Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
A collection of short stories, all about battles someone is struggling to survive. Everything from personal battles to wars. All of them were scifi or fantasy, no real world battles.
When I read in the book's introduction that a bunch of these stories were set in other book series, I got all frowny. I've had really bad experience with that in the past, where a collection of short stories were basically just advertisements for other books and could not stand alone as stories. Happily that's not the case with these! Almost every one worked great as a stand-alone story! And as an added bonus, they made me want to go read the rest of the authors' works! (So I guess they're still like advertisements... but effective ones.)
Short reviews of each of the stories behind the cut.
1) Ashes and Starlight by Dave Wolverton (writing as David Farland). Set in his Runelords series (which I haven't even heard of before), but hundreds of years earlier. A story of two races of people at war, when aliens/monsters/something shows up on their shore. But sometimes even a common enemy doesn't make for easy allies... This story followed one boy, held captive by the other race, as the monsters arrived to kill them all. I really, really enjoyed both the story and the author's writing. The boy was perfectly believable as alien to the others, and the monsters/aliens were just as perfectly believably foreign. I want to find more to read by this author.
2) The Fixed Stars by Seanan McGuire (set in her October Daye book series). Urban fantasy, which is not at all my cup of tea. The main characters were fairies, at which point my brain went NO NO NO NO (I don't know why I have such a strong reaction to them), and I skipped the rest of the story.
3) The Keeper of Names by Larry Correia. (This story is a prequel to his Son of the Black Sword book, which I haven't read). I really, really liked this story! A tale of oppressed people trying to revolt. Even though I never read the Black Sword book, I really got a sense of history and how this little piece of the story fit in the whole world. Another author I want to read more of!
4) The Smaller We Are by John Helfers. This was kind of odd. A story of war between humans and non-humans (all sorts of D&D-ish races) told from the non-humans' POV. Not bad, but it didn't really do anything for me.
5) Invictus by Annie Bellet. Really didn't work for me. The story of a battle between two seagoing ships, with a tiny element of scifi or fantasy. The story should have worked, there were lots of made-up, slightly off from our language words, but it just didn't hook me at all, and also seemed to end very abruptly.
6) Rising Above by Sarah Hoyt. Another that just didn't work for me. Set in World War II, there were animal shifters in the world. Both sides of the war decide to start using dragon shifters as part of their air troops. (That sounds so much more interesting than the story was!) I believed the setting as WW2 Germany, and the characters seemed mostly believable, but as a whole the story was just completely flat to me.
7) A Cup of Wisdom by Joe Zieja. I liked the ending, but it seemed to take a long time getting there. Through ~magic~ a boy about to go to war learned the reality of war.
8) Words of Power by Wendy Wagner. Didn't really work for me. About some fantasy army set in a realistic-ish world using big clay golems in their fights.
9) Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rhinehart. Kind of interesting, sort of worked for me. Two boys survive a brutal attack and have to travel together. One of them is able to do a little magic. Their interactions with individuals from the enemy forces were the most interesting parts of the story to me.
10) Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo wins the award for most interesting title in the book. A small group of centaurs warriors, all female, have survived a horrible battle and must catch up with the army or be left behind in the enemy lands. I can't remember the last time I read a story about centaurs, but I really loved them as characters. They were perfectly believable as horses AND people!
11) Deadfall by Nancy Fulda. Set in a world where some masses of land float in big bands across the land (kind of like a planet's rings, but closer around the world). I liked the worldbuilding (drifting islands of land meant people could get trapped over the ocean for too long, without resources), but the story didn't really work for me.
12) Yael of the Strings by John R. Fulzt was really, really good! In it a bard was pressed into battle. His side of the war used griffins, while the other side used giant spiders. It was really cool, well-written, realistic, and just really enjoyable to read. I should find more things written by him!
13) The Gleaners by Dave Gross. Did not at all work for me. Horror, but not scary. In it a trio of men were robbing the dead after a big battle, and met someone worse than themselves...
14) Bonded Men by James L. Sutter. This story was the main reason I got the whole book. Sutter writes same-sex scifi stories that have thus far always worked for me. There were some elements I LOVED about this story (everything character-related), but the war/battle stuff worked less for me. But the characterization stuff was easily strong enough to carry the whole story for me. The story was about a fantasy world-ish elite force where every member was part of a bonded pair of lovers -- the men battled with their lovers as their fighting partner.
15) Bone Candy by Glen Cook. My least favorite story in the book. Dialogue-heavy, description-absent, I was pretty lost from the get-go and had no interest in figuring out what was going on. Skipped most of it.
16) First Blood by Elizabeth Moon. I enjoyed it a lot! A story from her Paksenarrion series, which I still haven't dabbled in. In this story, she told the tale of a young lord having to step up and take a role in a battle. I liked the characters a lot and loved her writing.
I wish the book would have put the 'About the author' for each story after the story, instead of clumping them all at the end.