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Review: Swords of Steel
Book Review
Swords of Steel
Publisher: DMR Books
Author: Various
Year published: 2015
ISBN: 978-0990990000
Pages: 254

Rating: 3.75/5

Review online: December 18, 2015
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Swords of Steel

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This is a collection of Sword & Sorcery tales collected under the rather cool gimmick of having them all penned by various metal musicians. Assembled by fan Dave Ritzlin, who has begun to make a bit of a name for himself with anthologies, this book is a bit of a mixed bag overall, though it has some stellar moments.

In any collection, you get a wide variety of approaches and abilities. The book launches with a strong one-two punch with "Into the Dawn of Storms" by Byron Roberts of Bal-Sagoth, followed by "The Riddle Master" by E.C. Hellwell. "Dawn" is written with the gusto Roberts always shows in his lyrics, and teases some elements of his overarching mythology, but it is obviously only a chapter from a longer work, and thus does not really satisfy like it could have. "Riddle Master" is a great story in the classic Poe tradition of old-fashioned Gothic horror, and while not really a Sword & Sorcery tale, conjures up some really good stuff.

Next we get "The Mirror Beguiling", which is just okay. Author James Ashbey drums for Solstice, and the story is passably written, but does not make much impression. Then we get the massive "All Will Be Righted on Samhain" by my friend Howie Bentley and co-author David C. Smith. I have to say I was excited to read this and then let down by the execution. It starts with a looong chunk of exposition, and then the story meanders and does not really bite. The plot is simplistic and the violence cartoonish. I wanted it to be better, but it was not.

"Journey Into Somnabula" is an uninteresting tale that reads more like something from a D&D game, and has no real shape to it. "Eve's Grave" is the only story I found unreadable. Scott Waldrop is a great guitar player, and Twisted Tower Dire is a great band, but the prose is so purple and overwritten that it is actually painful to try and slog through it.

"Stygian Dusk" is a short bit from Howie, and this one is much more atmospheric and effective. It does not really have much of a story, being more of a sketch meant to evoke, which it does nicely. "Blue Mistress" is a nice little tale by guitarist Jeff Black, that may lack in plot but makes up for it with evocative world-building that makes you want to see more.

Last we get one of the other highlights of the book. "Vengeance of the Insane God" is by Jason Tarpey, singer for Eternal Champion and Graven Rite. It's also a refreshingly old-school blast of violence and lurid imagery that would have fit right in with the stuff Weird Tales used to publish back in the pulp heyday.

Overall this is a nice package, with some worthy stories and a great cover by metal cover artist Martin Hanford. You get a lot of variety of styles and subjects and polish, just like with a compilation album. It's not as much a hell-fest of barbaric violence as the back cover tries to suggest, but it has some good stuff.

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