Thursday, August 4, 2016


UnboundUnbound by Shawn Speakman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unbound is a collection of short stories from various authors in the fantasy genre. Overall this is a good collection. The only thing I would have liked to see is at minimum a paragraph talking about what world these stories appear in because it's not clear where a reader should go if he or she wanted to read more about the characters and their world.

I reviewed these stories not in the order they appear, but in the order I chose to read them. I didn't review all the short stories, these are just some that stood out to me.

The Siege of Tilpur by Brian McClellan

Many years before Promise of Blood, Tamas was a sergeant who desperately wanted a promotion. Tamas had two things against him though, he's a commoner and a powder mage. Commoner's aren't to have ambition and powder mage's were marked for death in some countries just for being powder mages. Being the man who takes the wall and breaks the siege of Tilpur was Tamas's best chance at a promotion. When he finds out the Adran army is withdrawing from the siege, Tamas takes desperate measures for his advancement and to save lives.

Tamas is a very different man in The Siege of Tilpur than he is in the Powder Mage trilogy. He's just as arrogant, but more subdued than he was in the novella Servant of the Crown when he shot the lower part of a nobles earlobe off in a duel. Tamas knows what he's capable of and realizes he has a nearly impossible task in front of him in order to be promoted in the Adran army.

I really enjoyed The Siege of Tilpur because first Brian McClellan is an awesome author and second Tamas is one intense devoted character. He loves Adro even though those who rule it don't acknowledge him and some outright despise him. It would have been far simpler for Tamas to join The Wings of Adom who seem more concerned with merit in their ranks instead of noble blood. Tamas took some crazy risks just for the hope that someone would overlook his common blood and promote him.

The Siege of Tilpur is the reason I chose to read Unbound in the first place and I have to say I am not disappointed by that choice at all.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Small Kindnesses by Joe Abercrombie

Shev owns a dump of a husk house. She's trying to do the right thing, she even helped an unconscious mountain of a woman into her bed just that morning. Unfortunately she has a past that won't leave her alone. Shev is the best thief in Westport which means people come to her when they want things stolen. She can often say no, but when the son of a powerful man comes she has no choice but do as he says.

Small Kindnesses wasn't bad, but an introduction to the short story would have been great. I wasn't sure what world this story took place in, which happens to be Abercrombie's First Law world. I also couldn't tell when it was taking place, the only identifier I noticed was a young Severard appears and he works for Shev. So I imagine this is at least a decade prior to the events in The Blade Itself.

Lord Grimdark himself is back and Small Kindnesses is just a sample of his dark creativity. I'll have to check out Abercrombie's website to figure out if this story ties into a new book. It certainly seems like it does as this story reads like the first chapter or two of a longer book.

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Ethical Heresy by Sam Sykes

The story begins with some heretics against the Venarium being tortured, witch burned on the stake style with magic thrown in there. The story is told from the perspective of the apprentice Dreadaeleon. Dread isn't the sharpest, but he has some ability. He and fellow apprentice Cesta are pressed into service while searching for the leader of the Heretics and things get crazy from there.

The Ethical Heresy was my first exposure to Sam Sykes and I have to say I liked it. This story was a mash up of Wizards, Jedi child snatchers, desertion, and consequences. It reads much better than that mini description, but those were all familiar territories I noticed. In the end I have to say I will be checking out more of Sam Sykes books because of The Ethical Heresy.

4 out of 5 stars

The Game by Michael J. Sullivan

The employees of DysanSoft are facing an impossible issue. A character in their game Realms of Rah isn't following his programing. Many games have glitches like characters walking through walls or falling into the sky, but that's not what they're facing here. It appears a giant dark green troll named Troth has gained sentience. DysanSoft's president wants answers, but the employees just don't have answers.

Michael J. Sullivan takes on a highly philosophical idea in a familiar technological format in The Game. Troth is eerily aware of the world he lives in and he's asking the big questions of where did he come from, what happens when he dies, and why is the world like this. Troth's creator Jeri Blainey recently asked the same questions herself when her father died and wonders how could Troth be this way.

I've seen many stories like The Game that attempts to answer the unknowable parts of life and I find them all interesting in their own way. They are thought provoking, but in the end they only leave me with more questions. The Game was certainly an unexpected short story in the Unbound collection.

3.5 out of 5 stars

A Good Name by Mark Lawrence

Firestone is a young tribal man who just passed his manhood trial. Unfortunately he has anger in him which he unleashes on a member of his tribe over something trivial and is sent to face the king. Nothing from that point on goes as he once expected.

A Good Name is likely a story I could appreciate more if I got into the Broken Empire series. I tried reading the first book before and wasn't a fan so perhaps it's time to give it another try. The writing in the short story is solid yet unspectacular.

3 out of 5 stars

The Farmboy Prince by Brian Staveley

The Farmboy Prince is one of those short stories that's easy to appreciate without being familiar with the main story or world the story exists in. Peasants are peasants and these peasants knew their place. A bit vulgar, but when the POV character is rough around the edges it only makes sense that his vocabulary matches.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Madwalls by Rachel Caine

I liked the writing style of Madwalls, but the story made absolutely no sense to me.

3 out of 5 stars

Jury Duty by Jim Butcher

Jury Duty is a Harry Dresden Law and Order episode. An ex-con gone straight is being set up to go to jail because of supernatural interests and Dresden can't just let that happen. This was a pretty good short story even with the fact that I've barely read any of the Dresden books. Short stories like this one make me feel like I should give the main series another try.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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