Timy reviews The King Must Fall anthology published by Grimdark Magazine, featuring stories by 19 authors.
I received a copy from Adrian Collins in exchange for an honest review.
|Series: –||Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: September 1, 2022||Trigger Warnings: blood, death, violence, torture|
|Page count: 716||Publisher: Grimdark Magazine|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- Middle Fingers
- Vészhelyzet (Emergency)
- Heavy is the Crown
- Drawn by the Sirens
Power corrupts all who thirst for it. Friendships shattered, ambitions stoked, loyalties betrayed, and plenty of blood spilled.
Nineteen stories about people who will stop at nothing to gain power or topple it. Whether it be bringing down a king or empress, a queen or gang leader, these warriors, diplomats, blackguards, and traitors will do all the wrong things for the right reasons, or the right things for the wrong reasons, to sate their thirst for power.
There aren’t many ladies in this book, but three of my favorite stories were written by them, and I think Dorothy fits quite well. More than a few characters were out to raise a little hell one way or another.
I don’t often read anthologies, not least because they are a pain in the arse to review. And also because I somehow never make time for them. I think I prefer novels to short stories as a reader, although I can’t deny that they are a really good gateway into getting a feel for an author’s style. Or you can tide yourself over while you wait for their next novel. Or get an extra peek into the world they already created. So, they definitely have their uses.
And then there are conceptual anthologies, like The King Must Fall, of which I’m not sure I’m a fan. But I only have this one anthology to base my judgment on, so that’s probably not really much. On one hand, it’s very interesting to see how different authors approach a simple statement. The way all 19 authors interpret it in their own style and setting. There are definitely no two similar stories here. On the other hand, though, knowing where each story is heading – roughly – takes a bit away from the overall reader experience. At least, it did for me.
I agreed to read The King Must Fall out of curiosity – and because it fit into one of my reading challenges -as it’s been some time since I’ve read anything grimdark. I admit the genre doesn’t have much appeal to me for a couple of years now – which is sad, I used to love dark stuff – so I was curious if it was time yet to venture back. Well, the answer sadly turned out no, as I didn’t enjoy this anthology as much as I did the Knee-Deep in Grit one a couple of years back. But I think the problem mostly lies with me not the stories themselves. In the hands of the right audience, I’m sure this book shines much more than it did in mine.
Another aspect of my curiosity came from the fact that The King Must Fall contains stories from authors I meant to check out but somehow never got around to it (Daniel Polansky, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Anthony Ryan, Jeremy Szal, Justin Call, Anna Stephens, Luke Scull), or did but didn’t like their stuff and wanted to know if it was a one-time thing or we just didn’t gel (Anna Smith Spark, sadly we aren’t meant to be), or that I already knew some of their stuff and wanted more (Michael R Fletcher, Devin Madson, Trudy Canavan), and of course, because I’m always on the lookout for new to me authors to wow me (Bradley P. Beaulieu, Kameron Hurley, Shawn Speakman, Lee Murray, Peter Orullian, Alex Marshall, Deborah A. Wolf, Matthew Ward).
A couple of stories that absolutely stood out for me
What You Wish For by Devin Madson
Maybe because it was the first story in the book and set the tone perfectly, or maybe because it was that ending, either way, What You Wish For stayed with me. Not very surprising as I’m familiar with Madson’s writing, although this was quite different from her Reborn Empire series. Still, it was a good start.
The Black Horse by Jeremy Szal
I haven’t read anything from Szal before, but I’ve heard a lot of praise for his books. This one also stuck with me because of the ending, and the complexity of the story. It had some hard messages about acceptance, consequences, and how we treat those who are different from us.
Hand of the Artist by Trudy Canavan
I’ve read one of two of Canavan‘s short stories in magazines before and those always stood out for me. It wasn’t any different now, and I honestly don’t know what the hell I’m doing not picking up one of her full-length novels already. Geez. There is something in her writing style that just appeals to me very much.
The Blade-Queen and the Stoneheart by Anna Stephens
Stephens is also one of those authors I haven’t read yet despite my friends telling me I should. And now I see why. I’m sorry, I’ll do better I promise. This was hands down my favorite story, and the one that creeped me out the most – and believe me, there is plenty of blood flowing on these pages. But blood and killing lose their shock value when you are reading 19 stories full of blood and killing, though. Besides, there is much more to dark fantasy than blood and killing. I’ll stop saying blood and killing now. The Blade-Queen and the Stoneheart was one of the very few stories that made me wish there was more. I loved the ideas, especially the Blade-Queen and her, err, reproduction methods. Brilliant stuff. Fucking creepy, but brilliant nonetheless.
The Grimdark Magazine team, once again, brought together an excellent group of authors for The King Must Fall anthology, who in turn brought a wide variety of stories. There is betrayal, hard choices, revenge, assassination, and everything in between. Any grimdark fantasy lover should find something on these pages they can enjoy, and maybe even discover some new favorites along the way. Last, but not least I’d like to mention the narrator of the audiobook, Greg Patmore for doing a stellar job in bringing these stories to life. Highly recommended!
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