Posted on November 7, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy
Fans of “shared world” fiction will find many of their favorite authors in this collection, however they won’t find any characters from Forgotten Realms or Warhammer here. This collection is all “creator owned” and explores new worlds by these authors. Some of them have been expanded into other works such as RPGs (Demon Wars and Reign for example). These stories have appeared before in various magazines or anthologies over the years, but it is pretty cool to have them all collected together in one volume.
I read Jeremy Jones’ interview with James Lowder back in June and was immediately hooked on the concept of the book. I’ve interviewed a handful of the authors involved with this book over the years (Rich Dansky, Monte Cook, Greg Stolze, R. A. Salvatore, James Lowder, Paul S. Kemp, plus Jeremy’s interview with Elaine Cunningham in September) and enjoyed fiction/games from many of them. It was like a bunch of my favorite authors got together to show off some of their best material.
There is a great essay from editor James Lowder at the front of the book that details some of the “behind the scenes” elements of writing in shared world fiction. The characters and setting don’t belong to the author, they belong to a company. Editors of shared worlds are not the bad guys, but it sometimes is author vs. editor and the editor almost always wins (if you can call it that). The essay also talks a bit about creator owned settings and tells us how a book like this came together.
The stories themselves open up with a single page detailing the author’s bio and a bit of information on the story (where it first saw print, what the history of the work is, etc). This is great for fans of these authors who enjoy reading about their favorite author’s career, but also a great introduction for folks unfamiliar with a particular author’s work. I’m always on the hunt for new authors, so this was a great bonus feature of the collection.
I’m not going to break down each and every story in the book, but a few of the stories I found especially interesting for one reason or another include:
Mather’s Blood by R. A. Salvatore
This is part of the Demon Wars setting and shows a bit of violence and the heroic actions of just a couple of characters. This story only hints at the overall setting and really does little to set it apart from other fantasy worlds. To get the full view of the Demon Wars setting you’ll have to read the novels themselves, this tale is just a teaser, so-to-speak.
The Wisdom of Nightingales by Richard Dansky
I had to read this one twice. This story is a bit of a fairy tale set in a dark world (that readers only get a glimpse of) and unlike anything I’ve read from “The Dead Guy” before. While this story does not contain huge battle scenes or twisted horrors like some of the others, the writing is top-notch and the characters are well developed.
Memories and Ghosts by Monte Cook
This tale is part of the Diamond Throne setting, which I was only briefly aware of before picking up this book. I had never had the chance to explore the fiction or game products offered for the setting and it appears that I missed out a bit. This was a fun read and I may just have to keep an eye out for more of this setting.
The Unquiet Dreams of Cingris the Stout by James Lowder
This tale is a bit of a prequel to the upcoming The Screaming Tower, book one of the Ebonacht Trilogy. I really enjoy this tale and am very much looking forward to the upcoming books.
The entire book is full of material from a mix of talented authors. Fans of Paul S. Kemp’s Forgotten Realms novels will get a darker, edgier fantasy world with Confessions and Greg Stolze’s The Doom of Swords shows off some very cool elements from the Reign RPG.
This is an entertaining fiction anthology of creator-owned fiction and well worth picking up.
Review by Matt M McElroy