ROGUES. ASSASSINS. MERCENARIES.
Coin is their master, and their trade, more often than not, is blood. These are BLACKGUARDS.
Whether by coin or by blood…YOU WILL PAY.
(You can see the full author listing here)
First off, hello again! Two weeks goes by so slow, and yet so fast 🙂 As I indicated in my last review, vacation didn’t mean no reading, it just meant slower reading and slower writing. Now I’m looking to get back into the swing of things, and I thought a good way to do that is to look at a Kickstarter-funded anthology that I first referenced late in 2014 when talking about my experience with the crowd-funding site and creative projects, like this one.
As of the date I wrote this, I have received the e-book version of the anthology. The physical books were supposed to start shipping on 3/31. As of 4/16 mine does not show as shipped and I am waiting for a response from the creator as to when I might get it. If anything relevant comes of that conversation, I’ll update it in time. Fulfillment has been good, not great. Though a bit slow (was quoted for 12/14, and it’s now 4/15 with no physical copies as of yet), the book did grow by 50% so the extra time is understandable. Communication hasn’t been the best I’ve ever sen, but he did include plenty of photographic evidence of things moving along, which does go a long way for proving the legitimacy of a project. As when I wrote that article, I believed that something like this: an anthology assembled by a professional editor with experience and stories written by professionals is the kind of project to support if you want the best odds that you’ll see something on the other end.
So anyway, Blackguards is what I expected the G.R.R.M – edited Rogues anthology to be: a collection of fantasy stories centered around roguish characters. Right off the bat, that may be enough for some to go check this out. Other pluses on a pure structural aspect: It’s also a collection of entirely new stories, a nice bonus as most anthologies are collections of previous works, and not new tales. I’ll also say that unlike some anthologies, the introductions to the stories are nice and brief, never outstaying their welcome. Authors got enough space to provide context for their tales or what series their stories are from, so new readers can track down the related works. It worked well. Finally, all the stories come with a title illustration. The art may or may not to be of your taste, but it’s a nice feature.
As for the content, I’d have to stay that overall, the quality is pretty dang high. As always, there are a few stories that won’t quite do it for you (and I admit, the two fan submissions that were included in the book were among the four or five that I skipped over), but generally speaking, it’s pretty good. My major complaint is that outside the one contemporary story and the two or three tales set in specifically places and times, most of the stories are very traditional faux-medieval fantasies, so over the course of the 750ish pages, there’s a feeling of sameness that can be a drag. I’d liked to have seen the inclusion of some urban fantasy or maybe some paranormal just to shake things up.
Overall, this is a very solid anthology series, and it’s an easy recommendation, especially for those who’ve never bought a collection like this and aren’t sure that it’s there thing. I think this group of authors did a good job writing stories that would be accessible to all, and not just their fans. Of course, if you haven’t been swayed by this kind of thing before, this won’t change your mind.
Verdict: Buy It. I’d probably recommend getting your hands on the e-book version if you have a reader. At 750 pages and 6 x 9 print size, this is a monster of a book, and an e-reader is just going to be more comfortable to read.
[Edited 5/11 – Having gone out in the last batch of books, my copy finally arrived today. Anyway, the quality of the book itself is very high and easily of the quality of anything else you’d find on the shelf. I particularly how the introductions are on an actual introduction page (as opposed to just a paragraph separated from the text) and the artwork definitely benefits from being on the larger format than my Paperwhite. All told it’s a job very well done and I feel I got my money’s worth. That said, my recommendation of the digital copy still stands, especially if you’re like me and do a lot of your reading while you are out and about: the book is just too big to comfortably travel with.]