Short Story Review: “The Burning Man”

“The Burning Man”
Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series
By Tad Williams
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

Told from the point-of-view of Breda, stepdaughter to Sulis, the Heron King of Erkynland, “The Burning Man” takes place several hundred years before the events of Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy. An old woman, Breda reminisces about her experiences growing up in the old Sithi keep and the night she saw a member of the ancient race.

When Sulis the Apostate is exiled from Nabban, he travels to Erkynland to live among the Lake People. Marrying the widowed daughter of the former Great Thane of the Lake People, Sulis begins rebuilding a nearby ruined Sithi keep and moves his new family to the old fortress.

After the untimely death of his wife leaves him with a young stepdaughter and a broken heart, Sulis begins withdrawing from the company of his friends and servants. Several years later, he imprisons a witch from a nearby forest and forces her to help him contact the ancient Sithi to ask them an important question.

I really enjoyed “The Burning Man,” although the style of the story was drastically different from the novels in the series. This story was actually the reason I bought the Legends anthology, and I wasn’t disappointed. I would recommend this story, as well as the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, to anyone who enjoys an intricate and well-written fantasy story.

This review originally appeared 24 November 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “The Hedge Knight”

“The Hedge Knight”
A Song of Ice and Fire series
By George R. R. Martin
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

“The Hedge Knight” is a prelude to George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed series A Song of Ice and Fire. Set a hundred years before the first novel in the series, “The Hedge Knight” follows the adventures of former squire Dunk and his quest to become a real knight.

Using his dead master’s horse and armor, Dunk travels to the tournament at Ashford Meadow in a hope to win glory and attach himself to one of the great lords. When he defends a peasant performer from an arrogant prince, Dunk gets more than he bargained for.

This story was very well written. I’ve considered reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series a couple of times, and this story only heightened my interest. I would recommend it to anyone looking to read good fantasy fiction.

This review originally appeared 1 December 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “Dragonfly”

Earthsea series
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

Set on the island world of Earthsea, “Dragonfly” follows a young girl as she seeks to discover her true self. Dragonfly, born to one of four heirs to the domain of Iria on the island of Way, wishes to discover the meaning of a power she feels within herself. The local witch senses her power and, afraid of what it might mean, refuses to teach the girl.

When a young wizard falls in lust with Dragonfly, he offers to help her enter the Great House on the island of Roke, where wizards are trained and no women are allowed. Wishing only to convince her to sleep with him, the plan backfires on the young wizard when they reach the island.

Dragonfly is allowed into the Great House by the Doorkeeper, but many of the wizards, led by the power-hungry Master Summoner, disagree with his decision and Dragonfly is forced to leave. The Doorkeeper lets her out through a different door, where she meets and is apprenticed to the Patterner. As he helps her learn to listen to the world around her, the disagreement in the Great House builds to a climax which could result in Dragonfly’s banishment from the isle of Roke.

This story was very well-written and made me curious to read more about the world of Earthsea. It was a little difficult to follow in some places, but I don’t know if that was the story itself or my unfamiliarity with the Earthsea universe. I would definitely recommend this story to anyone who is a fan of the series or who is interested in expanding their circle of fantasy reading.

This review originally appeared 17 November 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “The Seventh Shrine”

“The Seventh Shrine”
Majipoor series
By Robert Silverberg
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

Set on the planet Majipoor, “The Seventh Shrine” follows Pontifex Valentine, human ruler of Majipoor, as he investigates the murder of an alien archaeologist at a government-sponsored dig.

The team of archaeologists have been tasked to uncover and restore an ancient Piurivar city. When the team discovers and plans to open a sealed shrine, the lead Piurivar archaeologist is discovered dismembered. Valentine travels to the site, but everyone seems to be keeping a secret from the Pontifex.

When the secret is revealed to be the grave of a former Pontifex, Valentine gives orders to open the sealed shrine. The Piurivar holy man objects, but Valentine ignores his objections and enters the vault.

“The Seventh Shrine” was very well-written and enjoyable, but it also seemed more akin to science fiction than fantasy. I might consider picking up more books in the series when I am looking for a well-told story, but based on this novella I would read something different to get my fantasy fix. I would recommend this story to anyone who is a fan of the series or who is just looking for a good read.

