Legends II edited by Robert Silverberg
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Publisher: Del Rey (December 30, 2003)
Author Information: Website| Twitter
Length: 644 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Legends II is an anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, who has gathered together an outstanding group of diverse stories for this collection. From George R.R. Martin to Diane Gabaldon to Terry Brooks, the big name authors have seemingly jumped at the chance to be featured here, and they have produced some fine tales, running the gamut from classic fantasy to urban fantasy to alternate history to science fiction. All of which means there is sure to be something in this anthology to satisfy or peak the interest of every reader.
Naturally, however, the diverse nature of any anthology means certain stories will connect better to some individuals than others. Certain authors more palatable than others; one story more compelling than another. And since I’m a reader first and foremost that goes for me as well, and so this review will focus on and rate each story individually, so as to help others determine if this collection is one they wish to obtain.
Homecoming by Robin Hobbs 5 stars
This return to the Realms of the Elderlings is an autobiographical story of a hapless colonist to the Cursed Shores. Her diary entries reading like a fantastical Robinson Crusoe tale, where this civilized lady must shed her modern ways, adapt to her harsh wilderness home, and deal with the strange madness which her fellow survivors begin to succumb to. All in all, it was a fantastic story, which I would recommend to everyone.
The Sword Sworn by George R.R. Martin 5 star
Like so many fantasy fans, I love A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as the Game of Thrones television series. Can’t get enough of anything to do with place, including the tales of Hedge Knight Dunk and his squire Egg. And this was yet another great tale of the duo, one where Dunk’s loyalty to his liege is challenged by the realization of how and why this elder knight has fallen on such hard times.
The Yanzoo Queen by Orson Scott Card 2 stars
I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge fan of this author or his alternate history series featuring Alvin Maker. And this story of the didn’t convert me, but I’m sure fans will enjoy this one, especially all the famous historical figures who make appearances.
Lord John and the Succubus by Diane Galbadon 1 star
Outlander is another series I’ve never really gotten hooked on. It just doesn’t appeal to me. And this supernatural thriller set during the Seven Years War with a good deal of eroticism mixed in did not appeal to me either. In fact, I DNF’d it about halfway through. I’m sure fans of the series will love it though.
The Book of Change by Robert Silverberg 2 stars
A Marjipoor story set in both the past and present, presented through the eyes of a frivolous poet. I couldn’t really get interested in it, but then again I’ve never enjoyed the Marjipoor series.
The Happiest Dead Boy in the World by Tad Williams 2 Stars
Orlando Gardiner, a virtual reality caretaker of a V.R. universe, must solve a mystery while dealing with the unique problems of his occupation. A nice sci fi/fantasy genre blender will some good moments, but it just felt a little flat to me.
Beyond Death by Anne McCaffrey 4 stars
An emotional Pern story filled with love, grief, and peace after death. The quasi-religious overtones might bother some, but they aren’t specific to any particular religion, merely of a spiritual nature. Be that as it may, I have to admit Anne McCaffrey really tugged on my personal heartstrings with this one, causing me to nearly tear up a few times.
The Messenger by Raymond E. Feist 5 stars
This simple story of a young messenger doing his duty no matter the cost during wartime is probably my favorite of the whole collection. Definitely, the action and drama of whether our youth will survive gripped me, but even more so, the character’s simple heroism, dogged determination, and unswerving dedication was what made me love his story so much.
Threshold by Elizabeth Haydon 5 Stars
A great cataclysm is about to destroy the kingdom. The majority of the inhabitants of the land having taken to the seas to escape. Left behind is a group of dedicated individuals determined to find and aid any stragglers, hoping against hope the cataclysm never comes. This emotional tale of self-sacrifice, dignity, and the true beauty of the human spirit an amazing read, filled with deep emotions.
The Monarch of the Glen by Neil Gaiman 4 stars
American Gods continues here with Shadow traveling the world and being sucked into an ancient ritual. Gaiman delivers a mysterious, compelling narrative which will satisfy old fans and encourage others to give American Gods a try.
