor), C. J. Cherryh (Contributor), Glen Cook (Contributor), James Enge (Contributor), Steven Erikson (Contributor)12 more, Greg Keyes (Contributor), Caitlin R. Kiernan (Contributor), Tim Lebbon (Contributor), Tanith Lee (Contributor), Scott Lynch (Contributor), Michael Moorcock (Contributor), Garth Nix (Contributor), K. J. Parker (Contributor), Michael Shea (Contributor), Robert Silverberg (Contributor), Bill Willingham (Contributor), Gene Wolfe (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Morlock Ambrosius (short story "The Singing Spear"), World of Malaz (short story "Goats of Glory"), The Dying Earth (Cugel story "Dapple Hew the Tintmaster")

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270684,393 (3.81)17
A truly breathtaking new anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, Swords & Dark Magic offers stunning new tales of sword and sorcery action, romance, and dark adventure written by some of the most respected, bestselling fantasy writers working today--from  Joe Abercrombie to Gene Wolfe. An all-new Elric novella from the legendary Michael Moorcock and a new visit to Majipoor courtesy of the inimitable Robert Silverberg are just two of the treasures offered in Swords & Dark Magic--a fantasy lover's dream.… (more)
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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Lots of famous authors and lots of good stories, really you can't go wrong with this one ( )
  Eclipse777 | Jun 27, 2021 |
A collection of sword and sorcery stories. Mostly written by dudes, and mostly uninspired or poorly written. They're all quite stylized: these are clearly authors who have either developed their authorial voices or are aping other, very distinct voices.

I kinda enjoyed:
Steven Erikson, "Goats of Glory": A pitiful village is excited by the approach of a ragtag band of soldiers, but fully expects them all to die when they announce they'll be sleeping in the nearby haunted ruins. The combat writing is fierce and fun, with characterization aplenty and clarity in terms of who does what to whom. I didn't like anything outside of the fighting, though; the characters felt too self-consciously grim and blase.

James Enge, "The Singing Spear": a famed Maker of magical items is faced with a difficult choice when one of his most powerful creations falls into the hands of a common highwayman.

KJ Parker's "A Rich Full Week": The stand-out of the collection, because it's such a refreshing and weird take on wizards, the undead, and magic in general. A wizard (who isn't a wizard, by his own standards, but a philosopher trained in mental energies) is called to a small village to settle the unquiet dead. But he finds that the undead that he faces was once a Brother of his own Order, which makes his job rather more complicated than expected. Creepy and spooky, with great description.

Scott Lynch's "In the Stacks": this story is why I picked the book up in the first place. I'm so desperate for more of Lynch's work! This story, in which wizards must venture into their school's magical library as their year-end test, is enjoyable but not nearly so much as his Gentlemen Bastards series. Still, the characters are unique and memorable (my personal favorite: Inappropriate Levity Bronzeclaw, a gigantic lizard named for his percieved character flaw, whose ability to bite people's heads off more than makes up for his mediocre wizardry) and the adventure is a fun read. Great, clever ending.

Caitlin Kiernan's "The Sea Troll's Daughter": Basically the first half of Beowulf, but with peasants instead of kings and a strong, brave, usually-drunk and very female Beowulf. I liked this particular remimagining better than most I've read. It has an earthy quality, with characters who read like humans instead of archetypes. (Also, it's a delight to read about queer heroes and monsters and tavern-maids.)

Joe Abercrombie's "The Fool Jobs": A band of mercenaries try to steal a magical item from a local village. The characters' voices and personalities are so distinct that they come clearly and memorably through after only a few pages. Not much in the way of plot, but I didn't miss it because I was too busy enjoying the characters and their banter.

I did not enjoy:
Glen Cook's "Tides Elba": the Black Company has an adventure. Maybe if I'd read a Black Company book before this I'd have appreciated seeing old characters again, but as it was this read like a badly done parody of (quoting from the back cover here) "grim humor mixed with gritty violence." Over long, and the dialog consists entirely of each character trying to be wittily grim and failing.

Gene Wolfe's "Bloodsport": a cool concept paired with poor execution. Gladiators who portrayed chess pieces decide to maintain civilization when the empire that enslaved them starts to crumble. But the writing is in an overwrought style I dislike ("Above stands the All High, and below lies Pandemonium. Choose your road and keep to it, for if you stray from it, you may encounter such as I. Fare you well! We shall not meet again.")

CJ Cherryh's "A Wizard in Wiscezan": a young apprentice to a fading wizard is the only one who might be able to defeat a powerful dark wizard. This felt weirdly lightweight, like it was the prequel to Tewk&Willem's adventures and I was already supposed to care about them. Is that true? I dunno, but I just didn't feel invested in this story. I did like the magical maze the wizards hide in.

Garth Nix's "A suitable present for a sorcerous puppet": Another tale of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz, who travel the world banishing gods. I actually quite like Hereward and Fitz, who have a comraderie reminiscent of Aubrey&Maturin, and Nix's magic systems are always fantastically innovative. Buuut this one just didn't capture me.

