nwhyte's review against another edition

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http://nhw.livejournal.com/156276.html[return][return]I was very pleasantly surprised. Nineteen short stories by various fantasy authors, all more or less in the Tolkien vein; two or three clunkers (Dennis McKiernan, Mike Resnick), but the average being very good and several excellent - Stephen Donaldson, Gregory Benford, and a particularly impressive foray by John Brunner, who eschewed the fantasy setting chosen by most of the others and wrote a piece set in England in 1921. I had read the Terry Pratchett piece somewhere else ("She's always going on about billy goats. I have no knowledge whatsoever about billy goats") but I am surprised not to have encountered any of the others before - this collection was published in 1992 for the centenary of Tolkien's birth. Perhaps that just shows how little fantasy I read as compared to sf.

easolinas's review against another edition

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4.0

J.R.R. Tolkien is the man who made the fantasy genre what it is today, so if you're gonna make an anthology honoring him, it better be GOOD. And for the most part, "After the King" succeeds wildly at that -- it has stories from some of the greats of fantasy/SF literature, with only a couple duds here and there.

Among the best are stories by Patricia McKillip, Charles de Lint, Peter S. Beagle, Andre Norton, Jane Yolen, Emma Bull and Terry Pratchett -- they spin out stories that are poetic and spellbinding, funny and haunting, evocative and magical. Their stories honor Tolkien by making brilliant use of language and fantastical worlds.

There are also some lesser but still wonderful stories by Harry Turtledove, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Karen Haber, Poul and Karen Anderson, Robert Silverberg and Judith Tarr. While not as gloriously memorable as the best stories, they are still really good stories, ranging from a delightfully cute story about a wizard with a new assistant to a rather uncomfortable SF story about the origins of a religion.

But despite those stories, there are also some duds -- Stephen R. Donaldson ("Reave the Just"... or "Reave the Supremely Uninteresting"), Gregory Benford and Barry N. Malzberg all seem to have totally missed out on the charm, magic and language.

The absolute worst: Dennis McKiernan's "Halfling House," which is basically devoted to McKiernan's Pysks and ripoff-hobbit Warrows, while also making fun of Tolkien's original hobbits. There's a strange plot about a TARDIS-like inn for tiny magical creatures, and a demonic opium den, and an incoherent ending where SOMETHING happens... it's just a mess.

Quick warning: do not buy this collection just because it says that the stories are "in honor" of Tolkien, because most of these stories bear no resemblance to Tolkien's work. There are some stories that remind you of Tolkien because of the exquisite language and the sense of wonder and mystery, but the settings and stories are very different.

Some are contemporary stories; some take place in the generic medieval settings, and some take place in specific medieval settings (complete with Viking names). Some are comedic, some tragic, some a combination of both. Several were thought-provoking and introspective. Some of them are pure fantasy, no fantasy, mildly fantasy-like, or bordering on sci-fi.

No, this collection should be read for the all-star lineup of fantasy writers that it includes -- some of these people are giants of the genre, and they know how to pay homage without copying Tolkien's trappings. I just wish that Neil Gaiman was in this.

"After the King" mostly lives up to its name -- we have a huge collection of excellent stories from wonderful authors, marred only by a few unmagical duds.

tyrean's review against another edition

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3.0

A short story collection with several stories I loved, some I liked, and a few I abhorred. It's hard to actually give a collection like this a star rating. Some stories, like "Fellowship of the Dragon," "The Conjure Man," "Silver or Gold," and "Death and the Lady," were fun, enjoyable and inspiring! Then, there were others that I won't name that I struggled to finish, plus a few that I felt were tasteless.

Best quote from the book,

"The stories are just stories - they entertain, they make one laugh or cry - but if they have any worth, they carry within them a deeper resonance that remains long after the final page is turned, or the storyteller has come to the end of her tale." From "The Conjure Man" by Charles de Lint.

For the gems in the book, like the stories I mentioned above the book is worth finding and checking out (at least from the library like I did).

circus_of_damned's review

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adventurous dark funny reflective relaxing sad
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix

3.5

As a whole this is exactly what I was expecting from this anthology. For the most part I enjoyed the majority of the stories, with a few standouts and a few heavily missing the mark. For the whole though the bulk of the stories felt very Tolkien inspired to me, without feeling like they we copying or unoriginal. The detailed star rating of each individual story and my quick thoughts as well will be given below. 

Reave the Just: 1 star
    A short story with as many mentions of rape as this one was far to excessive, add in the victim blaming and shaming and it sickened and angered me. There was nothing Tolkien inspired about this story. 

Troll Bridge: 5 stars 
    Pure humor and lighthearted fun, very Tolkien inspired, but with a Disc World twist of Terry Pratchett which made me very interested n picking up that series. Also the good old days vibes this story get was amazing. 

