Book review: ‘After the King’ edited by Martin H. Greenberg

After the King is a collection of nineteen short-stories written by nineteen different authors, in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Halfway through reading After the King I decided that I wanted to review all of the stories individually. However, because I had already read half of them, it would be very difficult for me to review all of the ones I had already read, having either forgotten what happened or forgotten how I felt about them.
Truth be told, this review is going to hard enough doing the book as a whole. I can’t remember many of the stories from the book, let alone what happened in them.

I suppose the best – and only – way for me to do this is to simply review the ones that I can remember, and then give my thoughts on the book as a whole.

Revolt of the Sugar Plum Fairies
Revolt of the Sugar Plum Fairies was, by far, my favourite tale in this book of many. Everything about it I found funny, from beginning to end, from top to bottom, this short story was interesting, hilarious, and so random and simple that it made it all that much better.

Reave the Just by Stephen R. Donaldson
Reave the Just was full of knights, magic (false magic), story telling, damsels in distress and brave (but foolish, and, quite frankly, useless heroes). Add a dragon to this and it’s not much short of anything that I love in stories. It’s humorous, intricate, complex – maybe even a little confusing in places – and full of implicit meaning.

Troll Bridge by Terry Pratchett
I can’t remember too much of Troll Bridge, but then, I don’t think there is all that much to remember. All I recall is a guy and a troll meeting and having a conversation. But, I digress. I do remember enjoying this tale, though there is very limited action and excitement in it.

The Decoy Duck  by Harry Turtledove
Ew. Ew ew ew ew ew. The Decoy Duck was, by far, the worst story in the book. Full of pompous language, unnecessarily complex and out-of-the-ordinary-names, pretentious writing, unbelievable boredom, a lack of economy, and basically everything else that could be wrong with a story; I hated it from the first sentence.

The Conjure Man by Charles De Lint
The Conjure Man, I think, was the most interesting and capturing story from the book. A very light-hearted, gentle story, it was a pleasure to read. Using the inventive characters so well to progress and tell the story, and with such an important message, and wonderful writing, describing, and story-telling, it is a fantastic piece.

The Naga by Peter S. Beagle
The Naga is a difficult one for me, not being able to decide whether I like it or not. While it was well written and had an interesting story line and characters, the story itself seemed rather strange and pointless. With or without the events of the story, the outcome would have been the same, or at least something similar. I also thought the ending was quite unfulfilling. However, I think I am mostly in favour of this story, more than being against it.

Winter’s King by Jane Yolen
Not even going to lie, all I am picturing when I read about these white, ice people, is Whitewalkers from Game of Thrones. The story, just like The Naga, seemed very pointless, though not for the same reasons. With this story it just seemed to me that nothing at all happened. Now, unless I completely misread this story and missed either something happening during the course of the story, or some implicit meaning behind it all, there really was no point to it.

Silver or Gold by Emma Bull
A little long, perhaps, or maybe just full of irrelevant text, this story seemed to drag on a little. If found it rather confusing, this story, but still rather enticing. The ‘plot twist’ was rather obvious, and I guessed it a while before its reveal. It had its ups and downs, and a very interesting and meaningful ending, with little subliminal life lessons for any young and or naive readers.

Up the Side of the Air by Karen Haber
This story, while innocent and simple and gentle, had some very important, not so much messages, but it had importance to it, dealing with important real life issues in a fantasy, story-telling way – not unlike Harry Potter. A thrilling short-story, complete with action, humour, stuggles, adventure, sadness, and wonderful story-telling.

That’s all of the ones I remember enough to write about. I’ve had to flip through the book to actually remind myself of the different stories that were in it, if I hadn’t I’d have a much shorter list. The book was actually very good, despite all of the bad stories it contained. With stories from some of the best fantasy writers of their time, it was never going to be bad, was it. It was quite refreshing to read short-stories for a change, and also to read so many different authors, many of whom I had not heard of beforehand.




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