This review originally appeared 10 November 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “Grinning Man”

“Grinning Man”
Tales of Alvin Maker series
By Orson Scott Card
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

“Grinning Man” tells the tale of an encounter of Alvin Maker and his ward, Arthur Stuart, with the legendary Davy Crockett in an alternate version of American history. As Alvin and Arthur travel through eastern Kenituck, they meet a man and a bear grinning at each other. Alvin defuses the situation and he and Arthur travel on, eventually arriving at the small town of Westville.

They discover that Crockett has beaten them to the town and spread the rumor that Alvin is a thief. When Alvin finally convinces the townsfolk he is not a thief they are befriended by the local miller. Alvin and Arthur suspect the miller is cheating the people of the town, and Alvin leaves Arthur to figure out the details while he goes after Crockett and the bear.

Orson Scott Card is an excellent writer and the story was very well-written, but the style and setting were not exactly to my taste. The narrative style is obviously meant to give a slight feel of being on the frontier, but the style isn’t carried so far as to be annoying. I would recommend this story to anyone who is a fan of alternate history or Orson Scott Card, but hardcore fantasy fans will probably not get much out of it.

This review originally appeared 3 November 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “Debt of Bones”

“Debt of Bones”
The Sword of Truth series
By Terry Goodkind
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

The war between D’Hara and the Midlands has become desperate when the First Wizard Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander discovers a way to end the fighting. Meanwhile, Abby, a refugee from one of the outer villages comes to the First Wizard begging for help to rescue her family from the D’Haran invaders. Zed finally agrees to help, but only because of a life debt made between his father and Abby’s mother.

When they reach Abby’s village, she poses as a dreaded Mord-Sith and infiltrates the enemy camp. Unable to find her family, Abby discovers Zed’s daughter among the D’Harans’ captives.

I first became acquainted with the Sword of Truth series about two years ago when I discovered the books’ television adaptation, The Legend of the Seeker, on Netflix. Debt of Bones, later published as a standalone novella, takes place a few decades prior to the main series. It is well written, and because of its prequel nature it requires no prior knowledge of the universe.

To those not acquainted with the series Debt of Bones is probably just an interesting read, but to fans of the books it tells the story of a crucial event in the history of the Midlands. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the series and anyone who is a fan of good fantasy, although it does have a few scenes not suitable for younger audiences.

This review originally appeared 27 October 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “The Sea and Little Fishes”

“The Sea and Little Fishes”
Discworld series
By Terry Pratchett
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

The magical trials are coming up, and Granny Weatherwax is the clear favorite to win, as she does every year. When a group of prominent witches band together to convince her not to compete, Granny decides to play nice – literally. Her kindness sets the locals on edge, but is it all a trick to get back into the competition?

“The Sea and Little Fishes” is a well-written story, and to fans of Discworld it is likely a nice addition to the mythos. As someone who has never read Terry Pratchett before, I didn’t really connect with the characters and the whole series seems a little satirical for my tastes. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys Terry Pratchett, but as someone who probably takes his Fantasy a little too seriously I will likely not read any more Discworld.

This review originally appeared 20 October 2012 on

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Short Story Review: “The Little Sisters of Eluria”

“The Little Sisters of Eluria”
The Dark Tower series
By Stephen King
Collected in Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg

“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is the tale of a gunslinger, Roland of Gilead. When he is nearly beaten to death by misshapen green people in the frontier town of Eluria, Roland awakens to find himself in what appears to be some sort of hospital.

Befriended by Jenna, the youngest of the nurses, and a boy in the next bed, Roland soon learns that things are not as they seem. As patients disappear one-by-one, Roland must discover a way to escape before he too becomes a victim of the Little Sisters of Eluria.

I’ve never been a fan of the horror genre, so I’ve never read Stephen King before. “The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a well-written and interesting story, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. That being said, I will still likely never read the rest of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Based on this story, it’s probably a little dark for my interests. I would also not recommend this story to a younger audience as it has several sexual references that are inappropriate for a younger audience.

This review originally appeared 13 October 2012 on

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5 Parenting Tips from the Bible

This article was born out of an experience I had with my daughter. A couple of days ago, she was chatting to me while I was getting ready for work. She was supposed to be getting ready for school, but had become distracted. While I enjoy talking with my daughter, she didn’t have the time, so I asked her, “Is your backpack ready, yet?” While I already knew the answer, the question helped to refocus her attention on the task she needed to be performing.