Time Lebbon's "The Deification of Dal Bamore" is actually really interesting, world-building-wise, but it's so relentlessly gorey, and all the characters so unpleasant, that I found it tiring to get through. A priestess is tasked with escorting a magician (for magic is forbidden) to the wall to be publically executed.

Greg Keyes's "The Undefiled": A man is possessed by a serial-killing god. Generally, it makes his life (and the lives of those who encounter him) a living hell, but when he's tasked with retrieving a magical sword, his psychotic passenger proves to be his best defense. The god already possessing him fights with the god that possesses the sword, which prevents the usual slaughter&rape that the sword-god commits when it gets a host. Again, the idea is good but the writing is not. People are always grating out harsh chuckles and having lithe curves cloaked in shadow.

Michael Shea's "Hew the Tintmaster": an unmemorable quest, complete with artifically flowery dialog and descriptions that don't really make sense.

Tanith Lee's "Two Lions, a Witch, and the War-Robe": two wandering adventurers are tasked with finding the False Prince's missing war-robe. Told in a stiff, old-fashioned style rather like Malory's tales of Arthur. Just not to my taste.

Bill Willingham's "Thieves of Daring": This isn't a story, it's the first three pages of one. Such a rip-off.

So terrible:
Michael Moorcock's "Red Pearls: An Elric Story": so bad I started reading sections aloud to my partner so we could cackle together about it. I've never read an Elric story before; is Moorcock always so weirdly in love with him? Every page contains another seventeen descriptions of how beautiful his body is and how manly his brain and brawn. So many adjectives in so many run-on sentences! Here's a randomly chosen sample of the "extremely beautiful black-haired Princess Nauhaduar of Uyt" thinking about her lovah (which she does constantly): "...even if the albino were to abandon her, she would never regret knowing him or, as she suspected, loving him. Kinslayer and traitor he might be, it had never mattered to her what he was or what she risked. Dark and light were inextricably combined in this strange half-human creature whose ancestors had ruled the world before her own race emerged from the mud of creation, whose terrible sword, now rolled in rough cloth and skin and stowed in the lower locker, seemed possessed of its own dark intelligence. She knew she should be afraid of it, as of him, and part of her reexperienced the horror she had already witnessed once, there in the forsts of mysterious Soom, but the rest of her was drawn by curiosity to know more about the sword's properties and the moody prince who carried it." A few randomly chosen descriptions of Elric from a single paragraph: "hard, wonderful pale and vibrant body," "his urgent, alien body" "the doomed prince of ruins" "the albino sorcerer". The whole thing is just too ridiculous and overwrought.

Robert Silverberg's "Dark Times at the Midnight Market": An aristocrat commissions a love potion from a down-on-his-luck magician. But then, after the love potion works, it is turned against the magician! It's not presented as a terrible, creepy story, but as a humorous twist. Hahah, rape is so clever and funny. >:( ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
I acquired this massive anthology of 21st-century sword and sorcery fiction primarily because it contained a new Elric story by Michael Moorcock, but also because I hoped to find some new authors whose work I would enjoy. With some disappointment, I realize that the Elric story was in fact the one I liked best in the book. The others that I found especially fine or memorable were almost all by authors with publication histories going well back into the 20th century, and often in settings that had already been composed and established back then. The editors' introduction, while asserting the significance and innovation of newer authors, is more focused on the genealogy of the form and the work of its 20th-century creators.

I enjoyed the new Silverberg story of Majipoor (although it's been so long since I read Lord Valentine's Castle that it hardly had anything to do with my prior acquaintance with that world). Tanith Lee's "Two Lions, a Witch, and the War-Robe" was quite entertaining. The Gene Wolfe contribution was not one that I would class with his best work, but I liked it. Michael Shea's "fully authorized" story in Jack Vance's Dying Earth milieu had the audacity to change that world's fundamental destiny.

