Next book on my finish list is the anthology Epic, edited by John Joseph Adams. I wanted this because of the first story in it, “Homecoming” by Robin Hobb. The over all theme is epic fantasy, and all the stories I read in it definitely meet that criteria.
I have a rule about Anthologies. If I read half of the stories in it, it counts as read. Not everyone will like every story in an anthology and life is too short to read stuff you don’t like. This round up, I’m going to take each story I did read one at a time.
Homecoming – Robin Hobb
I was half a page into Homecoming before I realized that I had read it before. Doesn’t matter, I’ll read anything by Hobb. If you’ve read her Live Ship Traders trilogy, you’ll recognize a lot of the background that’s being laid. It’s a beginnings story, of how the Rain Wilds were populated. I can’t say Colonized, because I don’t think they ever managed that much. You can live in a place that never submits to the colonization process and the Rain Wilds falls into this category. It’s written in diary form, but masterfully.
As the Wheel Turns – Aliette de Bodard
I’m pretty sure this is the second story I’ve read in this verse by de Bodard, but I can’t remember where I read the first. I’m thinking either Beneath Ceaseless Skies or Strange Horizons. This one picks up after the death of the mother, from three POV’s reflecting on what her death has meant to them, framed by types of tea appropriate to that POV. It is a futuristic space opera story, but in an Asian future where the culture has not been subsumed in the dry, plain Western way that most space operas are written. Regret and grief are the themes and I like how de Bodard handles them in this story.
The Alchemist – Paolo Bacigalupi
I’ve not read anything by Bacigalupi before this, and I find that I regret this lack of pleasure. I do know who he is, many friends and writers I follow also follow him. Well now I’m adding to my to read list. Alchemist follows an inventor who is trying to find a solution to a nasty side effect of magic use: Brambles. As in, a plant that is called into being by the use of magic and will choke the land and poison the people living there. And when he succeeds, the result is not the one he expects. It’s a trip through the dark side of human nature, and frightening in a way.
Rysn – Brandon Sanderson
This story was a delightful light romp, very welcome after reading the Alchemist. I skipped a couple stories to come to this, and I’m glad I did. The theme within is cultural differences and respecting them, no matter how outlandish they seem to you. It’s short and simple, but Epic doesn’t always have to be world wide to still be epic.
Mother of All Russiya – Melanie Rawn
A great look into the founding of Kiev Russia. I was vaguely familiar with the founding, but from the historical and therefore male POV. Rawn tackles it from the Queen’s POV, the one who by necessity of protecting herself and her son, manages to keep her position and prove herself as not just adequate, but great ruler. With the help of a little magician.
Riding the Shore of the River of Death – Kate Elliott
This is a short story in Elliott’s “Crown of Stars” verse, which I have not read. The verse is a rigid patriarchal world, and our heroine hopes to earn her Manhood so that she would not be forced into a marriage. I really like the way she reached out to grab her own future, and not just settle for the one chosen for her.
Bound Man – Mary Robinette Kowal
Kowal’s story is a delicious juxtaposition between a matriarchal and patriarchal world, with a little time travel thrown in. A warrior called to to help, with complications. I think this is my favorite story of the book, mostly because of the way Kowal handles the culture clash and the main character Li Reiko. The character’s main strength is that she is both mother and warrior, and no need to separate the different facets of her life.
The Narcomancer – N.K. Jemisin
I’m not sure, but I think this short is from the Thousand Kingdoms verse, exploring life on the borders a little more. The main character has to find the balance between his duty to others and his vows, without breaking either.
Strife Lingers in Memory – Carrie Vaughn
The last story I read in the book tells the story of what happens after the prince and princess get their happily ever after. Very believable take on PTSD and what it takes to deal with, and that it’s a lifelong battle sometimes.
Stories by Ursula Le Guin, Tad Williams, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Rothfuss, Michael Moorcock, Trudi Canavan, Juliet Marillier, and George RR Martin are also included in this anthology, but I did not read them for various reasons. 550 pages of awesome, epic stories.