Fans of Gorias La Gaul will love Blood and Steel, a collection of short stories by Steven L. Shrewbury featuring the orneriest, toughest warrior to ever tread foot in the antediluvian world. The stories are set in different periods of Gorias’s long 700+ year life, with the first story bringing you the gory tale of his birth.
In addition to learning more about Gorias, you also get to learn about his father and the tribe of Nordic barbarians his father had been the chieftain of. A look into the culture that raised him gives you great insight into why Gorias is the way he is. So not only does a reader get all the gory action and adventure common among S&S tales but also a lot of depth regarding the world Gorias lives in, the events that shaped his life, and the psychology of the old warrior, himself.
This collection is a must-have for any fan of Gorias La Gaul or for that matter any fan of Sword & Sorcery.
Best to read while listening to: the soundtrack to Conan the Barbarian, any Iron Maiden song, and a dash of Iced Earth.
Sword & Sorcery is hard to get right, for it is a subgenre defined more by what it isn’t than what it is. While it shares some similarities to its cousins, Epic Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy, the scale is usually nowhere near as epic and the heroes are nowhere near as heroic. In fact, it’s the protagonists that make it so hard to write, for traditionally they tend to be very flawed but not so flawed as to be unlikeable. That’s a precarious balance to keep—a balance that every writer in Thunder on the Battlefield, Volume Two: Sorcery, the second volume in a two-volume anthology, nails with masterful skill.
While the trials and ordeals are well-plotted and challenging, and the settings are grim and gritty, it’s the characters, more than anything, that stand out. You’ll fall in love with the reckless determination of Hunter Mann, in Selah Janel’s “The Ruins of St. Louis.” Fans of D. A. Adams’s Brotherhood of Dwarves series will follow a beloved character’s struggle to escape slavery in “Across the Wilds.” “Black Ice” by S.H. Roddey introduces a warrior woman you’d want to keep on your good side and a Halfling who puts the hero into “sidekick.” And fans of Gorias La Gaul will love Steven L. Shrewsbury’s “The Whore of Jericho.”
But by far the most interesting character is the crusader, Valgard, in “The Two Fires” by Steven S. Long. Rarely in S&S do you encounter a protagonist who wields magic, and an incorrupt priest at that! Few S&S writers can break the classic tropes and get away with it, but Long manages to make it work with ease.
If the first volume is even half as good as this one, and I have no doubt that it is since both volumes share the same editor, then Thunder on the Battlefield is an addition to the subgenre that would make Robert E. Howard’s spirit proud.
Best to read while listening to: soundtracks to Conan the Barbarian and Heavy Metal. Also toss in a little Iron Maiden while you’re at it.
For the first ever Guest Post done in SpecMusicMuse history, I have the honor of introducing the great Stephen Zimmer, who is both a great author and certainly one of the hardest-working in the field. And if you haven’t heard about him by now, then you need to stop living in a cave.
So, without further ado, hhheeeeeeeerrrreeeeeee’s the Zimmster!
Chronicles of Ave, Volume 1, is a collection of stand-alone short stories that are set in the world featured in my Fires in Eden Series. Readers of the short stories do not need to know anything about the Fires in Eden novels to enjoy these tales.
However, readers of the Fires in Eden Series will find more depth and content relating in some way to the novels, whether it be the backstory on a figure referenced in the series, more about a place or culture that are not yet shown in the series, or a historical event that might be simply mentioned in one of the novels.
In developing the history of Ave, and writing the Fires in Eden novels such as Crown of Vengeance, Dream of Legends, and Spirit of Fire, I have created a trove of material for short stories. There are so many things about Ave that cannot be delved into during the novels, as to do so would take things on a sideways tangent from the course of the various story threads. The short stories afford me the opportunity to immerse into those references, whether they relate to a figure, land, or historical event.
In writing these kinds of short stories, I find myself gaining an even deeper foundation for my series and the elements within it. So, in a sense, it strengthens the process of writing for the novels too.
There are a few specific challenges involved in writing a short story related to a series.
For one thing, the nature of the short story itself presents its own challenges versus the writing of a large novel. In my novels, I work with multiple story threads, and I have the kind of range and depth in a multi-book structure to plant seeds, foreshadow, let things take shape and develop, and build towards big payoffs down the line.
In a short story, the structure employed is much more linear, following one character, sometimes two. With a much shorter structure, the plot, main character, and setting must unfold much faster. You do not have the range of space to include the kinds of foreshadowing, twists, and turns that an epic-scale novel can contain. You must connect with the reader fast, establishing a tone and pace that will carry you through that particular story.
As mentioned before, I also work to make sure that the stories do stand on their own, so that a brand new reader who has not read any of the novels can understand everything taking place. This sounds kind of obvious, at first, but after writing several novels it is possible to make assumptions on the things native to the world of Ave. I keep an eye out for that and feel that new readers will have no problems whatsoever discovering the world of Ave if their first encounter with it is through the short stories.
Also important to me is to select cultures, lands, historical events and characters that will provide further content and depth for the readers of the series. I want this to be their chance to explore some of the things that can only be mentioned or referenced briefly in the novels, and to gain more background on how Ave’s history developed.
With Chronicles of Ave I am confident that I have achieved that. Readers will get to visit a diverse array of settings, from a medieval China style atmosphere in “Touch of Serenity” to the wintry forests of an Eastern European-like vibe in “Winter’s Embrace”. “Into Glory Ride” is a story focused on the fully original Trogen race, and two non-human races that have not yet appeared in the novels are introduced in “Land of Shadow.” There is even a little romance, in “Moonlight’s Grace”, and a flare of the heroic in “Lion Heart”, which takes inspiration from the Zulu Nation.
Loaded with action, fully stand-alone in nature, and each distinctive in terms of plot and main characters, the Chronicles of Ave serve as a nice introduction to the world of Ave. I really hope both new readers and readers of my series find the adventures equally enjoyable!
Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author of speculative fiction, whose works include the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Rising Dawn Saga (epic-scale Urban Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon tales (Steampunk), the Hellscapes tales (Horror), and the Rayden Valkyrie tales (Sword and Sorcery). He is also a writer-director in moviemaking, with feature and short film credits such as Shadows Light, The Sirens, and Swordbearer.