Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: Flashing Swords 5

Book Review: 'Flashing Swords #5: Demons and Daggers' 
edited by Lin Carter

3 / 5 Stars

'Flashing Swords #5: Demons and Daggers' (250 pp) was published by Dell in December, 1981.The striking cover art is by Richard Corben.

This is the fifth and final volume in the 'Flashing Swords' series that began in 1973.

Like the other volumes, this one features commissioned stories, but editor Carter, in his Introduction, states that for No. 5, he chose to go outside the membership of the SAG -the organization of sword-and-sorcery writers from whom he previously drew stories - to solicit entries from writers who are not usually associated with the genre.

[All of the stories in 'Flashing Swords #5: Demons and Daggers' were written in 1981.]

My capsule summaries of the contents:

Tower of Ice, by Roger Zelazny: when he avoided writing avant-garde New Wave prose, and instead stuck to traditional modes of storytelling, Zelazny could write some good stories, and this novelette - featuring his 'Dilvish the Damned' character - is very good. The narrative is fast-paced, the dialogue crisp, and the setting imaginative. This is the best entry in the anthology.

A Thief in Korianth, by C. J. Cherryh: in the squalid, violent streets of the waterfront district of the city of Korianth, a young pickpocket named Gillian steals from someone better left alone. This story is overwritten, particularly in terms of devoting too much prose to analyzing the main character's inner turmoil. But the plot is sufficiently engaging that I finished the tale.

Parting Gifts, by Diane Duane: an elderly sorceress is given a dangerous task, on the one night of the year when the Devil and his servants are free to roam the land at will. While this story's plotting and pacing are reminiscent of the stories of Ursula K. Leguin, 'Gifts' is well-written in its own right, and the second-best tale in the anthology.

A Dealing with Demons, by Craig Shaw Gardner: Ebenezum the mage and his trusted servant Wunt come to the aid of a king who cannot access his treasure-room. This is a 'humorous fantasy' story, reminiscent of the Jack Vance 'Cugel' tales. It's competent, if not remarkable.

The Dry Season, by Tanith Lee: in a drought-stricken foreign city, a forthcoming human sacrifice draws the attention of a conscience-stricken legionary. Lee's use of an overly figurative prose style - light is colored Ochre, sunsets are colored Apricot, hair is a Black Fleece, when crickets stop chirping it is like a Heart Suddenly Faltering, an impasse in a conversation is a Lacuna - sets too large a burden on the narrative, which is otherwise interesting.

Summing up, 'Flashing Swords #5: Demons and Daggers' is like the preceding four volumes in this series: some good stories, some mediocre ones. But the entry by Zelazny is a good argument for picking this volume up.

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