A number of good anthologies have come out via Kickstarters the last year or so. Women in Practical Armor is one of those. Despite the title of the anthology, not all involve women in armor, but all include stories about strong women (and girls). There are nine stories in this anthology that really stood out. I cover all nine of them here.
Steve Bornstein wove a fun tale of opportunity and trust which I would love to see continued at some point. “Serendipity” was well paced, and the characters really struck a chord with me. I really want to see what happens next!
An aging couple is pulled back into “The Family Business” when one of their granddaughter’s friends is kidnapped by goblins from another dimension. I loved how matter-of-fact they were about the situation. I enjoyed how their granddaughter dealt with all the new things being thrown at her, too. Kristy Griffin Green used humor well in this one.
Continuing the humorous vein in many of the Women in Practical Armor stories, Sarah Hendrix wove an interesting tale of a humble hero who would rather fade into the background in “The Hero of Ithar”. Knowing a few people I consider heroes, J’hell emulated the ones I know, in how she was just doing her job and didn’t think people should make too big a deal about it. The ending was very well executed, too.
“First Command” by Chris A. Jackson features a devoted squire trying to follow through on her Lord’s last orders despite the opposition from another squire who was technically a superior officer. Despite the uphill battle, she was able to stick to her guns and earn the respect of those around her. I found this story to be rather inspiring.
In a twist on a fairy tale, Amy Griswold spins the story of “The Raven and the Swans”, where a young woman must use all her resources and skills to help those she loves and respects while also resisting the allure of a comfortable life without them. This is another story where I would like to see more of this world. The story seemed ripped out of the middle of a larger narrative.
An unusual love story unfolds between an imp and a half-elf in “Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw” by Rhonda Parrish. I liked the unusual protagonists in the story, and how they came to love each other. I really liked how each of them gave their all to the relationship, and each became much more than they would have been had they been alone. Very smartly told, and an awesome addition to Women in Practical Armor.
In “Ravenblack”, the title character cares for gryphounds in a remote and snowy location set in the mountains between two competing areas an a larger kingdom. Alex C. Renwick does a great job building a unique world and interesting characters in only a few pages. I would love to see more of this world.
The last two of my nine favorites in Women in Practical Armor are “The Bound Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal and “A Night in New Veroshtin” by Cassandra Rose Clarke. In Clarke’s story, a soldier accepts a non-military assignment begrudgingly because she doesn’t want to leave the profession. Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, she has to fight her instincts in order to accomplish her mission in unfamiliar territory. Clarke did a superb job showing the internal struggle, which made the final act of the story much more powerful.
Finally, in “The Bound Man”, Kowal shares a story about a man desperate to bring about a prophecy that could save his kingdom, but in so doing he has a huge impact on a powerful woman who is torn from her family. This one had a mixture of mythology from the Far East and Scandinavia, so it really caught my attention due to my love of those areas. Li Reiko was a wonderful protagonist, and Halldór was a well-rounded and interesting co-protagonist. And I want to see more in this world, too.
Women in Practical Armor was a very solid anthology, with most stories really pulling me into their worlds quickly and leaving me wanting more. For a short story, that is what I expect, and this anthology delivered. There were a few stories which were a bit preachy and agenda-driven for my tastes, but none of them were completely ruined by that. Pick it up! It is a great addition to any library.
“Attrition” by Judith Tarr
“No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden” by Wunji Lau
“Armor the Color of War” by David Szarzynski
“The Blood Axe” by Mary Pletsch
“First Command” by Chris A. Jackson
“The Bound Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“Pride and Joy” by Eric Landreneau
“Voice of the Trees” by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood
“The Raven and the Swans” by Amy Griswold
“The Family Business” by Kristy Griffin Green
“Stone Woken” by Crystal Lynn Hilbert
“Serendipity” by Steve Bornstein
“Ravenblack” by Alex C. Renwick
“King’s Shield: A Tale of the World of Ruin” by Erik Scott de Bie
“The Lioness” by Anya Penfold
“The Hero of Ithar” by Sarah Hendrix
“Golden” by Todd McCaffrey
“Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw” by Rhonda Parrish
“A Night in New Veroshtin” by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Release Date: August 2016 (USA)
ISBNs: 1940154138 (9781940154138)
Publisher: Evil Grilfriend Media
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (occasional drinking)
Language: 2 (some stronger, mostly mild, some deity)
Sexuality: 2 (some innuendo and implied sex, lesbian kissing)
Violence: 2 (gladiator fighting, battles, murder, assassination, fisticuffs, death, nothing graphic)