Marion Zimmer Bradley Presents: Sword & Sorceress XVII (2000). 312 Pages. DAW Books. $6.99
This is the last volume in this anthology series which Marion Zimmer Bradley was alive to compile. Each and every story was hand-picked by her, and featured a strong heroine. The entire concept of a high-fantasy anthology about strong women appeals to me. I was known to read anthologies of stories for strong girls, and that habit has never quite faded. I love the kick-ass heroine, the princess who slays her own dragons (or indentures herself to them) instead of waiting for prince charming.
There are 21 stories in this book, which is a lot to give even the briefest of per-story synopsis about, so I’ll choose a couple favorites. (Book of Enchantments only featured 9 stories, so it was considerably easier to summarize them all).
“The Conjurer’s Light” by Lisa Campos is about a conjurer, a princess, a sword, and destiny. “I have learned to Conjure thousands of images in my life, and of them all, butterflies have always been my favorite” (31). Faced with the impossible task of conjuring a sword from legend, our Conjurer must find a way to triumph.
“The Summons” by Bunnie Bessell is a story with a different flavor. Blaze is a mercenary-of-sorts, charged with guarding the heir to the crown. However, when her Temple gives her an order she never expected, she has to find a way to cope and choose a new path for her life.
“Deep as Rivers” by Cynthia McQuillin is bittersweet. A troll falls in love with an elf, and makes a huge sacrifice (which is unappreciated). It is especially enjoyable because there are so few stories about Trolls. It is very bittersweet because of the way things turn out, but the end is hopeful for a better future.
“Nor Iron Bars a Cage” by Deborah Wheeler is another excellent story, which doesn’t turn out quite how you expect. Alaina has the ability to speak to metal, and metal spirits, something her father has taken advantage of. However, this same skill may one day give her the ability to change her fate.
“Memories Traced in Snow” by Dave Smeds is nothing like what you expect when you begin reading. The town of Cascade Dell has forgotten… something, but nobody knows that they do not remember, nobody realizes that they have forgotten. Should they have a hint that something is wrong, they will have forgotten that by morning. The memory is not what you expect, and the hunt for the missing memories is impressively written.
It’s a very, very good anthology, one which I enjoyed a lot the first time, and I enjoyed nearly as much the second time around.
The Quick Version:
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress is an excellent anthology series, featuring solid stories with a firm unifying theme. It gets a 5/5 for being so excellent. (This is possibly my favorite volume in the series, honestly)
And so opens the Attack of the Anthologies, a solid week of me reading far too many anthologies for my own good.