Book Review: Azieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics

artifacts and relicsAzieran Adventures Presents Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery
Christopher Heath, ed.
Heathen Oracle
Ebook $4.99

Sword and sorcery has been enjoying a resurgence of late, and as a consequence there have been a number of S&S anthologies in the last few years. I read somewhere a number of years ago, and I’m too lazy to hunt up the source, that the novella was an ideal length for S&S.

Artifacts and Relics contains a dozen tales (plus an introduction by Jason M. Waltz), many of them novellas. The theme of the anthology is pretty broad, and the selections included reflect that.

James Beamon shows what happens when love causes a woman to steal a jewel from a sorcerer in “The Lovers Quarrel”. “Coup” by Fred C. Adams, one of three reprints, tells of a wizard who has to protect an object with the power to destroy the universe from an invading army. Joe Bonadonna’s Dorgo the Dowser makes an appearance in “The Book of Echoes” when he has to retrieve a stolen book from another dimension.

Some of the stories in this anthology have at least a tenuous connection to the Azieran Mythos, the creation of editor Christopher Heath. Heath contributes two adventures to the contents, but since its his universe, there’s nothing wrong with that. The first of these is “Assimilation by Second Dawn”, a tale of a possessed blade forged by the god of the vampires.

In John M. Whalen’s “The Red Heart of Dolfar”, a sea captain discovers that one should choose one’s lovers carefully, especially if the outcome of the romance is theft. In the second reprint, “By Hellish Means” by Bill Ward, a woman wedded to a demon must recover an infernal tome from one of the most powerful of all demons.

David J. West (no relation to me) gives us the story of a caravan transported a cursed musical instrument in “The Mad Song”. Editor Heath returns with “The Slaver of Karsith Keep”, in which a chieftain must form a union with a dragon to rescue a nearby tribe.

Steve Goble’s “The Sword Cult” is the tale of a sword crafted to slay a god and those who would wield it. Colleen Anderson tells an Aruthurian romance from the point of view of the Lady in the Lake in “The Highest Price”.

The final reprint is “The Black Abbot of Puthuum”, one of the few pure sword and sorcery adventures from Clark Ashton Smith. Finally, David C. Smith tells the tale of a warrior caught up in a quarrel of the gods in “Shadow-born, Shadow-taken”.

Overall, I found this a very enjoyable anthology. There’s a perception in some circles that sword and sorcery is nothing more than puerile adolescent adventure full of thud and blunder. Nothing could be further from the truth. The selections in Artifacts and Relics displayed a wide range of tone, subject matter, and content. Some stories were thoughtful, some focused more on character than action. All of them were entertaining and professionally written. I’d like to see more work by these authors and more anthologies along these lines.  Fortunately some of them have collections in my TBR pile.

I read the Kindle edition, and the editing and formatting were professionally done. The links in the table of contents took me where there were supposed to. There were no weird page breaks.

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