There hasn’t been a great deal of satisfying material for the discerning sword and sorcery fan released in the past few decades. Apart from the Tolkien clones that have dominated the fantasy genre for quite a while, a large amount of books and stories written these days are either nihilistic and pointless or absurd and nonsensical. Sure, there’s some real sword and sorcery out there, but most of it is just so… mild. The settings aren’t exotic or dangerous. There’s action, but nothing that will get your blood pumping. The sorcery is more like a different kind of science rather than something eldritch and strange, let alone soul-threatening. For all the praise Robert E. Howard gets, you have to wonder how closely modern writers pay attention to his stories.
Fortunately, we presently have a few writers who understand what REH-inspired* sword and sorcery is supposed to be: aggressive, bloody, virile, menacing. Howie Bentley is one of the best, if not the best, writers of this style today. I could go into details about the six stories in this fantastic collection, but why spoil it for you? If you’re interested in sword and sorcery fiction at all, trust me: Bentley delivers the goods. Order it here.
* As opposed to Clark Ashton Smith’s more mystical strain of sword and sorcery. I must admit I’m a bigger fan of the CAS style (which includes other greats such as Jack Vance and Michael Moorcock) than the REH style. To be honest, there are only two writers in the Howard style that I really like besides REH himself: Poul Anderson and Howie Bentley.