Fantasy anthologies can be a little hit and miss for me. I think fantasy works best in the longer format where authors have the opportunity to create new and exciting worlds, develop heroes and villains and deliver something that is epic in every sense of the word. Having said that, the ‘Lone Wolf’ anthology is pretty damn good reading.
The book, published by Undaunted Publishing leans more towards heroic fantasy fiction, fiction where one often stands against many, or where one is thrust in a perilous situation against insurmountable odds with only the wind at their back. For starters Undaunted must be congratulated on the cover art. I think it’s great…but what about the stories inside?…
Things get off to a great start with ‘The Iron Keys’, a tale that features an ostracised mage called Farden who is sent to the front lines where a fierce battle is brewing against a blood-thirsty horde of minotaurs! Action-packed and exciting, this is a great way to start. The second story was also very solid. A kind of dark fantasy take on Beauty and the Beast that is a little different and quite enjoyable but it is ‘Birds of a feather’ that I really enjoyed. It features a man called Aleron, who is a Gryphon-rider. Aleron becomes an unwilling champion to one of his enemies in a battle against automaton knights that march across the land. This story has some solid characters and great pacing, I really enjoyed it. The fight scenes are excellent and the story flowed really well. The next story was very different in that it had a western edge to it. A young boy enlists the help of a bounty hunter called Cactus Rose to help him track down and exact revenge on a group of outlaws. The dialogue was good in this story and it was a solid idea too. Not my favourite, I’ll be honest, but very readable.
We are nearly halfway through and there hasn’t been any d***ons mentioned yet! But, fear not ‘The Rules of the Game’ has duelling dragons and an enemy that seeks to manipulate and control out hero – dragon-rider, Rasa – via mind-control! This story is heaps of fun. The battles are great and so are the characters, bravo! ‘The Dwarfendam Run’ is really quite odd, but brilliant. The Dwarfendam Run itself is an obstacle course that people run in order to reach a special chalice. Few survive the treacherous run, but when a local musician finds the secret to completing the course unharmed the story takes on a real feel-good vibe to it. Excellent and original.
‘In Telling the Legend’ is also very good, despite being the shortest of the stories it is quite emotional and the ending is superb, I really didn’t see it coming. It’s the story of a village hermit who isn’t who he appears to be. Very well-written and a real highlight for this reader. ‘The Black’ is rich in folklore and myth. A watch-tower guard awakes to find all in the village have vanished. This leads towards an unexpected journey and some Lycanthropic action! Pretty good. A coming-of-age story is next up featuring betrayal, warring tribes and a magical spear that can cut through anything. Interesting take in that it utilises some Indian folklore to good effect. I could do without the quotes sprinkled through the story. I felt it interrupted the flow a little but it is a good story.
‘Wayward Knight’ is fairly run-of-the-mill in its execution but there is nothing wrong with this story of a grizzled old knight who offers his services to a local farmer in exchange for a roof over his head and a feed. The locals are having a fair bit of trouble with somebody looking to buy their land and things take a bloody turn as things are settled with the clash of steel. The final story ‘Senthyd’ also features dragons, though uses them sparingly. I liked this story too but it didn’t feel like a short story, more of a novel prologue and it does feel a little rushed towards the end.
All said, this is a fine anthology. There are some great ideas and although some familiar tropes appear, the stories are strong enough to give fantasy fans something to smile about.
Pick up a copy from here.