Among the newer authors, the only story that made a marked impression on me was "The Sea-Troll's Daughter" by Caitlin R. Kiernan, for the ways in which it twitted reader expectations regarding gender, sex, and conflict in this genre. Some of the newer material seemed sadly influenced by the lowest-common-denominator fantasy of Dungeons and Dragons, or -- worse, but happily less often -- the gimmicky magic and school fetishism of Harry Potter. None of them were awful, but none of them were really stories I can imagine myself referencing in the future.
4 vote paradoxosalpha | Jun 24, 2012 |
I admit that I bought this book last year for the C. J. Cherryh story, which I promptly read and enjoyed before setting the volume on my “to be read” shelf. Since I enjoyed “Naked City” so much, I thought I’d pull this out to see what I made of it.
The stories partake of a much older form of science fiction, but don’t lack for invention. Some use humor – “Goats of Glory”, Steven Erickson and a light entry by Tanith Lee , “Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe”. The sad consequences of conquering an avatar of dark magic are explored in “Bloodsport” by Gene Wolf, Caitlín Keirnan’s “Daughter of the Sea Troll” and K.J. Parker’s “A Rich Full Week”.
Some of the more traditional stories indulge in distastefully dripping gore. Others managed to include bloodshed without sliding around in it. Examples are Scott Lynch’s “In the Stacks” and C.J. Cherryh’s “A Wizard of Wiscean” . The former isn’t – quite – humorous, but very clever. The latter is a model Cherryh story; a dense plot wherein hard work and privation eventually pay off, if not in the way the characters would have envisioned.
All of the contributors are familiar names in sff; the collected stories all variations on the title theme; and the quality of writing is very high. The editors included a must-read intro, “Check Your Dark Lord At The Door”. The swift overview of sword & sorcery in science fiction and fantasy credits Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore and Fritz Leiber with the initial popularity of the genre, describes its decline, and gives props to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress series as triggering a resurgence in the genre. ( )
1 vote KarenIrelandPhillips | Mar 31, 2012 |
An anthology that contains new stories by a very impressive array of fantasy greats. Amongst the seventeen authors there are the well established legends like Michael Moorcock (Elric, amongst so much else), Glen Cook (creator of the Black Company) and Gene Wolfe (the New Sun series); and then there are the newer shining lights: Steven Erikson (the Malazan epic), Scott Lynch (Gentlemen Bastards series) and Joe Abercrombie (the First Law trilogy). Surely only the likes of GRRM or LeGuin could add further kudos to this heavyweight line up?

But what of the stores? Well, invariably, in any collection like this some of the stories are better than others. The two stand outs for me were Lynch's, In The Stacks, and Tim Lebbon's, The Deification of Dal Bamore (which, were it not for its slightly disappointing "twist" ending, might have been the best of the lot). Both were very well written and it felt like the authors had a real understanding of the short story format.

Some of the major authors here do themselves proud. Moorcock's new Elric tale, Red Pearls, is very good and one of the better stories featuring the albino. Erikson's story, the collection's opener, Goats of Glory, is good too. If the story had been a bit longer, with the suspense played out a bit longer at the start, it would have stood alongside Lynch and Lebbon's efforts.

I'm a huge fan of the Black Company but I had to say that Cook's tale was slightly disappointing. The writing was fine and it was nice to see old characters again but... I was actually hoping for a slightly more original episode from the Company's history, something which didn't involve one of the Taken again, for a change. Similarly, I'm a big admirer of Abercrombie - the First Law trilogy is the best modern fantasy series I've read in years (since ASOIAF was begun). Abercrombie's tale here, The Fool Jobs, set in the North of the First Law's fictional world, is a minor let down. It's well written but it feels a little inconsequential TBH. It could either have done with some established characters or visiting a part of the First Law's world that we haven't seen yet (perhaps the Gurkish lands?). I haven't read Gene Wolfe, I have to admit, but I can't say Bloodsport blew me away. It's a nice idea but it felt somewhat rushed.

There were only two other stories I'd consider above average - Garth Nix's, A Suitable Present For A Sorcerous Puppet, (just an all round well crafted short story) and Robert Silberberg's, Dark Times At The Midnight Market, which had a nice lightness of tone and story compared to most other stories in this collection.

The rest of the entries in this anthology were fairly average, some better than others, but I won't go into detail on them as they're much of a muchness IMO.

There were two that I thought considerably weaker than the rest - Greg Keyes' The Undefiled (an okay story but the style of writing was off-putting) and Hew the Tintmaster by Michael Shea (a not too brilliant adventure which perhaps felt like it should have been a more developed full length rather than a short story).

So, a couple of very good shorts, a couple of poor ones, and then a load in between. Hence, my middle of the road rating. I think this is a worthwhile collection to buy, as the decent / good far outweighs the bad, and it's nice to see fantasy authors try their hand at short stories rather than the usual multi-volume epics. Just expect things to be a bit patchy. ( )
3 vote DRFP | Aug 11, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Strahan, JonathanEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anders, LouEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Abercrombie, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cherryh, C. J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cook, GlenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Enge, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Erikson, StevenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keyes, GregContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kiernan, Caitlin R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lebbon, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, TanithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moorcock, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nix, GarthContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker, K. J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shea, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Silverberg, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willingham, BillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, GeneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carre, BenjaminCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock, the great literary swordsmen who made it possible.
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A truly breathtaking new anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, Swords & Dark Magic offers stunning new tales of sword and sorcery action, romance, and dark adventure written by some of the most respected, bestselling fantasy writers working today--from  Joe Abercrombie to Gene Wolfe. An all-new Elric novella from the legendary Michael Moorcock and a new visit to Majipoor courtesy of the inimitable Robert Silverberg are just two of the treasures offered in Swords & Dark Magic--a fantasy lover's dream.

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