Fantastic Worlds – A Fantasy Anthology was released as part of a Kickstarter by Future House Publishing. I had previously read works by some of the authors, so I was one of the backers. Not all such anthologies are solid, but this one was excellent.
My favorites include “Waves”, “The Frog’s Princess”, “Crude Magic”, “The Presence”, and “The Taler’s Truth”. In “Waves”, Cameron Dayton takes us to a world beneath the waves (mostly). The main character—Daeksi—is on patrol with her dolphin friend, Bree, who seems upset about something. They uncover something which threatens to change their world. I was really drawn into this world because of the vivid descriptions and interesting characters. I plan to explore more in the Etherwalker world.
The final story in the anthology, “The Frog’s Princess” by Jacque Stevens, is a wonderful twist on the “Frog Prince” fairy tale. Seeing things from the frog’s perspective as it adjusts to the new powers granted it by a beautiful goddess was extremely entertaining. The dialog was witty, and the humor was well used. This is another series I plan to find and read.
In a world where great magical power can be had if one knows where to find it, “Crude Magic” by Michael D. Young shares the story of two brothers of dubious ethics. Meckule is the main character, a man seeking great power in order bring more prosperity to his company. He deals in Essence, magical power contained within the remains of ancient magical beings (such as dragons). The history in this world is deep, and Young only scrapes the surface in this very solid short story.
Michael Moreci weaves the tale of “The Presence”, set in a mystical Japan where the unnamed protagonist seeks to escape the thrall of a mysterious benefactor. When he finds a strange warrior woman unconscious on the edge of his village, he decides to help her escape, too. Moreci did an excellent job setting up the story and giving just enough information to draw in the reader without prematurely giving away anything of the plot. I would live to read more stories set in this world.
“The Taler’s Truth”, by Michaelbrent Collings, unfolds in excellent storyteller’s style. The main character encounters a strange bard after his town experiences an unnatural disaster. As the bard weaves his tale, Collings draws the reader deep into history of the world of Zo. How he told the story reminded me a lot of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. It was truly magnificent.
Two stories—”Reflexio: Before Ama’s Watch” by Zachary James and “Trapped” by Michelle Merrill—felt incomplete, as if they were simply chapters from a book. They had weak conclusions which failed to satisfactorily resolve the stories. I would likely find the expanded stories more interesting interesting.
Whoever edited this anthology (Future House failed to mention that anywhere in it) did an excellent job gathering and presenting the stories. I hope they release it through normal bookselling channels soon so more people can enjoy these stories.
“Little Magicks” by Christie Golden
“The Taler’s Truth” by Michaelbrent Collings
“The Thornclaw Forest” by Paul Genesse
“We Called the Dragon” by Jacob Gowans
“Waves” by Cameron Dayton
“Twins” by Kevin L. Nielson
“The Presence” by Michael Moreci
“Lucky Day” by Michael Darling
“Trapped” by Michelle Merrill
“Reflexio: Before Ama’s Watch” by Zachary James
“Crude Magic” by Michael D. Young
“The Frog’s Princess” by Jacque Stevens
Release Date: October 2016 (USA)
ISBNs: 1944452532 (9781944452537)
Publisher: Future House Publishing
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief mention)
Sexuality: 1 (brief innuendo)
Violence: 1 (some violence, some fighting, death, nothing graphic)