Monday, February 19, 2024

Neither Beg Nor Yield - Jason M. Waltz, ed. (Part 2)

Last week, I reviewed the first four stories in NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD, the massive new sword and sorcery anthology from Rogue Blades Entertainment. This week I’m moving on to the next four stories.

I’ve read and enjoyed Steve Dilks’ Gunthar stories. His novella in this volume features one of his series characters I hadn’t encountered before, Bohun, a giant black warrior from a world that seems to be very loosely based on our own. “Harvest for the Blood-King” is set in an alternate version of Britain, which is ruled by a Rome-like empire called Valentia. Bohun and a Valentian soldier named Tibeirus are dispatched to rescue the son of a Valentian politician who has been kidnapped by barbarians that bear a resemblance to the Scots. Dilks doesn’t belabor the background or the world-building, though, a quality I’ve noticed in his work that I really like. He’s more about character and action, and he does a great job with both in this yarn. He’s written other stories about Bohun and I have to seek them out, because this one is excellent.

I’ve been a fan of Chuck Dixon’s work going all the way back to his great runs on THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, THE PUNISHER, BATMAN, NIGHTWING, and AIRBOY. In recent years he’s become a bestselling novelist with his Levon Cade series (Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture, as they say). His story in this volume, “The Stone From the Stars”, features a new pair of heroes, Hagen and Pilsner, a couple of mercenaries who find themselves on the wrong side of a war and have to strike out on their own. They wind up trying to save a wizard and his beautiful redheaded daughter from a monster summoned up by an evil necromancer. This story has some great action scenes and really races along, and Hagen and Pilsner wind up being very likable protagonists. I thought at first they might be a bit of an homage to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, but they’re actually very different from those characters and stand just fine on their own. This is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn.

John R. Fultz’s “Evil World” features a series character I hadn’t encountered before, an indomitable warrior named Gnori. This story begins when Gnori is a child and follows him as he becomes that fierce battler, giving the reader just the right amount of world-building as the story moves along but never sacrificing the pace and scope that give it an epic feel. This is the darkest story in the anthology so far, but it works very well considering the story that Fultz is telling. Another excellent tale.

Keith J. Taylor has been writing sword and sorcery tales even longer than Chuck Dixon. His series character Nasach the Firbolg, a reiver and mercenary in and around medieval Ireland, has been the protagonist of stories since the 1970s. In “Reckoning”, Nasach and some companions of his find themselves throwing in with a motley crew of pirates. The captain is married to a woman who may or may not be a mermaid, and he's convinced she can find a sunken treasure for them. Unfortunately for him, even though he doesn’t recognize Nasach, the Firbolg has an old grudge against him, and when the time is right, Nasach intends to settle that score. This is a wonderful story full of action and humor and color, and it’s very well-written. I haven’t read any of Taylor’s Nasach stories until now. I hope at some point there’ll be a complete collection of them.

Four more stories into the book now, and NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD hasn’t taken its foot off the gas. It’s picking up speed and getting even better. So far, this is a terrific anthology and I give it a very high recommendation. You can find the e-book edition on Amazon while the print editions are still in the works.


Jason M 'RBE' Waltz said...

Loving your breakdowns, James. When you get the opportunity, yes, you should grab some SAVAGE REALMS MONTHLY for some fun Bohun stories. And Fultz wrote a heck of a Gnori story in the first Rogues in the House A BOOK OF BLADES definitely worth tracking down.

James Reasoner said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Jason. Once I'm finished with NBNY, I plan to continue reading some of the recent sword and sorcery anthologies. I have a lot to catch up on!


James, thanks a lot for the kind words on the Nasach story. He's a character of mine I really enjoy writing about and there have been a number of yarns about him now, starting with "Hungry Grass" in Andy Offutt's SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS series back in the '70s. One Nasach story, "The Crimson Spectre" hasn't been published yet, and I fully intend to do others, hoping to see them all published in a collection - before too long, as I ain't getting younger. Actually I'm working on the next one now, any time I take a break from the current novel. It follows directly from "Reckoning." So we shall see.
Hope ROUGH EDGES is online and doing well for a long time.