From there, my mind wandered (must run in the family) and I starting thinking about God asking Cain where Abel was, already knowing of Abel’s murder.

The Bible teaches that God is our father. It contains His words to His children, and some of those words relate directly to parenting, even if only through His example of the way He treats us. While I have compiled a list of five, I’m sure there are many more parenting tips that can be cleaned from the Bible.

1. Ask questions

When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, God asked them questions, even though He knew the answers. He wanted to help them take responsibility for their actions, because learning to take responsibility is very important in the growth of a child.

In any relationship, especially a parent-child relationship, communication is very important. Asking questions can help keep the lines of communication open, especially when you already know the answers to those questions.

2. Make rules

Throughout the entire history of God’s dealings with man, He has provided rules for us to follow. Among many other rules, God gave to the Children of Israel the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses to help them become better people.

God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, not because He didn’t want them to have knowledge, but because He knew the consequences of that action would take them out of His presence.

As parents, we should set rules for our children. Just as God’s rules do for us, our rules can help keep our children safe and make them better people.

3. Allow mistakes

God has given all of us the freedom to make our own choices, even when He knows those choices will have consequences that will be painful for us. God could have hidden the tree of knowledge of good and evil where Adam and Eve couldn’t find it, but He allowed them to make a mistake and He didn’t protect them from the consequences of that mistake.

Many parents try to protect their children from everything, afraid that they might get injured or have their feelings hurt.

Guess what? Kids will get injured and have their feelings hurt anyway. That’s just part of life. Kids need to learn to deal with hurt feelings or they won’t know how when they become adults.

Kids also need to learn to take responsilibity for their own actions. They can’t do this if they are never allowed to make mistakes.

4. Share responsibility

When Jesus lived on the earth, He called twelve men to be His apostles. With these men, He shared the responsility for teaching God’s children and running the church. He also called an additional seventy men, who He sent out in pairs to teach the gospel.

In order to help our children learn, we can share rsponsibilities with them. As children grow up, they can take on more and more household responsibilities. Young children can help with dusting and vacuuming, while older children can even be responsible for cooking dinner a few times a week.

5. Be an example

Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Jesus set a perfect example of how we should live and treat each other.

If you want your children to learn to act a certain way, the best thing you can do is act that way yourself. Children pay more attention to our actions than to the things we tell them. If you tell them one thing, but do another, you shouldn’t be surprised when your children follow your example. “Actions speak louder than words.”

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Book Review: Tales Before Tolkien

Tales Before Tolkien
Edited by Douglas A. Anderson

Tales Before Tolkien is a collection of literary fairy tales, or fairy tales written to imitate genuine folklore, all of which were written before J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published in 1937. While there is no evidence that Tolkien was familiar with all of these stories, he specifically credited some of them as inspirations in his writings. This anthology contains twenty-one of these literary fairy tales, ranging from “The Elves,” published in 1812, to “A Christmas Play,” probably written in the 1930s and never published.

“The Elves” (1812), by Ludwig Tieck, is the story of a young girl’s encounter with a nearby settlement of elves and its effect on the surrounding countryside. It includes several elements familiar from European folklore, such as the difference in the passage of time between the normal world and the world of fairies.

“The Golden Key” (1867), by George MacDonald, tells the story of two children who wander into fairyland and travel together on a quest to find a keyhole for the golden key. The story seems to hold a deeper spiritual meaning, although it is never really defined. One of my favorite scenes in the entire collection is also the only overt hint to the meaning of this tale:
“You have tasted of death now,” said the Old Man. “Is it good?”
“It is good,” said Mossy. “It is better than life.”
“No,” said the Old Man: “it is only more life.”

“Puss-cat Mew” (1869), by E.H. Knatchbull-Hugessen, claims to be the story behind the rhyme:
“Puss-cat Mew jumped over a coal;
In her best petticoat burnt a great hole;
Puss-cat Mew shan’t have any milk
Till her best petticoat’s mended with silk.”
It wasn’t one of my favorite stories in the anthology, but it definitely influenced scenes in The Hobbit.

