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Edited by Robert Silverberg

Del Rey


642pp/$28.95/January 2004

Legends II

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 1998, Robert Silverberg published the enormous anthology Legends, which invited several major fantasy novelists to write a novella to explore their worlds and introduce them to a new audience.  Five years later, Silverberg has edited a second volume, containing six of the same authors, but introducing five new worlds to his readers.

While most of the worlds represented in Legends and Legends II have already acquired a vast history through multiple (often lengthy) volumes, one of the worlds included in Legends II has existed, until now, only within the confines of a single novel, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.  Taking Shadow out of America and placing him in Scotland provides an interesting juxtaposition for those familiar with the novel, but it doesn’t really tie into the world he created.  Perhaps a Sandman story by Gaiman would have fit the anthology’s theme a little better.  

Other stories also presume familiarity with the authors’ worlds.  Silverberg’s own story, “The Book of Changes,” while set millennia before the events recounted in the various Majipoor novels, does assume that the reader has some knowledge of what has gone before (come after) in the series.  This is, perhaps, most notable in Anne McCaffrey’s “Beyond Between,” which is a continuation of her novel Moreta:  Dragonlady of Pern, and introduces a supernatural element into the world she has long claimed to be a science fictional land.

The strongest stories in Legends II are the ones which, like Raymond Feist’s “The Messenger” attempt to examine a previously unexplored aspect of the world for which the author has become famous.  Also strong are the stories which do assume that the readers have not read any of the previous tales, whether that is the case or not.  Diana Gabaldon’s “Lord John and the Succubus” succeeds in part because, although she uses a character who has made previous appearances in her “Outlander” series, Lord John is also embarking on his own series of novels and this story provides an introduction as well as a continuation.

Orson Scott Card provides an excellent tale of “The Yazoo Queen” for those who are already familiar with his Alvin Maker universe, but his explanations of the world’s background are not enough for newcomers to get a grip on his alternative America.  Instead, this story of Alvin and Arthur on a Mizzippy Riverboat searves mostly as a prelude to the sixth novel in the series, The Crystal City.

The stories in Legends II are enjoyable, and most of them work even if the reader is not familiar with the world in which they are set.  They are not, however, as introductory to those worlds as the stories which appeared in the first volume.  For fans of epic (and even not-so-epic) fantasy, Legends II provides insight into the current state of the field and an introduction, if somewhat flawed, to some of the major fantasy worlds.

Robin Hobb Homecoming
George R.R. Martin The Sword Sworn
Orson Scott Card The Yazoo Queen
Diana Gabaldon Lord John & the Succubus
Robert Silverberg The Book of Changes
Tad Williams The Happiest Dead Boy in the World
Anne McCaffrey Beyond Between
Raymond E. Feist The Messenger
Elizabeth Haydon Threshold
Neil Gaiman The Monarch of the Glen
Terry Brooks Indomitable

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