Shattered Shields Raises the Bar on Military Fantasy

Shattered Shields Raises the Bar on Military Fantasy

If you’re on my Christmas gift list and you read fantasy, I’m sending you a copy of Shattered Shields. It’s just that good of a collection.

One of the most surprising and enjoyable selections on my reading list this year, Shattered Shields has something for everyone. In addition to providing hours of enjoyable reading, the collection of stories from authors like Larry Correia, David Farland, Glen Cook, and Seanan McGuire is full of bite-sized portions of fantastical adventure. If commitment is a problem for you, each story gives you a full dose of adventure and daring. If you’re looking for new authors, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at high number of quality stories in the collection, including at least a few authors you’ve not read before.

Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt deserve serious credit for finding and curating the collection of thrilling, exciting, and thought-provoking tales. Not a single one is a loser and some are among the best short stories I’ve read.

The premise behind Shattered Shields is simple, but leads to incredible results: a look at the soldiers—”ordinary and otherwise–struggling against extraordinary odds to survive the day.”

In “Ashes and Starlight,” David Farland turns to his Runelords series to tell a story about an outcast who must betray his own to survive.

Seanan McGuire’s “The Fixed Stars” turns to Irish folktales for a story as heartbreaking as it is moving, weaving myth and mystery.

“The Keeper of the Names” by Larry Correia is his first foray into high fantasy and, as far as I can tell, it bodes well for the novel that the story presages.

“The Smaller We Are” is tragedy done right, and John Helfers puts the spotlight on the very lowest of the soldiers in a fight much bigger than themselves without losing perspective.

“Invictus,” by Annie Bellet, was perhaps the most intriguing world in the collection, for me, mixing something of Patrick O’Brian with otherworldly creatures to show a battle on the waves.

If dragons are your thing, then “Rising Above” by Sarah A. Hoyt, which places the legendary beasts in a World War I setting, will prick your interest. I’m sure there are more tales where Hoyt got this one.

“A Cup of Wisdom” by Joseph Zieja takes a step back from the glorification of violence and measures the weight of war on the soldier.

“Words of Power” by Wendy N. Wagner is a gritty and well-spun story from the perspective of a golem mechanic who finds herself closer to the front than she wants to be.

In “Lightweaver in Shadow,” Gray Rinehart creates a magic system and a hero whose resourcefulness and wits keep him alive when the battle seems to turn against him.

“Hoofsore and Weary” by Cat Rambo is about centaurs caught behind enemy lines, but more, it addresses the conflict and friction between commanders and their new recruits.

“Vengeance” by Robin Wayne Bailey is one of my favorite stories from this collection. In a world that reminded me of Conan the Barbarian’s Hyborian Age, Samidar seeks justice and revenge for the destruction of a village.

“Deadfall” by Nancy Fulda follows a soldier on the frontier of the empire as he tries to get to the heart of a threat that seems to be growing in strength. Between floating cities and addictive magic dust, Fulda spins a solid tale and creates fight scenes that were vivid and colorful.

“Yael of the Strings” by John R. Fultz was very fun to read, but left me frustrated at how tidily everything wrapped up. Maybe I wanted the result to be just a little more gray, but Fultz made it just a bit too easy. The story is beautiful, weaving in the importance of music over arms.

Dark and grim, “The Gleaners” by Dave Gross does not end well…for the protagonists. As a story. it’s full of awesome and I’ll be adding Gross to my list of authors to read more frequently.

“Bonded Men” by James L. Sutter has one of the most innovative ideas I’ve ever seen in military or fantasy fiction: a military unit entirely composed of gays and their partners. Sutter proceeds on the assumption that they would fight differently than soldiers who have a family to go home to, and while I’m not sure that I agree, it’s an interesting idea.

I’ve never read Glen Cook before, but his “Bone Candy” selection in Shattered Shields was curious enough to get me interested. Long time fans will enjoy this story set in his Black Company universe.

“First Blood” by Elizabeth Moon is a truly wonderful story, a hero’s origin tale that I loved from the start. It asks the question common to each soldier: will you rise to the challenge when you are tested? If there’s one story you read from the collection, this should be it.

But read them all. Shattered Shields is full of great writing, interesting stories, and gripping action. It’s well worth adding to your collection or your Kindle.

Shattered Shields Book Cover Shattered Shields
Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, editors
Fantasy
BAEN
November 4, 2014
Kindle/Paperback
272
ARC

Swords and Shields. Faith and Magic.

Grab yours and get ready, for the enemy is on the move.

High fantasy and mighty conflicts go hand-in-hand. In great wars, armies rise to fight evil hordes and heroes struggle to push beyond their imperfections and save the day. These stories include more than just epic landscapes and characters...but also epic battles.

Imagine a doctor struggling to identify the spy who has infiltrated his company's ranks and poisoned his colleagues or a boy suspected of murder by a king yet protected by a princess as he helps her father against his own people. Imagine a butcher discovering that he's called to lead an uprising, or a First Born knowing that she must betray her own in order to save humanity.

The possibilities are endless, but at the heart they have this in common: soldiers--ordinary and otherwise-struggling against extraordinary odds to survive the day. They must withstand dark magic, dodge enemy blades, and defy the odds to survive SHATTERED SHIELDS.

Table of Contents:
Ashes and Starlight (Runelords) by David Farland
The Fixed Stars (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire
The Keeper of Names by Larry Correia
The Smaller We Are by John Helfers
Invictus by Annie Bellet
Rising Above by Sarah A. Hoyt
A Cup of Wisdom by Joseph Zieja
Words of Power by Wendy N. Wagner
Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rinehart
Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo
Vengeance (Frost) by Robin Wayne Bailey
Deadfall by Nancy Fulda
Yael of the Strings by John R. Fultz
The Gleaners by Dave Gross
Bonded Men by James L. Sutter
Bone Candy (Black Company) by Glen Cook
First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.

Comments

  1. Dave Gross says:

    Glad you liked “The Gleaners.” If you do seek out more of my work, don’t forget the silent G.

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