A Long Night's Vigil at the Temple: 4 stars
    This has a sci-fi and fantasy blend to it that I wasn't expecting to find. That being said this very much has Tolkien contemplative nature of a task and one questioning there ability to complete it, with the religious overtures in Tolkien work. 

The Dragon of Tollin: 3 stars
     Playing with the idea of The Hobbit, has a heavy handed approach with the ideas of greed and it bewitching effect. Found the darker tones p\present very enjoyable and a nice twist to The Hobbit story idea.  

Faith: 5 stars
    Felt like it belonged in Tolkien universe of works while still keeping the author voice and not feeling like a writer forcing themselves to write like Tolkien. Had the darkness and bittersweet end that I found in the work of Tolkien I've read, in particular Lord of the Rings.

In the Season of the Dressing of the Wells: 4 stars
      This felt like it was inspired by Tolkien life after his return from WWI to England. And his motivation to write The Lord of the Rings. It had a beautiful and magical feel to it that enhanced the story. 

The Fellowship of the Dragon: 5 stars
     This felt heavily inspired by specifically The Fellowship of the Ring, but with an all female cast. Which was really nice given how rarely female characters are present or featured in Tolkien work or works inspired by him. The ending also had an amazing twist I didn't foresee, but really enjoyed. Would love a full length novel to see what happens next. 

The Decoy Duck: 3 stars
     This has very Viking inspired feel to it. And playing on history with the clash between Viking raiders and Catholic Englishmen. The only thing that perhaps could be Tolkien inspired is the religious nature of the story. However very much enjoyed the short story for what it was.

Nine Threads of Gold: 3 stars
    This had very strong feelings of Fea present, but was very Tolkien inspired work with Wheel of Time influences as well. It had everything from ancient fight between good and evil to chosen one trope and band of unlikely friends fighting together and overcoming temptation. Really enjoyed and added a little originality with the inclusion of Fea in the story. 

The Conjure Man: 4 stars
   The hint of Tolkien pain at his return to England and the loss of nature to Industrialism was an interesting bend to the story. Appreciated the hint at how storytelling is needed in one life, and how the story isn't about Tolkien work but his life. 

The Halfling House: 5 stars
     This mad direct references and pulls from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. From dragons to rings of power and ring wraiths, to possibly inserting Bilbo and the Shire directly into the story. The band of Hero, that were all Wee Folk, was an amazing touch especially given the adventures they went on. Really a fun and cute tall I fell into. 

Silver or Gold: 3 stars
     An adventure tale to save a lost king, very enjoyable to read, but in no way felt Tolkien inspred to me. 

Up the Side of the Air: 3 stars
    This felt like they were pulling on Return of the King in particular Gandalf and Merry relationship. Enjoyable and found the ending very sweet and cute. Absolutely heart warming. 

The Naga: 4 stars
     The story had a very beautiful message weaved throughout. The writing was beautiful and the writer enjoyed dropping in SAT words throughout. The story itself wasn't very Tolkien inspired, but the message it delivered absolutely was. 

Revolt of the Sugar Plum Fairies: 2 stars
     This story didn't feel like it was inspired by Tolkien in any way. Add to it that I didn't really enjoy the story in and of itself and it was bust. I will say it was worth a chuckle so not a complete loss. 

Winter's King: 4 stars
    This was haunting and beautiful, the writing felt very fairytale in nature, right down to the disjointed and confused nature. Wishing this had been longer and more detailed. Felt like this was an Elven story Legolas wound have told to the Hobbits. 

Gotterdammerung: 2 stars
     This feels like it was perhaps inspired by Saruman fall to darkness before it came to light. However the writing was poor and the story felt disjointed to me. 

Down the River Road: 1 star
   This felt very disjointed, confusing, and overall unpleasant to read. For the most part like I was reading a Sci-Fi story that was on a bad acid trip. It felt like this story had no point at all, I get what the protagonist was after and what happened but it felt like it had no real point to the story. 

Death and the Lady: 4 stars 
     This was haunting and had a beautiful magical feel throughout. Very much like it would be an Elven tail present in one of Tolkien books.  

jjjreads's review

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adventurous dark emotional funny hopeful inspiring lighthearted mysterious reflective relaxing sad tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

telthor's review against another edition

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2.0

For the most part, I found the majority of these tales plodding and tedious and pointless.

Truly, the best of the batch were Terry Pratchett’s Troll Bridge and Emma Bull’s Silver or Gold. The short story format felt cleanest in those tales.

I enjoyed Karen Harber’s Up the Side of the Air, and and at least Yolen’s Winter King felt like a fairy tale. I know so many of the authors in the list and like them, I just...couldn’t get into this collection. It’s too uneven.
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