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Unfettered II: New Tales By Masters of Fantasy

Unfettered II: New Tales By Masters of Fantasy - Shawn Speakman This anthology is a precious gift, for both the contributes, the editing, the cover, the interior art, the dedication and the cause.

Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik: I liked Novik's novel Uprooted, and here I found again that mix of historical fiction and gothic fairytale I've so appreciated in her standalone. I also love her care for details and the way she writes female protagonists.

A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian: this story features a Machiavellian assassination. It’s carefully planned, well-worded and chilling to the bone. Exciting!

And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire: a short story about inevitable doom, with two PoVs. Odd and nice.

Day One by Jim Butcher: the story was okay, but being without a Harry Dresden background I felt like I was missing too many references.

Brightwine in the Garden of Tsitsian Village by Bradley P. Beaulieu: very, very good. Beaulieu is really skilled at short format, this is the second short story of his I read, and I immersed very easily in the investigation. High time for Twelve Kings in Sharakhai.

Aokigahara by John A. Pitts: A sci-fi short story, not my usual read, but fascinating and thought-provoking.

The Decoy by Janny Wurts: She is my favourite adult fantasist, and with reason. Here she regales new and returning readers alike with a tale of unique balance, which shows another facet of the rift between the human cultures in Athera but it’s primarily a harrowing and upbeat standalone. I didn't anticipate the final twist and I had goose bumps by the time I reached the last word.

The King’s Despatcher by David Farland: very good story, a prequel in the established universe of the author, whose first book of the Runelords series is now in my TBR. Traditional fantasy, straightforward and very catchy.

Figures by Rachel Caine: I’m familiar with Caine because I'm reading The Great Library trilogy. She is talented, and her very very short story is original and interesting.

The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tóu Mǎ by Aidan Moher: Moher is a known ex fantasy blogger now turned writer. A broke mercenary priest is called to save the day. Okay read.

Magic Beans by Django Wexler: Wexler is an author I've had my eyes on for a while, and I've already appreciated a short story of his. His main series is epic/military fantasy, so imagine my surprise when I read this hilarious short piece featuring a magic coffee-maker and sex.

The Hedgewitch by Sarah Beth Durst: cool setting, I like tree dwellings and spirits with a “dismember first, apologize later” policy. The story is simple and flows nicely.

Victim with a Capital V by Scott Sigler: a fantasy story with a weird western vibe set in a San Francisco where metals don't exist anymore. The author managed to convey the right atmosphere even without guns. Raw and hard, I really liked it.

A Duel of Evils by Anthony Ryan: I've not had a chance to try Ryan's first trilogy, but this is the second short story of his I read and this time he chose the form of an historical document. My lack of context notwithstanding, it was ultimately satisfying because I liked the style and the military parts. Successful experiment.

The Raven by Erin Lindsey: a prequel about the main villain of Lindsey's Bloodbound series (which just moved higher up my TBR). I'm probably biased, because if done well, I love morally questionable protagonists. At first I thought it simplistic, then I became very absorbed in the story, the pace was just right. Very good!

Bulletproof by Mark Lawrence: I'm current with everything Lawrence has penned, but I miss a few of his short stories and his Gunlaw novel; I'm happy this piece is in the anthology, so I could read something new. It's a weird western about the nature of strength and making the right stand, I liked the setting.

The Gunnie by Charlaine Harris: this is the second fantasy story featuring guns of the anthology, whose plot is probably inspired by the Mexican/US border reality. It's a brutal tale, skilfully written (well, considering the author's fame I expected no less) and emotionally involving.

Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan: another writer I like. This is a dark fairy-tale from his Riyria universe, a "simple and charming fable, which is so popular around campfires and as a bedtime story". I'm always sold to an author who calls sheep "wooly puffballs".

The Thrill by Brandon Sanderson: this is my first Sanderson experience. I met the guy in Lucca this year, and he was fun and very audience-minded, able to skim around the language barrier with ease. This tale is an excerpt from his upcoming book (meaning he warned this may not be the final cut) but it's self-contained and it was easy to read even If I missed the context.

The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman: Speakman is the editor of this anthology, an author, a cancer survivor, a son: nothing of this factors in my review but anyway, this is a well-written fantasy story, full of hope, framed by a beautiful landscape and shaped around the author's love for his mother and her final battle against cancer. This is the third short story (more Nix please) of his I read, and it's always a pleasure.

The first anthology ever where I could not find a single story that I disliked. Only a couple were a simple pass, the rest ranged from nice to amazing. Absolutely recommended!

The butterflies carried her will and farewell.