cover image Swords in the Shadows

Swords in the Shadows

Edited by Cullen Bunn. Outland, $19.95 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-1-954255-75-3

Bunn (the Basilisk series) argues in this high-concept if not entirely successful anthology of 22 speculative shorts that sword and sorcery fantasy and pulp horror “have always been connected.” Despite this assertion, the individual tales rarely blur genre lines and play standard tropes well but straightforwardly. Mythical creatures take prominent roles throughout, including goblins in “The Prince of Dust and Shadows” by Jonathan Maberry, which is set in the same universe as his Kagen the Damned series, and dragons in Heath Amodio’s fairy tale–inspired “The Seventh Queen.” Traditional horror creatures also feature, with ghosts popping up in L.C. Mortimer’s “The Castle Cauchemar” and zombies in Josh Roberts’s “The 19th Legion.” The table of contents is overwhelmingly white, which is a shame because the authors of color contribute some of the best work here: Rena Mason’s Thai mythology–influenced “Tiger Claws and Crocodile Jaws” tells the story of a young woman who uses her fighting skills to outwit a sorcerer, while “Osanobua’s Garden” by Justin C. Key follows the journey of a prince and his father into a supernatural world to investigate unrest among the spirits. Though it feels a bit disjointed, there’s still plenty here for fans of either genre to enjoy. (Oct.)