Book Review – Sword and Sorceress 30

by Rose Hill

I have always been a huge fan of anthologies.  My shelf of anthologies is nearly as large as my shelf of dragon books, and that’s saying something.  What I love about themes anthologies is that one can get a taste of a subject or a subgenre from a variety of different authors.  It’s a great introduction for new authors to the subject matter to see if they life it.


There’s also the convenience factor of short stories.  You can read a story over your lunch break, or on the train ride home without missing your stop.  You can read a story over supper and then continue with your plans for the rest of the night.  They’re fun little glimpses into a new world, new characters, and new authors.


I have been reading the Sword and Sorceress books since I was little.  For those unfamiliar with the series, they are woman-centered stories of sword and sorcery, originally started by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Since her death, the series has been picked up by others.  S&S30 was edited by Elisabeth Waters.


As anthologies often are, this one was a mixed bag.  There were a couple of stories I didn’t like at all, a couple that I loved, and a great number that I enjoyed.  Overall, the book felt… strange.  I don’t know if that’s because it’s been so long since I re-read the older books in the series, or whether it’s due to the influence of a new editor, or whether it’s simply the flavor of this particular collection of stories.  This particular anthology had a consistent Christian overtone I was not expecting given my familiarity with Bradley’s previous work.  It also felt oddly heteronormative, which was only highlighted by the gay couple in the first story.  Then again, that could just be because I’ve been reading a lot of work by queer authors recently (including editing my own), so I’m not used to the sheer number of heterosexual couples represented here.


Not all of the stories were based in medieval pseudo-Europe, which was nice.  That is a particular downfall of sword and sorcery in particular.  A handful had an psuedo-Asian setting.  If others were set in other particular locations, I could not sort them out.  There are always details missing when it comes to short stories.  In sword and sorcery–where the focus is on the action–descriptive detail is often one of the pieces left behind.  That said, I loved the stories that gave us a glimpse of the larger world outside the story.  I love worldbuilding details that drop just enough to let you hint at more–and that is exactly what is required in short stories.


Recommended: For those interested in sword and sorcery and/or feminist fantasy