“The Griffin and the Minor Canon” (1885), by Frank R. Stockton, is the tale of a griffin who travels to see a statue of himself on a church and become attached to a minor church official. Also not one of my favorite stories, but it was well-written and interesting.

“The Demon Pope” (1888), by Richard Garnett, is the story of a student of religion who makes a deal with the devil, then cheats him of the prize. It was well written, and an interesting commentary on the power struggles which exist in any organization.

“The Story of Sigurd” (1890), by Andrew Lang, is the retelling of a classic Norse saga. While I have always enjoyed the tale of Sigurd Sigmundsson, I found Lang’s retelling to be somewhat tedious and overly condensed.

“The Folk of the Mountain Door” (1890s), by William Morris, is the tale of a king’s supernatural encounter with the founder of his dynasty. I rather enjoyed the style of this story, but the constant interruptions by bits of poetry got old fast. The story also felt unfinished, which may have been the case since it was first published posthumously.

“Black Heart and White Heart: A Zulu Idyll” (1896), by H. Rider Haggard, is an African love story set in the late 18th century. It tells the tale of a young Zulu couple torn apart by the treachery of a white man and the cruelty of a tribal chief.

“The Dragon Tamers” (1899), by E. Nesbit, is the tale of a poor blacksmith and his family who trick a dragon into becoming a pet. It has many similarities to Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham, although it is unknown if Tolkien ever read the story.

“The Far Islands” (1899), by John Buchan, is a whistful tale of a young Scottish man’s dreams of magical isles beyond the sea. Tolkien was a fan of Buchan’s writing and The Book of Lost Tales bears echoes of his influence.

“The Drawn Arrow” (c.1900), by Clemence Housman, is the tale of a hillman who saves a fleeing king’s life, and the king’s repayment for his loyalty. This was probably one of my least favorite in the anthology, and I was a little confused on the events at the end.

“The Enchanted Buffalo” (1905), by L. Frank Baum, is the tale of a young buffalo’s succession to the leadership of his father’s herd. It was an interesting story, reminicent of animal folklore.

“Chu-bu and Sheemish” (1911), by Lord Dunsany, tells the story of two idols’ jealousy toward each other, and the result of each’s attempts be to better than the other. It was a well-written story, and I really enjoyed it.

“The Baumoff Explosive” (1912), by William Hope Hodgson, tells the tale of a scientist’s attempts to recreate the suffering of Christ. It was a little creepy for my taste, but it was well-written.

“The Regent of the North” (1915), by Kenneth Morris, is the story of a Viking chief’s refusal to accept Christianity. It is an interesting study in how many ‘heathens’ must have felt towards a religion of peace at odds with their barbarian lifestyles.

“The Coming of Terror” (1917), by Arthur Machen, is the tale of a series of mysterious deaths set during World War I. It was a little hard to get into at first, but it is an excellent and thought-provoking read. I’m not sure I would say I liked it, but I’m curious to see what my thoughts will be when I read it again knowing the ending.

“The Elf Trap” (1919), by Francis Stevens, tells the tale of a stuffy professor who unknowingly falls in love with an elf maiden. The author’s description of the elf village painted a vivid picture in my mind as I read. This was probably one of my favorite stories in the collection.

“The Thin Queen of Elfhame” (1922), by James Branch Cabell, tells the tale of a lord or knight who strives to escape from a life of expectations. I found the story a little confusing, but the writing was excellent.

“The Woman of the Wood” (1926), by A. Merritt, tells the tale of a man driven to commit murder by the spirits of the trees. It was filled with wonderful imagery, but I didn’t like the way the story ended.

“Golithos the Ogre” (1927), by E.A. Wyke-Smith, is actually a chapter from a novel, The Marvellous Land of Snergs. The novel was a favorite of Tolkien’s children, and was at least a partial inspiration for The Hobbit. I didn’t care much for this chapter, but it had some interesting ideas.

“A Christmas Play” (1930s), by David Lindsay, tells the tale of three sisters who each receive their heart’s by desire, by gift of the fairy queen Titania. The play is as much a long piece of poetry as it is a play, and contains a surprise twist at the end.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful collection of tales, although there are a few I would have left out. My favorites of the bunch were “The Golden Key,” “Chu-bu and Sheemish,” “The Regent of the North,” “The Elf Trap,” and “The Woman of the Wood.”

This review originally appeared 15 September 2012 on

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