Posted: January 19, 2017 in Book reviews

Edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

51u06-9fvdl-_sx331_bo1204203200_It’s been a while since my last book review, mainly because I’ve been ploughing my way through this monster! That makes it sound like a chore which it wasn’t—well maybe occasionally—in fact this was an enjoyable read, but then anthologies often are, if only because even if you get a dud story you know it’s not far to go until the next one.

And there are some duds in this collection, but they’re outweighed by the gems thankfully.

Although Martin’s name is prominent, and the fact that this includes a Game of Thrones story is also highlighted, this isn’t solely a book about fantasy rogues, there are stories set in the present day or the recent past, and a smidgen of sci-fi too.

There are 20+ stories here, and I don’t intend to go through them all, but I’ll try and give you a flavour, and highlight the best ones (and the worst).

The book opens with Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie, and this story probably has the highest number of rogues in a single story as it follows a mysterious package that passes from person to person in a fantasy city. It’s an interesting tale but the shifting perspectives do let it down slightly.

Next up is What Do You Do? By Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl. Set in the present day this is an intriguing thriller and I liked it a lot, it’s only let down by one too many twists at the end.

Bent Twig by Joe R Lansdale is a pulp detective story and probably the first tale in the book I didn’t like, I didn’t warm to the characters and couldn’t engage with the prose.

Provenance by David W Ball is a tale of stolen artwork and Nazis. It’s not especially original or surprising, but it’s well written enough that you don’t really mind.

Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn is a tale of magic and gangsters set in a speakeasy. It sounds like a great idea but I felt it never really went anywhere so it’s another one in the thumbs down column.

A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch on the other hand is a wonderful tale about a bunch of predominantly female thieves co-opted by a powerful warlock to perform an impossible heist; to steal a street! It’s wonderfully quirky, funny engaging and just downright entertaining and is probably my favourite tale in the book.

Bad Brass by Bradley Denton is a tale of a less than honest high school teacher and some stolen musical instruments. It never quite turns into the story you expect it to, but it’s interesting and original all the same.

Paul Cornell’s A Better Way to Die is a story I feel I should have liked more than I did, and I think I was slightly hampered by an unfamiliarity with the universe it’s set in, one where 19th Century Britain has taken a very different turn. It’s an odd one as initially I didn’t think I’d liked it, but it’s stayed with me more than most.

A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix, featuring a knight and his companion, an enchanted puppet (I kid you not) was something of a trudge to get through, but luckily it’s immediately followed up by Diamonds from Tequilla by Walter Jon Williams, which features a very engaging lead, a Hollywood actor embroiled with murder and drug cartels south of the border.

The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein was an interesting read, detailing a troubadour with teleportation powers who joins a camel train crossing a wide desert where phantom cities are seen.

The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle wasn’t a particularly original Sherlock Holmes style tale, but was well written at least.

If unfamiliarity with some of the characters might have dented my enjoyment in some tales, familiarity with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere only served to enhance my enjoyment of How the Marquis got his Coat Back, a tale which follows the ludicrously cool Marquis de Carabas as he attempts to, er, retrieve his coat!

Now Showing by Connie Willis has a neat central premise but is too long and way too knowing. The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss is probably too long as well, but it’s a sparkling sort of fairy-tale about a young man who trades favours/secrets with children.

It’s shame to report that the story that rounds off the collection, a Game of Thrones tale from Martin himself, is one of the weakest in the book. It’s not that Westeros isn’t an incredibly interesting locale, nor that Martin is a poor writer, but this felt less like a story than a history lesson or a passage from a history book, so even when it was interesting it never really gripped me the same way a lot of the stories in this collection did and I can’t help feeling he’d just lifted a chapter from his world building bible and slapped it down at the end of the book.

It’s a shame but it in no way dented my overall enjoyment of a book that’s kept me out of Roguish mischief for quite a few weeks!



  1. Radio 4 did an adaptation of ‘How the Marquis…’; it might still be on iPlayer somewhere.

    I like anthologies. They’re fun to dip in and out of – or to read in the bath, one story per bath.

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