Sword & Sorceress

Books: Fantasy

Sword And Sorceress XX (2003), Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword And Sorceress XXI (2004)

Sword & Sorceress XXI (2004) edited by Diana L. Paxson

I wasn't sure that I was going to get the 21st edition of Sword And Sorceress. MZB died, and so I wasn't certain whether the anthology was going to be continued because it was a quality anthology, or because they were looking to sell on her name.

I'm pleased to say it was the former. Diana L. Paxson, who was chosen as the as the editor, is not only an author I like, but has also edited other anthologies that I have read and enjoyed.

There were, however, changes. Diana Paxson has added poetry, and one story, 'Rose in Winter' struck me as more of a romance than the type of story I'd come to expect in a Sword & Sorceress anthology. Despite that, this is still an excellent anthology, and I look forward to XXII.

As always, there were several stories that I particularly liked. 'Multiple Choice' by Leslie Fish had a nice twist on men thinking they can get what they want, whenever they want it. 'Oulu' by Aimee Kratts focused on the wisdom that women learned over time. But then I've always been fond of wise old woman characters. 'Necessity and the Mother' by Lee Martindale was the type of sword-for-hire story where the hired sword gets to use her brains as much as her brawn.

'Plowshares' by Rebecca Maines I liked because it didn't go where I was expecting, yet managed to fit my idea of story for this anthology perfectly. Esther M. Friesner's 'Child's Play' was also a story I liked, despite the fact that it had an evil-stepmother.

'Step by Step' by Catherine Soto was a good story, and it managed to remind me a bit of 'The Boy Who Loved to Draw Cats' so there was little chance I wasn't going to like it.

And as always the anthology closed with a short, amusing story. Marilyn A. Racette's 'Love Potion # 8 1/2' fit well into that place and ended the book well.

Now I just have to wait a year until Sword and Sorceress XXII comes out, for the next anthology collection where I'm almost certain to like every story.

Sword And Sorceress (2003) edited by Diana L. Paxson

I have loved Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress anthologies since I first came across them, and was saddened when MZB died, because I assumed that, like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, this would be the end of the Sword & Sorceress anthologies.

Needless to say I was surprised to read that the anthology series will be continued, and XXI is already in the works. I'm not sure how I feel about this, however. I know that Elizabeth Waters et al had lived and worked closely with MZB, but I wonder whether the tone of the volumes will change?

Not that it will stop me from buying the volumes; after all, a quality anthology is not something that I come across frequently, and I expect the quality to remain high, I just wonder if the tone of the series will be different. We shall see.

Anyway, the latest installment is quite good. My personal favorites:

'Bread and Arrows' by Deborah J. Ross, 'The Mask of Medusa's Daughter' by Kathryn J. Brown, 'The Last Swan Princess' by Patricia Sayre McCoy, which is a twist on the folktale of the swan princes who are saved by their sister's persistence, 'Celtic Beauty' by Winifred Phillips, which is Derdriu and Naoise of Celtic folklore, and 'Shen's Daughter' by Mary Soon Lee, which seems like a reworked Chinese folktale, but I have never before read.

All in all, this is an excellent collection of tales, with some authors (Diana L. Paxson, Phyllis Ann Karr) wrapping up plots and characters from previous volumes. Despite the continuation of characters and plots from previous volumes, I don't think there would be a problem in picking up this volume as a first foray into MZB's Sword and Sorceress. If you like good fantasy, then you should enjoy this installment of Sword and Sorceress.

Sword & Sorceress II

Sword & Sorceress II and V were the last volumes I was missing in my Sword & Sorceress anthology collection, and I had been looking for them for years. Last year my father managed to find me used copies, so of course since I had been searching for so long, I waited a year to read them (Don't look for any logic, there isn't any.) Was it worth the wait? Of course.

Sword & Sorceress II came in its own plastic wrap, which is probably what led me to hesitate to read it. I've never had a book deserving of plastic wrap, as if it were to be valued and treasured for something beyond the contents of its pages. Strange concept, and one that, given the ease with which I can obsess over things, I should try to avoid in the future.

But, I discovered that once the plastic bag was removed, it read just like any other book, so there you go.

Sword & Sorceress II contains several early stories by authors who went on to become favorites, and also stories that were later developed into books in their own right. Charles de Lint's Cold Blows the Wind later became The Harp of the Gray Rose which is a very good short novel, and may have been re-released recently. It also contains Jennifer Roberson's The Lady and the Tiger which is an introduction to Tiger and Del, a series that I have always liked. I really liked 'The Chosen Maiden' by Paul Reyes which is a wonderful twist on the "young virgin sacrificed to the dragon" tale. Richard Corwin's 'Red Pearls' is also very good, especially since I was never quite sure where it was going, and the same was true for Rachel Pollack's 'The Red Guild'.

The only problem with this volume is you'll need luck finding it.