Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Neither Beg Nor Yield - Jason M. Waltz, ed. (Part 5)

This is the fifth and final batch of reviews of stories from NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD, the new sword and sorcery anthology from Rogue Blades Entertainment and editor Jason M. Waltz. The previous installments of this series can be found here, here, here, and here.

In most anthologies, collections, pulps, or any bunch of stories that I read, there’s usually at least one that I bounce off of, which is not to say that they’re bad stories, just ones that don’t appeal to me personally. This has finally happened in this anthology with “The Last Vandals on Earth” by Steven Erikson. This tale of a small group of Vandals being pursued by and battling enemies in Africa is written in an elaborate, highly distinctive style that just doesn’t resonate with me. I suspect some of you would really like it, so don’t go by me. But I didn’t care for it.

“The Barbarian’s Lawyer” by Lawrence A. Weinstein is just the opposite. It introduces two excellent characters, the barbarian called Blazgorn and Cynric Magsen, the lawyer who defends him before the High Arbiter when Blazgorn is accused of stealing treasures from the mansion of one of the city’s most powerful nobles. Doing humor in a sword and sorcery tale is a tricky proposition, but Weinstein manages quite well, prompting a number of smiles and one out-loud laugh from me while I was reading the story. But at the same time, he also gives us some very effective action. This is a wonderful story, and I’d love to see more of these two characters.

Last year, the first novel in Howard Andrew Jones’ Hanuvar series, LORD OF A SHATTERED LAND, was one of the best books I read. I have the second book, THE CITY OF MARBLE AND BLOOD, but haven’t read it yet. I was very glad to see Jones and Hanuvar in this volume, as well. For those who haven’t yet made his acquaintance, Hanuvar is sort of an alternate world version of Hannibal (although that’s really too simplistic a description). His goal is to locate the survivors from his conquered country, Volanus, who have been scattered all over a world ruled by the Dervan Empire (think Rome) and get them to a safe sanctuary. In “Reflection From a Tarnished Mirror”, he runs up against an unusual threat to his quest, and as usual, Jones spins a well-written, compelling yarn. I’m not sure where in Hanuvar’s saga this story takes place, exactly, but it’s a strong reminder that I need to get around to reading that second book.

Finally, we have “Maiden Flight” by Adrian Cole. This is the first adventure of Ulric Wulfsen, a Viking raider who has a strange and dangerous encounter on a corpse-littered battlefield that leads to an epic confrontation and a poignant, very effective ending. I’ve been aware of Adrian Cole’s fiction for decades but have never read anything by him as far as I recall. This is a very good story and a near-perfect way to wrap up the anthology.

Looking back, I have some definite favorites among the stories in this volume. The top rank, for me, consists of the tales by Steve Dilks, Chuck Dixon, Keith J. Taylor, David C. Smith, Eadwine Brown, Jeff Stewart, Lawrence A. Weinstein, and Howard Andrew Jones. Four out of those eight authors are ones I’d never read before, and that’s one of the great appeals of a book like this, introducing the reader to new authors, or at least, authors they’ve never read before. I’ll definitely be looking for more work by several of these gentlemen.

In the meantime, if you’re a fan of sword and sorcery, I give my highest recommendation to NEITHER BEG NOR YIELD. Even though it’s relatively early, I have no doubt that it’ll be on my Top Ten list at the end of the year.

1 comment:

Jason M 'RBE' Waltz said...

19 out of 20 is a big win, I'll take that to the bank every day! AND almost half those 19 are favorites?! Much appreciated, James, thanks for putting your eyes on this early.