Indomitable by Terry Brooks 4 stars
A nice, light Shannara tale which picks up a few years after the conclusion of The Wishsong of Shannara. Brooks doesn’t change his style any here or subvert any classic fantasy tropes, but he does deliver a self-contained journey which is filled with likable characters engaged in an entertaining, fast-paced adventure. Honestly, it is probably the best thing I’ve read by Brooks in many years.
If you were keeping count I thoroughly enjoyed most of these stories. I even discovered a few series that I definitely intend to try (Gaiman’s American Gods) and a couple I intend to revisit in the near future (Feist’s Riftwar). Certainly, there were a few which I didn’t love (Outlander), but overall, this was a great anthology, one which I would encourage others to give a try.
If you do start Feist’s Riftwar, I’d recommend getting a hold of the “author’s preferred edition” of the first book “Magician”. It was originally split into 2 books, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master and had a lot cutout.
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Just to be pedantic: it wasn’t originally split into two books. It was originally one book, but was split into two books in the late 80s in the USA and in some translations. In the UK it’s only ever been one book (sfaiaa). However, you’re right that the original was shorter due to editorial decisions, which were reversed in 1992 in the UK. [I assume everything since then is the author’s edition, but I don’t know, and I don’t know about the US].
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I am in the United States and I know that Bookwraiths is too.
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…yeah, but the point is, it was originally one book. In both the US and the UK. It was only split into two books much later on. And whether it’s 1 book or 2 books is a different issue from whether it’s the extended version or the cut version, because sfaics both 1 and 2 volume versions come in both cut and extended versions.
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Ok, you win the internet…
Hey, someone reviewed something that wasn’t written yesterday! Hooray!*
I’ve not read this anthology (I did read the original one), but it annoys me anyway, because it seems to miss the point. The purpose of the original was basically “let’s provide teaser stories for 11 of the greatest and most famous epic fantasy series/settings”. Or, if we’re less generous, for 10 of the greatest series, and also Majipoor, because Silverberg’s the editor and deserves the chance for a plug. I loved the original when I was young for exactly that reason: it gave updates on things I’d already read (like Pern and Discworld) and introduced me to things I hadn’t read yet (when finding, buying and reading one of these doorstoppers was kind of a big barrier to entry for me). It’s why I originally ended up buying A Game of Thrones, for instance, because i thought “The Hedge Knight” was the best story in the book. In that sense, it’s like a miniature sampler disc for epic fantasy fans.
Going back and updating it made great sense. Give us the people who didn’t make it into the first one, or who weren’t yet famous enough for the first one. So yes, absolutely, give us Hobb and Gabaldon. And maybe the Williams counts because it is a different series from his contribution to the first volume. But did we really need another Pern, another Alvin Maker, another Shannara, another Westeros, another Majipoor? That’s just repetition, it doesn’t add anything new to the concept. Did it really need the Gaiman, connected to a novel that is arguably from another genre and isn’t even a series? (yes, there’s a spin-off novel, but that doesn’t make it a series in the same way the others are). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s not a place for those stories somewhere – I just kind of wish this hadn’t been the place. I kind of wish they’d allowed other authors to take these places, to let the casual reader sample some more epic fantasy worlds.
How about instead giving us samples of, for sake of example, Jacqueline Carey, Kate Elliot, JV Jones, LE Modesitt, Katharine Kerr, Mary Gentle, Gene Wolfe, Matt Stover, China Mièville and Guy Gavriel Kay, in addition to the Hobb, Haydon and Gabaldon? That would have added to the legacy of the original Legends by continuing to compile a survey of the genre (while still having big enough names in 2003 to sell copies). Instead of making most of the collection just “people we liked working with last time so why not.”
Similarly, I’d like to see a modern version, with… I don’t even know modern fantasy well enough to say, but maybe if there was an anthology out like the original Legends then I might! But I guess you’d include at the very least Abercrombie, Lynch, Bakker, Parker, Abraham, Lawrence…
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