Well alrighty then! Due to the almost overwhelming response to my first book review I feel compelled to write yet another. This book is a great one in my humble opinion. The stories are very diverse, weird, and often unique. Thus we trudge onward too...
THE COLORS OF MAGIC-A Magic The Gathering anthology
I love anthologies, especially fantasy anthologies. It is my belief that the short story is well suited to a good fantasy outing. Thus, I have read many and The Colors of Magic is one of the very best. I will attempt to rate every single story. (eleven in all) This book was edited by Jess Lebow by the way, and he did a fine job!
ANGEL OF VENGEANCE by Richard Lee Byers
Byers is a well known writer but this is the first of his works that I have ever read. I found it to be interesting. A wizard forces an angel to do his bidding. He orders said angel to murder an entire family, including friends and cousins. Kotara the angel is compelled to murder and torture these hapless victims to avenge the death of the wizard's brother. Each vengeance killing leaves the angel less angelic and more resentful of the wizard's binding power. The concept is good and the ending includes a well depicted battle involving the wizard, the angel, a powerful demon conjured by the wizard's enemies...and a dragon no less!
my score 7.5
REPRISAL BY Tom Leupold
This is a light hearted tale about a young man who must look after a highly regarded monarch who happens to be a horny drunkard. Appearances are everything and the poor boy constantly finds himself donning the Knight's armor and going out to fight battles that the royal dunce can't because he's lying drunk in some stable somewhere. Despite his many faults, Lord Rothchild is much loved and everyone wants him to do well. Thus his poor attendant must constantly "cover" for his beloved master. At last the young man must go out to slay a huge dragon that Lord Rothchild promised to kill. This story is a lot of
fun and I found myself really liking the characters.
my score 8.0
VERSIPILLIS by Paul B Thompson
I found this to be a truly great story. Paul B Thompson is no stranger to fans of Dragonlance, he is a very fine writer indeed and this is one of his best. This is essentially a horror story. A duelist is defeated, then trudges home alone. He becomes confused and makes a wrong turn right into Hell it seems. After being pursued by a strange monster, he discovers a bizarre boy who lives alone out in the backwoods. The duelist makes a deal with the boy. He drives away the panther monster that annoys the boy in exchange for demonic powers. With this power, the man hopes to kill his wealthy rival for a beautiful young maiden. Lots
of Robert E Howard style horror imagery in this one...oh yeah!
my score 9.5 I absolutely loved it!
A SONG OUT OF DARKNESS by Loren Coleman
This one really wasn't my cup of tea. However, it was well written and entertaining enough to be sure. A lot of mystical and metaphorical undertones that made it a bit tedious but there is some strong imagery just the same. A elf, something of a holy man, journeys to a dark foreboding swamp to try and salvage a pitiful group of refugees that have been subjugated by a powerful evil. Everyone he meets is in some weird twilight zone where they have virtually lost the will to live. I sort of take this story as perhaps an overcoming depression type allegory. I could be wrong but this story is sorta out there and vague.
my score 6.0
GOBLINOLOGY by Francis Lebaron
This is a very unique tale in the way that its told. The text is in the form of an archeology textbook with handwritten footnotes by a rival scientist who thinks the author is a drunken idiot. As such it was a bit difficult to follow but essentially the author of the book is describing some Goblin ruins as a great religious center while the rival scientist believes there is nothing there but a giant playing field. What they have really found is a football field and a goblin description of how said sport came into being. "What they called it was football," sort of thing. This story didn't impress me much and I sort of viewed it as a failed humor piece until the very end where the author politely implied that in reality there wasn't a lot of difference in ritualistic religion and a sporting event. Taken in that perspective I found an all new respect for the story and its concept.
my score 7.5
THE CRUCIBLE OF THE ORCS by Don Perrin
Don Perrin writes military style stories, usually in the perspective of the bad guys. It works pretty well for him and this is one of his better ones. An orc King who has recently been defeated takes on as allies a hard headed mage and some Goblins. Desperation has driven him to this point because he badly needs a victory over a powerful force of knights in order to keep his hold on power. Perrin keeps the reader wondering right up to the end as to how it all turns out. A serviceable story. An especially interesting bit about Orcs and chickens is included.
my score 6.5
DARK WATER by Vance Moore
I don't know much about Vance except that he is obviously a very sick individual who need help fast. This is one of those tales that had me asking myself, "what is wrong with me that I read stuff like this?" The story is the tale of two witches who participate in all manner of depravity, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, poisoning, violence, madness, drunken debauchery, etc. Yeah, its a good one. Basically a horror story that slides into black insanity. A truly disgusting story that smells...literally!
my score 8.5
EXPEDITIONS TO THE END OF THE WORLD by J Robert King
Man, this is another really great story. A sea Captain endures tragedy and heartbreaking loss during his many journeys and adventures. Eventually he literally witnesses the end of his world. There is every reason to give up and kill himself but in the end, as always before, he somehow manages to find a reason to keep going despite the odds. I truly loved this one, a powerful tale.
my score 9.25
THE MIRROR OF YESTERDAY by Jonathan Tweet
Another terrific tale by a writer I'd never heard off. It is a story about a group of fledgling wizards who must do battle with a horrible assassin and her unstoppable Golem. This tale is extremely well written, action packed, and clever. There are also several unexpected twists and excellent pacing throughout all the mayhem. I loved the characters.
my score 8.75
BOUND IN SHALLOWS by Kevin T Stein
At first I didn't think I would like this story at all and even considered skipping it after initially stopping after the first couple of pages. Later, I picked it back up and eventually found myself deeply drawn into this riveting story. This one is unique in the way its told and the subject matter. It is also a very long tale and you have room to explore. The story involves a wizard who gambles magically with other wizards while large crowds watch and bet. Think of a cockfight on steroids with all manner of exotic creatures-a giant mantis or snake being preferred. The contestants literally draw the spirit out of their caged animals and send them into duels with other animals. However, the wizard holds all the control and decides every move the animal makes. The secret of success if breaking the other wizard's concentration, discovering the source of his magic, or breaking the opponent's confidence. There is also a beautiful waitress involved who plays an essential role in the very intense action. Also, there is a mysterious pendant that holds the key to success or horrible failure. A mysterious and mystical story...and a damned fine one. Told from first person perspective that adds to the weirdness.
my score 9.75
LORAN'S SMILE by Jeff Grubb
This is a sad and somewhat whimsical tale about an old wizard who losses the love of his life when he wife dies. Against all odds he tries all sorts of magic, technology, and creative pursuits in order to bring her back to him. This sends him on a quest to seek knowledge from other powerful entities...some well meaning and other downright malevolent. Eventually he finds what he seeks but in an unexpected way. This is a melancholy but entertaining story and a fitting end to a great anthology.
my score 7.75
Well there you have it...I highly recommend this book to anyone, regardless of whether you have any interest in the card game.