FORMAT/INFO: A Fantasy Medley is 136 pages long divided over four short stories and is published by Subterranean Press in two editions: A fully clothbound hardcover limited to 3000 copies and a numbered hardcover limited to 200 copies and signed by the authors and editor. Dust jacket by Kristy Doherty.
1) “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” by Kelley Armstrong. “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” is an urban fantasy tale with all of the usual trimmings including a female protagonist, a contemporary setting, supernatural elements, humor, etc. The story is actually pretty interesting and follows a lesbian Japanese vampire who uses wits instead of violence to prevent two other vampires from running her out of town. To be honest, I’m starting to get bored of the whole urban fantasy craze and didn’t expect to enjoy this story very much. Instead though, Ms. Armstrong’s contribution was a pleasant surprise and made me interested in checking out more of the author’s work.
2) “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” by Kate Elliott. “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” is set in the world of Kate Elliott’s epic Crown of Stars saga, but generations later, so it’s not necessary for readers to be familiar with the series. However, for those who have read the books, “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” offers some nice treats including the Quman, stone circles, griffin feathers and references to Prince Sanglant, Bulkezu, and Liath. The story itself — which is told in the third-person by Kereka, a begh’s daughter who wishes to live a man’s life — follows Kereka and two other boys on their Quman rite of passage to manhood. During their journey they are captured by a witch. Eventually Prince Vayek, Kereka’s betrothed, comes to their rescue, but Kereka seeks a different kind of liberation… This story was kind of slow for me, but it was nice revisiting the Crown of Stars setting. Plus, as expected, the story was well written and offers a solid glimpse at Elliott’s writing abilities including strong characterization and world-building.
3) “From Russia, with Love” by C.E. Murphy. “From Russia, with Love” is an Old Races tale, the setting for the author’s Negotiator trilogy, and features a couple of familiar faces from the series in the dragon Janx and the vampire Daisani. The plot concerns the daughter of Baba Yaga — a fearsome witch of Russian folklore — who catches the attention of both Janx and Daisani. Unfortunately, they catch the attention of Baba Yaga. Though falling under the urban fantasy/paranormal romance umbrella, “From Russia, with Love” reads more like a fairy tale and shines with elegant prose and creative magic. Easily the highlight of the anthology.
4) “Words Like Coins” by Robin Hobb. “Words Like Coins” returns readers to the author’s popular Realm of the Elderlings setting, but like Kate Elliott’s story, it’s not necessary to be familiar with Hobb’s previous work. In fact, readers will be hard-pressed to find anything recognizable from the Farseer/Liveship Traders milieu. Instead, “Words Like Coins” is basically a YA-friendly fable about being typecast and the power of words. Cleverly written with a timeless moral lesson, “Words Like Coins” was my second favorite story in A Fantasy Medley.
CONCLUSION: Serving as both a delicious indulgence for those readers already familiar with the authors and an enticing appetizer for those who are not, A Fantasy Medley is a successful and diverse glimpse at the magic and wonders that fantasy has to offer. My only complaint with the anthology is that it was so short… but as with anything that brings pleasure, I never wanted A Fantasy Medley to end.