Gordon Van Gelder, editor,
In Lands That Never Were:
Tales of Swords & Sorcery

(Four Walls Eight Windows, 2004)

In Lands That Never Were, collected by Gordon Van Gelder, is a fast-paced collection, scouring years of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine to present the best sword and sorcery tales around. A number of Conan the Barbarian style "classic" sword and sorcery adventures appear, along with more modern tales from worlds such as Le Guin's Earthsea and R. Garcia y Robertson's Markovy.

"The Hall of the Dead," by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp, begins the collection with a real 1960s-style Conan adventure. Next, the grouchy wizard Kedrigern squares off against a far more clueless barbarian in a light-hearted tale by John Morressy. With Princess, a former toad and a hoard of canned goods appropriated from the future, the wizard quests for a mountain of gold, aware that it may soon be worthless if the alchemists have their way.

A pair of thieves adventure through treachery and deception in "Ill Met in Lankhmar," a landmark story by Fritz Leiber from 1970. In "Counting the Shapes," a former ally of the ruthless demon king must discover whether her son has honestly defected as well, or seeks to betray the fortress of Evergard and its lord. This story melds mathematics and magic in an unusual, yet gripping style.

Ursula K. LeGuin's charming "Darkrose & Diamond" appears here, as a pair of young lovers, talented in both magic and music, seek to cling together in the changing world of Earthsea. The collection ends with Jeffrey Ford's "The Fantasy Writer's Assistant," an amusing parody in which the assistant must help Ashmolean, a writer, and Glandar, his fictional barbarian creation.

This collection combines famous authors with new voices, the hack-and-slash of Conan with the mysticism of magic. Some stories mock the cliches and subvert them, while others invented the traditional styles decades before. This is a strong, well thought-out collection with the best of action and sorcery.

- Rambles
written by Valerie Frankel
published 7 May 2005

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