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Sword and Sorceress XVI
edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley
DAW Books, 306 pages

Michael Whelan
Sword and Sorceress XVI
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Marion Zimmer Bradley was born in Albany, NY, on June 3, 1930, and married Robert Alden Bradley in 1949. Mrs Bradley received her B.A. in 1964 from Hardin Simmons University in Texas, then did graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1965-67. She sold her first professional story to Vortex Science Fiction in 1952, and has since written numerous novels, among them: Mists of Avalon, The Firebrand, and the Darkover series. She has been editing installments of Sword and Sorceress since 1984.

ISFDB Bibliography
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine
SF Site Review: The Gratitude of Kings
SF Site Review: The Shadow Matrix
SF Site Review: Gravelight

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer


This latest installment from Marion Zimmer Bradley brings us some unique voices and vistas, namely:
In "Moonlight on Water" by Carol E. Leever, we enter the mind of a young woman whose martial arts training comes from woodland creatures (both common and fantastic).
Charlotte Carlson's "The Changeless Room" presents us with a story of a little girl, a wizard, and a deadly room in which a woman's ghost has been spun into a giant candle.
Fujiko's "The Kappa's Gift," although short, provides a nice Japanese-rooted mythological story, featuring a critter that probably looks like a man-sized version of all the behemoths presented to us on the silver screen by Tojo Pictures.
"Dragon's Tear," by Sonja Fedotowsky, is another very short tale of a group of women seeking out the invaluable Dragon's Tear, an opal of such magical power that it just might save their home island from sinking into the sea.

Most of the stories in this anthology are too short. They appear to have been written in haste, or at least are purposefully giving us only a slice of life in the realms of fantasy. I don't know if I like this. But why not? After all, realistic fiction often uses the supremely focused slice of life to great effect -- why not fantasy fiction?

Why do we have to know everything about all the characters, including bloodlines and relations to distant kings or gold-seeking dwarves? Why not just a simple little story, one that describes the narrative arc of just one character, instead of an entire legion.

Having convinced myself, I kept reading:

In Lawrence Schimel's "The Anvil of Her Pride," the best swordmaker in the world makes a sword as swift as lightning for the best warrior in the world. The price? That this supreme warrior impregnate her, bring life into the same world that they have both visited with death -- she through her perfect swords, he through his deadly skills.
"Weaving Spells," by Hugo-award winning Lawrence Watt-Evans has by far the best opener:

Kirriana had been staring out the farmhouse window at the steady rain for several minutes, worrying about Dogal, when she got up so suddenly that her chair fell backward and crashed on the floor. Her mother jumped at the sudden sound, dropping a stitch. The older woman looked up.
"I'm going after him," Kirriana announced.
"Oh, I don't..." her mother began, lowering her knitting.
"You are not," her father announced from the doorway; he had risen at the sound of the toppling chair and come to see what had caused the commotion.
"Father, Dogal and I are supposed to be married tomorrow!" Kirriana said, turning. "He should have been back home days ago, and he isn't! What are you going to do tomorrow, keep the whole village standing around while we wait for him?"

And off we go, into a story featuring an impetuous hot-head, a magic stone, and a wizard who may or may not have kidnapped her husband-to-be. Good stuff.

Deborah Wheeler's "Enaree, an Azkhantian Tale," is a lyric tale told in the old style: a fantasy world woven of the same cloth as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A delight to the senses.

So, in conclusion: a little for every taste. Overall, the anthology is not dazzling, but the three stories above make it worth collecting (yes, yes, I'm one of those who'll pick up a short story anthology if only one story in it is by a favourite author).

Copyright © 1999 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer for Cisco Systems, Inc. He is currently taking classes in jeet kune do, which probably doesn't match up well with his vegan pacifistic lifestyle, but what the hey.

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