The Book of Kings by Robert Gilliam
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I came into The Book of Kings with low expectations - I almost passed it by before I noticed it contained an Esther Friesner story - and was pleasantly surprised. This is definitely an above average anthology, well constructed, with fewer than the usual number of misses and several highly enjoyable stories. (Ironically, I felt that the story that the anthology was built around - Donaldson's story was the inspiration for it, and the editors set out to find similar "king" stories to include - was merely so-so. It was clever, but it left me cold.)
One of the special virtues of this collection is the inclusion of several much shorter pieces, providing a break in pace and tone. I thought the anthology was also nicely balanced between historical stories - and deft handling of the linked mythology - and those set in secondary worlds, though I would have liked to see a few stories with more developed settings.
But of course, not every story is satisfying, and a few left me annoyed. In general, I felt that the ones that failed didn't deliver on the premise, either because the action stopped abruptly or the conclusion was disconnected from the body.
My favorite story was definitely Judith Tarr's "In The Name of the King," an emotional and affecting portrait of a loyal scribe in the Egyptian afterlife and his relationship with his king. Worth honorable mention are Jane Yolen's "Journey in the Dark" (one of those very short stories mentioned earlier); Brad Linaweaver's "Blind Sceptre"; and Lawrence Watt Evans' "The Name of a King."
View all my reviews >>