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An Armory of Swords

An Armory of Swords

Fred Saberhagen
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4.6 of 5
Tor Fantasy (May 15, 1996)
Short Stories and Anthologies
Saberhagen has brought together some of the best fantasy writers in the field to create their own stories within the universe of his Lost Swords series. This book features works by Walter Jon Williams, Sage Walker, and a new tale by the master himself--Fred Saberhagen's "Blind Man's Blade"--reveals how the Swords were originally thrust into the human realm. HC: Tor.
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5 Reviews
  • "An Armory of Swords", edited by Fred Saberhagen, is an anthology of novelettes and a novella all based on Saberhagen's Swords series and written by other authors. It was originally published in June of 1995. We learn fairly quickly that it isn't so easy to craft one of these stories, and that Saberhagen's style is an important part of the series. Though not horrible, this anthology of stories doesn't measure up to the rest of the series, and will be of interest mostly for the one story which Saberhagen wrote, and only for those people who love the series.

    The first story is "Blind Man's Blade", a novelette which Fred Saberhagen wrote, and which gives the reader an interesting story about the start of the great game of the gods, and the role which mortals would have to play in it. This story is up there in quality with the rest of the series.

    The next story is "Woundhealer", a novelette by Walter Jon Williams, and he does a decent job of putting together a story, but it is a bit nondescript. In the story, one of the Great Swords has fallen into the hands of a tyrannical Lord (Lord Landry), who is in the habit of using all those around him, including his family, for his own personal gain.

    The next story is "Fealty", a novelette by Gene Bostwick, and this is my favorite non-Saberhagen story in this book. Bostwick creates an interesting story with interesting characters and fits them into Saberhagen's world. In this story, a Templar (Jarmon) has acquired one of the Great Swords, and decides it is much too dangerous in the hands of men. He decides to bury it inside the body of its former owner, but to do so he needs the help of a grave digger (Keaf) who falls prey to his own curiosity.

    The next story is "Dragon Debt", a novelette by Robert E. Vardeman. The premise of this story is okay, but as the reader, I never believed that Dragonslayer could be held for such a long time by such a character. In addition, the story didn't really flow very well, but it is not the weakest story in this book. In short, a man (Kennek) claiming to have Dragonslayer, and thus to slay dragons by profession comes to a small town and is going to marry Trav's sister (Juliana). Trav is sure that he is lying, and when luck delivers some dragon eggs to him, he decides to raise some dragons to show everyone that Kennek is a fraud.

    The next story is "The Sword of Aren-Nath", a novelette by Thomas Saberhagen, who is Fred's son. As with Williams' effort, the story is somewhat bland, but it is a decent attempt at writing a story for Saberhagen's world. In this story, a boyhood prank by Aron, Klin, and Tall Boy results in Aron's accidentally releasing a horror which seems unstoppable. The Vassal knows what to do though, and is resolved to protect the town from the evil creature.

    The next story is "Glad Yule", a novella by Pati Nagle. The story is about three men (Trenton Greyson, Paethor of Mirador, and Echevarian of Verdas) who are sent by King Nigel to acquire Farslayer by using Wayfinder. After some initial trouble with Wayfinder switching directions, a final rewording of what they seek takes them nearly in the opposite direction from where they were going. This brings them into Highmass around the time of Yule. There they meet another traveler, Baron Carcham, who also carries one of the Great Swords. The story is interesting to read, but the ending didn't work for me, and I felt she broke some of the rules of the Swords.

    The next story is "Luck of the Draw", a novelette by Michael A. Stackpole. In this story, Count Callisto finds himself in a dire situation, which seems to offer him nothing but death at the hands of the pirate Red Rinaldo. With little to hope for, the sudden appearance of Coinspinner suddenly seems to turn things around. Unfortunately, he still must face Red Rinaldo, and he holds Shieldbreaker. I would consider this to be the weakest story in the book. Stackpole breaks many rules with regards to Coinspinner, so while it is certainly readable, I was frustrated by some parts of the story.

    The last story in the book is "Stealth and the Lady", a novelette by Sage Walker. This story was difficult to read for me. I felt she tried to put too much into a novelette length story. There is a lot of background detail about the characters and the political situation, and the story is non-linear, so I found myself flipping back through the story looking for information, which really shouldn't happen for a novelette. The story does finish stronger than it starts, but I can't say that it was worth it. I also felt the story was forced into the Swords' universe, rather than being a part of it.

    All and all, this book really is only for Swords series fans, and even then it could easily be skipped. There is nothing here which impacts the rest of the series, other than the very first story, and that only gives the reader more information about the start of the game.

  • This is a collection of stories about the Twelve Swords of Power by a variety of authors. To those of you who've read Saberhagen's series, this should be familiar ground. The most interesting aspect of this book is seeing other people's takes on the magical Swords. Close after that is seeing stories about Doomgiver and Townsaver, which recieve scant attention in the original series, both being destroyed in the third book.

    Of the eight stories in this book, "Woundhealer" is definitely the most interesting. Oddly, the Sword (and magic in general) receive only marginal attention in this story. Mostly it is concerned with the in-fighting and intrigue of the family of the lord of a small mountain holding. "Stealth and the Lady" also shares this oddity. Sightblinder, the ostensible subject, is scarcely mentioned.

    The book is a mixed bag. "Woundhealer", "Blind Man's Blade", and "The Luck of the Draw" are engaging and amusing tales. "Dragon Debt" is little more than annoying, especially the contrived choice of the hero at the end.

    If you're already a fan of the series, you should definitely pick this one up, as it fleshes out a few details you've probably been curious about. If you've not read them yet, it would be better to start with some of the others and come back to this one. The Empire of the East, though only slightly connected to the later books, is an excellent book, almost epic in scale. That would be an excllent introduction to the rest. Then come back to this one.

  • "An Armory of Swords" is a collection of short stories by eight authors, including Fred Saberhagen, set in the world of the Twelve Swords. Saberhagen starts off the collection with a "What If?" story. Basically, the story of the Swords is rewritten and sets the stage for new stories regarding the Swords if the first story had actually happened.
    The first five stories are excellent, especially the one by Robert Vardeman that dealt with a man's desire to prove the town "hero" a fraud. The story is an emotional one with an ending that is powerful. It makes the reader wonder whether they should be pleased with the story's resolution or hurt due to characters' actions which are simply innate ones.
    While the first five stories are excellent, the last three tend to drag. It seems like the authors were all told they had to create a short story using one or more specific Swords as the anthology encompasses all but one of the Swords. The one Sword does receive a mention in the first story, but does not serve an integral part like the other eleven do throughout the anthology. Had the last three stories been as enthralling as the first five, this would be a five star book. However, due to their letdown, it is a four star book. Overall, it's definitely a worthwhile read to all fans of the Swords books.

  • A lot of what needs to be said has been said. Saberhagen had a great concept for the Swords, one that he executed adequately if not brilliantly.

    His own story opens the book well, and "Woundhealer" is an excellent tale, concentrating on family dynamics and using its Sword in an appropriate way - as a way of developing the characters.

    The other stories are of variable to weak interest. Most are fairly poorly written, surprisingly so, for what should be a first-rank anthology. "Luck of the Draw" and the one about the quest for Farslayer are particularly poor - ok concepts but florid overwriting.

    "Stealth and the Lady", "Fealty" both have elements of interest.

    "Dragon Debt" - is just weird.

  • The Books of Swords are a great series, and this is another fine addition. It does a wonderful job exploring the possibilities of such unique items as the God forged blades. With their staggering abilities, and equally hindering disadvantages for exploitation. Definately recommended, if the first book of swords to read, or as part of the whole amazing series.