Edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy
(Evil Girlfriend Media)
This is another kickstarter project, and a worthy one. It starts out with “Attrition,” by Judith Tarr. Not my favorite story in the volume but good and solid; it sets the tone. Then things really kick off with “No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden” by Wunji Lau, and I wanted to read more.
I was really surprised by “Armor the Color of War” by David Szarzynski, with it’s lush language and imagery.
But this was followed by Mary Pletsch’s “The Blood Axe” which set an entirely different tone about an outsider meeting another outsider, who was neglected for a different reason. this story, like so many in the anthology, had a marvelous magical system.
But there was no magic in“First Command” by Chris A. Jackson or “Pride and Joy” by Eric Landreneau. Both stories were about battles and the psychological warfare that goes with them, as told by wise women: one thrust into an unexpected promotion and the other an experienced armorer who understand the physical and mental weaknesses of her foe in the gladiator arena. ‘
Magic returns in “The Bound Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal, and I love Viking sagas, which this was no doubt inspired by. “Voice of the Trees” is also about magic: a story of a dryad saving her tree and the forest from evil elves. Here authors Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood make their armor out of something totally unexpected.
Evil elves and unexpected armor also make an appearance in “The Raven and the Swans” by Amy Griswold. But here, it is the feminine arts that weave an unremarkable material as protection.
The next story is possibly the most fun read in the book. It starts out with a woman in a smithie making a replica Viking sword and you begin to realize she learned the craft…elsewhere. Her husband is a former mage, who now channels that mindset into equally arcane computer programming. Author Kristy Griffin Green sends them on an adventure into that “elsewhere” with her niece, and the teen gets indoctrinated into “The Family Business.”
The most challenging story in the volume, and well worth the price of the entire book, is “Stone Woken” by Crystal Lynn Hilbert. Never lapsing into purple prose, the language is immense, sweeping, and powerful. Theses are strong women you will NEVER forget.
The focus narrows down to one bodyguard and one almost alien mage in “Serendipity” by Steve Bornstein, but the stakes are nearly as high. Then in Alex C. Renwick’s “Ravenblack,” the armor–you’ll see when you read it–is not what you’d expect. At. All.
Next is “King’s Shield: A Tale of the World of Ruin” by Erik Scott de Bie. A bit overly dramatic for my tastes, but interesting worldbuilding made it worth reading. In “The Lioness” by Anya Penfold, we find another sort of Roman gladiator tale, only this one is complicated by necromancers and family.
“The Hero of Ithar” is the story of a woman who was a hero and sick of the adulation, so she retired to the hinterlands, where she only had to go to one ceremony a year and her armor was in a museum. They even made a ridiculous statue in her honor. When the son of her most famous foe crashes the party, his blindness to the obvious (and the nearby armor) seals his defeat.
I suppose dragon scales count as armor in “Golden” by Todd McCaffrey, but really, it’s all about how to live with a difficult spouse and child. The husband and father of dragons’ armor is love. Meanwhile, the armor in “A Night in New Veroshtin” by Cassandra Rose Clarke was confidence and a sense of mission, shattered by a changing war.
“Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw” made me cry. Well done, Rhonda Parrish! The armor, in this case could not stop the pain.
Good anthology. You’ll enjoy it.