Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Neither Beg Nor Yield - Jason M. Waltz, ed. (Part 4)

We’ve reached the fourth post in this series of reviews of the stories in NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD, the great new anthology of sword and sorcery stories from Rogue Blades Entertainment. The previous posts can be found here, here, and here.

Eadwine Brown is a new author to me, and his story “Vengeance, With Wind and Tide” features a new character he’s introducing, a female pirate named Azirah. She and her crew set out to find an island with a mysterious tower located on it, that tower being the stronghold of the sorcerer who is responsible for the deaths of another crew of pirates. Azirah wants vengeance on this sorcerer, as well as whatever treasure she and her followers can find. This is just a superb story, written in a style reminiscent of Robert E. Howard, with plenty of action, a strong protagonist, and a vividly realized setting. As I was reading, I thought, “You know, Brown could have sold this to WEIRD TALES in the Thirties.” That’s pretty high praise.

“Isekai Sengokumonogatari” is by one of the big names in the genre, Glen Cook. Like C.L. Werner’s story earlier in the book, this one is set in an alternate version of feudal Japan, complete with spider demons. Also like Werner’s story, I was predisposed not to be too fond of it, but Cook won me over just like Werner did and I enjoyed this tale of a young warrior who picked the losing side in a war. Hired to accompany a mysterious and somewhat sinister old man and three noble orphans on a journey to deliver the children to relatives, our hero Shinzutoro encounters considerable trouble and learns some things about himself and others, prevailing over all the dangers to his charges. It’s a fine story, as you’d expect from an old pro like Cook.

Jeff Stewart is another writer new to me, and his story “Bona Na Croin” is the first to feature Fergus Mac Ronan, a mercenary and adventurer in medieval Ireland. A violent encounter results in Fergus becoming a soldier for one of the local kings, and that plunges him into a war that culminates with the summoning of an ancient evil entity. This story has a bit of a GAME OF THRONES feeling to it with its betrayals, unexpected murders, and fiery sorcery. And it’s an absolutely terrific yarn. Fergus is a fine protagonist, the action scenes are very well done, and Stewart does a top-notch job capturing the grittiness of the setting. I really liked this one.

According to editor Jason Waltz, Steve Goble has been writing stories about the warrior Calthus for a long time, but both author and character are new to me. In “Virgins For Khuul”, Goble quickly gives us Calthus’s back-story: a mighty warrior once known as the Slaughter Lord, killed in battle many years ago, resurrected by wizards to meet a new threat, now a wanderer. When he comes across a plan by evil priests to sacrifice three hundred virgins to the vicious god Khuul, he teams up with an old enemy to put a stop to it. This leads to some apocalyptic action in Khuul’s stronghold inside a mountain. Colorful, fast-moving, and packed with action, “Virgins For Khuul” ends on an offbeat note that’s very intriguing, and I’m left feeling like I ought to hunt up Goble’s earlier stories about the character.

This is another strong group of stories and I’m looking forward to wrapping up my reading of NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD in the near future.  

1 comment:

Jason M 'RBE' Waltz said...

What a great stretch of comments! And stories definitely worthy of them.