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Edited by Robert Silverberg


703pp/$27.95/September 1998


Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Robert Silverberg's new anthology, Legends, is a fantastic collection.   More than seven hundred pages long, it allows eleven fantasy authors to write novellas set in their most popular universes.  From Stephen King's contribution of a "Dark Tower" story to Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" novella, the book serves as an introduction to these series for those who haven't read them, and presents new stories for those who already follow the series.

Many fantasy series these days are lengthy works, for instance Tad Williams's "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" or Terry Goodkind's "The Sword of Truth".  Even the works which aren't lengthy tend to be parts of long series, for instance Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels or Anne McCaffrey's Pern sequence.  Legends permits readers to sample a small bit of the authors' work and world without making the time and monetary committment of picking up the entire series.  If the reader likes George R.R. Martin's "The Hedge Knight," set one hundred years before his main story sequence, the reader can then go out and purchase a copy of A Game of Thrones.

Although Terry Pratchett is the best selling author in England, his work is still relatively little known in the US.  Pratchett's "The Sea and Little Fishes" is a good introduction to his characters, humor and situations.  Told from the viewpoint of the witch Nanny Ogg, it is the story of how one year a committee of witches forms to ask Granny Weatherwax not to take part in the Witch Trials, a competition to determine the best witch of the year.   When Granny agrees, the problems begin.

Orson Scott Card's "Grinning Man," set after Heartfire, seems like it could be an extract from the forthcoming sixth Alvin Maker novel.   Opening with Alvin and Arthur Stuart travelling through Kennituck, the two come upon a man who is grinning down a bear.  Letting the grinning man get ahead of him, the travelers come to a small village where they meet up with some inhospitable villagers who had heard about Alvin from the grinning man.  Card's tale is good, but it relies on more knowledge of Alvin, Arthur and their circumstances for it to be fully effective.

"Runner of Pern" introduces a new niche to Anne McCaffrey's long running Pern series.  The story is original and captures the feel for McCaffrey's writing, but the dragons which are the centerpoint of the novels are practically lacking.  This is due, in part to McCaffrey's decision to set the story during her novel Masterharper of Pern, before the threadfall which restores the dragonriders to their place of honor.  While not, perhaps, the best introduction to the series, McCaffrey does give a glimpse into pre-threadfall Pern as well as demonstrate how long-distance communication is achieved on her pre-industrial planet.

Raymond Feist has already shown how slavery exists on Kelewan in both the original Riftwar Saga and the Daughter of Empire series he wrote with Janny Wurts.  In "The Wood Boy," Feists tells the story of a noble house on Midkemia which is captured by the Tsurani and has slavery imposed upon them.  Feist's tale is told through the eyes of Dirk, a young woodgatherer who hopes to escape his servitude and live his own life once again.

Silverberg does a wonderful job with the introductions to each of the eleven pieces.   In addition to a short blurb about each author, he provides a synopsis of the series and where it stands, lets the reader know where the novella fits into the sequence, provides a full bibliography of the series (including, when appropriate, forthcoming novels in the series), and in some cases includes the maps taken from the beginning of the authors' novels.

If you are familiar with some or all of the fantasy realms included in Legends, the book will provide a return ticket to these worlds.  If you have never had the opportunity to visit these fantasy epics, Legends, will provide a good introduction to several series, permitting you to decide which authors tell the type of stories which would most interest you.

Stephen King The Little Sisters of Eluria
Terry Pratchett The Sea and Little Fishes
Terry Goodkind Debt of Bones
Orson Scott Card Grinning Man
Robert Silverberg The Seventh Shrine
Ursula K. LeGuin Dragonfly
Tad Williams The Burning Man
George R.R. Martin The Hedge Knight
Anne McCaffrey Runner of Pern
Raymond E. Feist The Wood Boy
Robert Jordan New Spring

Purchase this book from Amazon Books.

Legends will also be available as four audio volumes by HarperAudio comprising the entire table of contents.
Volume One:   King & Silverberg
Volume Two:   Jordan, Pratchett & Card
Volume Three:  Goodkind, Le Guin & Williams
Volume Four:  McCaffrey, Martin & Feist 

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