Evil is a matter of perspective. But this book is superb and that’s a fact.
A stella line-up of the best of the best in grimdark fantasy. Beautiful colour illustrations to open every story. Wonderful stories. All about the bad guys.
I do like the bad guys. That’s possibly not news to anyone.
Actually, of course, it’s far more complicated. Anyone can write a nasty story about a nasty people doing nasty things. Gods know, I’ve tried. But ‘vile bloke is vile to people’ wouldn’t really fill 500 pages. Might, whisper it, get a bit … dull. I even got tired of dear old Ramsey Bolton for not really moving on past the ‘being vile to people’ bit. The characters here are certainly the villains of the series they inhabit. But they get to be the protagonists of the story, the ones we’re cheering for. Not quite antiheroes. More … heroes-heroes, but still villains as well. Some of the stories are maybe origins stories, showing us how all that pain and rage came into being. Some just let us sit back and watch a beautiful bad guy deliciously kick ass. None of the stories wallow in empty depravity. Nor do they pretend for this one book that these are nice people really, kind and lovely and nice to kittens and tragically misunderstood. But they show human morality in all its complexity, its shades of grey and bleeding, that it’s possible to be on the right side and still be a right bastard, or to be evil beyond belief, depraved, a child murderer, and yet still to love and be loved and to deeply, deeply care about that.
The stories are, as you’d expect given the authors involved, dazzling. Beautifully written and a true grimdark pleasure to read. And you can sense the authors involved are having a great deal of fun. I have to admit to preferring swords and sorcery over urban fantasy, so I’m deeply biased, but particular highlights for me were Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Old Blood, Courtney Schafer’s A Game of Mages and Michael R. Fletcher’s The Broken Dead. Oh, and Alex Marshal’s The Divine Death of Jerilla Martigore. And Deborah A Wolf’s Blood Penny. And then there’s The Carathayan. By R Scott Bakker. The God Bakker. Him to whom I kneel. Just that title alone makes me happy. I’d have bought the book for this one story alone.
I’m possibly a bit biased, what with being @QueenofGrimdark tm and all and this book therefore having kind of being written with me as the Platonic reader ideal. You may also be able to tell that I’m more comfortable writing my own fiction than other people’s book reviews. But I’d really recommend this book.