Title: Tales of Wonder
Author: E.M. Swift-Hook, Jessica Holmes, Leo McBride, Matthew Harvey, Rob Edwards, Brent A. Harris, Terri Pray, Jeff Provine, Ricardo Victoria.
Genre: Science Fantasy
Book procurement: Received from Inklings Press for an honest review.
Science Fantasy is the collision of science fiction and fantasy – where the impossible and the improbable come together. This is a universe of spaceships and sorcery, of mechanics and magic, where zeppelins soar through the ether and conjurers stalk dark tunnels with a ball of light in their fist. So cut loose, let slip the mooring ropes on your imagination, and join these nine authors as they set course for the horizon – and beyond.
Nine tales of science. Nine tales of fantasy. Nine tales to make you wonder.
Ah Inklings Press. Quite literally my favourite publishers right now. The talent they have “harvested” to compile their anthologies is just brilliant and once again I find myself treated to amazing stories.
From the first story The Lair of the Thunderlord, right through, I fell more and more in love with this Science Fantasy genre. This intermingling of science fiction and fantasy, where magic and science coalesce with fascinating characters to enrich the stories told. Just brilliant.
Stories and Writing
A total of nine stories make up Tales of Wonder. I usually don’t dig through each short in anthologies for a review, but I think this anthology deserves proper in-depth reviewing:
The Lair of the Thunderlord by Rob Edwards
The crew of the Acumen are suddenly pulled from the dark recess of space, and onto a planet they shouldn’t be on. They are a “scout” ship afterall. The crash leaves them unprotected, and the magic they carry doesn’t work quite right. Martins is the ship’s Documenter, and for the first time gets to experience life on another planet. But things don’t go as planned and… well you’ll have to read the rest to know.
Really solid character work, and… chickens. Yep you heard that right. It’s brilliantly told, and it all culminates shockingly as the in the end.
Changeling Child by E.M. Swift-Hook
It begins with a nursery rhyme. If you know anything about nursery rhymes then you can guess that they are not as playful and innocent as they seem. And neither is Changeling Child.
What I loved most is the innocence of young Tani, who finds herself in quite a predicament and remembers the nursery rhyme as her guide. That link between the unfolding story, the rhyme, and Tani is pieced together really well.
Kaana by Ricardo Victoria
When one thinks of terraforming, they think of massive alien ships hovering over the skyline drilling through the Earth’s core, changing it for suitable environments. One might also think of gargantuan parasitic lifeforms tethered from space onto Earth and rearranging the atmosphere to suit the new hosts. One does not think of a humanoid creature uttering incomprehensible words (spells? wink wink nudge nudge) to coax life out of barren patches of land. I was already sold.
And then, of course, things begin to unravel that shed more light on this multi-racial planet and it’s custodian mages in the form of… giant robots? Adding that dash of science fiction to the fantastical world was a great touch. The magic is so unique. I hope Ricardo turns this into a proper novel. It definitely has that potential after that ending.
An Honest Trader by Jessica Holmes
This was an interesting one. Captain Prikos sails the skies on a ship that also sails the seas. It’s clever. Of course it doesn’t end there, and this rather short, short story has rich world building, fascinating technology, and an ending that begs for more.
Sedna’s Hair by Jeff Provine
One always wonders just how true myths and folklore are. Whether a superstitious belief has some semblance of truth or if it’s all just hogwash. Sedna’s Hair finds ship Inuit crew members on a routine swing around a blackhole. Their artificially intelligent captain urges the crew member to explain a long held tradition for the new crew member; the story of Sedna, a rather gruesome tale I might add. I can’t say much without ruining the story… you’ll have to read it to enjoy what happens next.
A Twist in Time by Brent A Harris
Okay so you don’t have to read far to see the correlation between Oliver Twist and this short story. But things aren’t about an orphan reduced to being a thief. No. Oliver steals a pocketwatch from a mystrious man only to find it is no ordinary watch. The man is no ordinary man. The adventure he is dragged in to… is no ordinary adventure.
There might be a nod at “the Doctor” in this story but as Brent A Harris so cryptically said to me, “I can neither confirm nor deny. Afterall, it’s all timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff.” Well played sir. Well played.
A Very Improper Adventure by Matthew Harvey
I’m writing a Steampunk novel at the moment, so when I started reading this short story… well you can imagine I may have swooned a little. Lady Madeleine Bierce is an upstanding woman in her community. Sharp of tongue. No nonsense type. Her daughter Lady Lillian Bierce – not so much. An engineer at heart, with an adventurous soul, hopes to explain why her dress is in disarray. Her explanation sparks quite an adventure atop an airship.
There’s just so much to applaud here. The writing style. The dictation. The pacing. The world building. The action. Or maybe I’m just biased haha.
Grace by Terri Pray
He is a code monkey. A programmer. The greatest of his time. His life is his work and his work is his life. Until the “delicate woman with an elegance that matched her name, Grace,” walked into his life. The story takes place on a distant planet, where the genius programmer lives in solitude to focus on his work, save for the servant-cum-guard who watches over him. Only none are like Grace. None at all.
You know it’s good writing when you begin to feel what the character feels. When you are moved by them. With them. Grace is an enchanting tale that is more than just Science Fantasy.
The Last Sorceror by Leo Mcbride
Oi what riveting good stuff here of magic vs technology; either one cannot exist around the other. All set in London where technology has slowly prevailed over magic to the point where magic is almost out of existence. Eli and Maggie are on the run from Techquisitors – enforcers who are hell bent on eradicating all sorcerors.
It feels much like The Sorceror’s Apprentice but set in a future where magic is banned. Eli has appointed Maggie as his own apprentice but Eli has never used magic in fourteen years. His vow. And his burden to guard Maggie. Fast paced. Witty. Intense. Leo Mcbride writes a story right out of the top drawer, and ends the anthology on a high note.
The one thing I dislike about anthologies, is the fact that you only get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Of the full story. Of the potentially immersive world. However, there is no doubt that this collection of short stories is worth a read. I implore you to get yourself a copy and let your imagination loose for just a smidge, and enjoy some Tales of Wonder.
Rating: A wonderful 5 out of 5
Also, a shout out to my dear friend and Folklore/Myhthology guru Carin Marais and her interview today on The Folklore Podcast. You can listen on iTunes or on their website: thefolklorepodcast.com