Shadows & Light (Volume II)by Alva J. Roberts
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The struggle between man and evil has always been a mainstay of fantasy. Pill Hill Press pays homage to this tradition in the sequel to their critically acclaimed anthology, Shadows & Light: Tales of Lost Kingdoms. Volume II features thirteen brand new magical tales of the epic battle between good and evil, including: Choices in the Dark by Ray Tabler, Master Race by Gerald Costlow, The Hand of Fate by David J. West, Azieran: The Secret in the Mist by Christopher Heath, Mania's Children by Gustavo Bondoni, Champion by Marc Sorondo, Night Ambush by Scott Harper & Diane Smith, The Tithe of Hell by Edward McKeown, The King of Sorango by John M. Whalen, Zhea by Gregory L. Norris, Spread Your Wings and Die by Lydia Sharp, Sons of Odin by John Richard Albers & Aquila's Ring by Cat Rambo.
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The Pill Hill Press of Chadron, Nebraska has proved its excellence once again with its ability to select quality fantasy short stories. The collection published in Shadows & Light Volume II edited by Alva J. Roberts rewards readers with lovingly written stories filled with intrigue, emotion, creativity, and some good old sword and sorcery action. Every story in the anthology makes the book a worthwhile choice for fantasy readers. Dragon lovers will like getting to know the crafty dragon in Gerald Costlow's "Master Race" as the beast battles German Nazis penetrating its plane of existence. Then in Lydia Sharp's "Spread Your Wings and Die" the feelings of dragons as they suffer cruel captivity come through in a poignant tale illustrating the subjugation of one species by another. Both stories are excellent examples of storytelling from the point of view of dragons. A personal favorite of mine in the anthology was "The Hand of Fate" by David J. West. This gripping tale is driven by strong action and strong characters. A great conqueror is betrayed on the battlefield and his army is overrun. He escapes into the desert and comes under the protection of a mysterious nomad named Ahimoth. I greatly enjoyed the skill and resourcefulness of Ahimoth as he overcame overwhelming odds. The brutal desert environment and steadfast faith of Ahimoth are well portrayed in this story. I wish I could explain all the qualities of every story in the anthology, but that would take too much space. I would like to give one more honorable mention to the skillful writing of Christopher Heath. Here's how he sets a scene in "Azieran: The Secret in the Mist": "The chill damp evening ensured the streets were occupied by only those on the most urgent of missions, or by dregs lent to errands most indecent. The massive moon, waning to naught but a thin crust of light, succumbed to the whims of darkness. The stars seemed more distant than ever." Readers who enjoy fantasy will surely find several stories to enjoy in Shadows & Light Volume II. Tastes vary, so what my favorites are might not be the same for other people, but the quality of this collection will surely entertain those who like traditional fantasy palettes. The anthology gets an unhesitating 5 stars from me for its carefully chosen landscapes, fully realized characters, interesting twists, combat, and action.
I got this from someone I know to read on a plane trip, and it was one of the fastest trips ever. It gets an A+ in my book.