Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

fantasy anthology review Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders Swords   & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery fantasy  anthology review Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders Swords & Dark  Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R. Kiernan, James Enge, and personal favorite, Steven Erikson. And with highly respected editors Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders behind the wheel, I knew the book wouldn’t disappoint.

From start to finish, Swords & Dark Magic is an entertaining anthology that will please anyone who is a fan of sword & sorcery. It certainly did the trick for me, kicking off with an exciting one-two combo of Steven Erikson and a new Black Company tale by Glen Cook, and ending on a high note with Joe Abercrombie’s “The Fool Jobs” — basically a preview of the author’s next book, The Heroes, which is set in the same world as The First Law trilogy and Best Served Cold.

As well as the anthology started and ended though, it was the stories found in between that really shined with Scott Lynch’s tale of the Living Library (“In the Stacks”) and Garth Nix’s humorous Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz adventure (“A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet”) two of my favorites. Other notable entries included a new Fool Wolf story by Greg Keyes, a Morlock tale by James Enge, Tanith Lee’s “Two Lions, a Witch, and the War-Robe,” and “The Deification of Dal Bamore” which offers a tantalizing glimpse at Tim Lebbon’s forthcoming new fantasy novel, Echo City. The best stories though were those that I didn’t expect to enjoy, namely K.J. Parker’s “A Rich Full Week” and Michael Moorcock’s “Red Pearls.” In the past, I tried reading Parker’s Scavenger trilogy and Moorcock’s famous creation Elric, but both left a bad taste in the mouth. So I was quite surprised by how much I ended up loving “A Rich Full Week” and the new Elric story.

Negatively, there were a few rocky bumps along the way — which is not unexpected with an anthology — but even the weaker stories had something worthwhile to offer. For instance, Gene Wolfe’s “Bloodsport” provided an enticing taste of what I’ve been missing from never having read anything by Mr. Wolfe before; Robert Silverberg’s “Dark Times at the Midnight Market” left me wanting to visit the world of Majipoor; Michael Shea’s “Hew the Tint Master” was imaginative and elicited a chuckle or two out of me; and Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “The Sea Troll’s Daughter” does a good job of twisting a few fantasy conventions.

Apart from these weaker entries, I felt that some of the short stories provided by authors I like reading (Steven Erikson, Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, James Enge, etc.) were somewhat lacking compared to their previous efforts, even if I still had fun with them. I also thought most of the stories found in the anthology were largely formulaic, but then again, sword & sorcery is not exactly a genre known for its originality.

All in all, reading Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery was time well spent, and I can’t thank Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan enough for making this anthology happen. Enthusiastically recommended to anybody who reads fantasy.


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ROBERT THOMPSON is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

View all posts by Robert Thompson (retired)

7 comments

  1. I want this book really badly. :) I have been loving reading anthologies lately, and well…mixed with fantasy, you can’t go wrong. Not with the names in this book. Thanks for the review! I am waiting as patiently as possible for this book to be in the stores.

  2. SWEET!!! Nice reveiw Rob. I’ve got this on pre-order for my Kindle. Supposed to be delivered 6/22. Judging from your review, it looks to be what I’d expect in a solid anthology. I’m looking forward to it even more now.

  3. Melissa & Greg, I had a blast reviewing “Sword & Dark Magic”, but I have to admit that the review wasn’t as comprehensive as I would have liked. Normally when I review an anthology I like to review each story individually, but I wasn’t able to do that this time because of the baby. Anyway, I hope you both enjoy reading the book as much as I did!

  4. I feel ya, Rob T. I gave-up trying reviewing anthologies per each story, a long time ago. The only thing is, if you’re not doing that anymore, I won’t be able to defer to your reviews from mine…
    It’s getting to be hard-work for me to live the life of a slacker…:dunce:

  5. I actually enjoy reviewing anthos story-by-story, but it’s a lot of work. I’m hoping that when the baby gets older I’ll be able to return to that format, but in the meantime my reviews will probably be less comprehensive and more on the short side :eyebrows:

  6. Robert T. The review was great. I love hearing on this book. It just makes me want it even more. Hope the baby is doing well. :) Best of luck to you.

  7. Well I’m glad you liked the review Melissa :-)) As far as the baby, she’s doing really well. Just had her four-month check-up and while her weight/height are about average, her motors skills are apparently advanced according to the doctor. Most importantly though, she’s healthy and happy :D

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