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This collection of early tales, some of them unpublished, is essential reading for fans of World Fantasy Award-winner de Lint (The Onion Girl). The six Aynber and Thorn yarns that open the volume ("Wizard's Bounty," etc.) are chock full of slashing swords, magic and evil sorcerers, but lack depth. The three set pieces about Colum mac Donal, an outlawed Irish berserker who becomes part of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, exhibit more compassion and better plotting. The last and most compelling Colum piece, "The Fair in Emain Macha," deals with his return to his family in Ireland and the subsequent "King-Breaking." Somewhat atypical is "The Skin & Knife Game" (co-written with Lee Barwood), a fantasy-horror melange of creepy madness. All the stories are short and a bit light on the wordsmithing readers have come to expect from this master fantasist, but they are nonetheless fun to read and right on target for the sword-and-sorcery crowd.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Fifteen of the distinguished Canadian fantasist's early stories reappear here. The six Aynber tales show, de Lint admits, the influence of spaghetti Westerns, while those about Colum mac Donal combine Robert E. Howard's Conan milieu with Celtic and Norse mythology. The tales of Damon, a vengeance-driven halfling with bloody habits, have by far the darkest tone of any in the volume, but they are no less well written. The two Liavek stories, early entries in a shared-world series, represent de Lint maturing beyond the level of the earlier pieces. None of the stories could truthfully be said to be much more than a gifted amateur's work, but de Lint's command of the language is there from the first. De Lint enjoys an insatiable audience, however, and since many of the venues in which these stories first saw light had miniscule circulation and worse distribution, wherever those fans flock should give thought to getting this book. Roland Green
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