Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
|Author:||edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Anthology|
|Release Date:||June 17, 2014|
G.R.R.M. states in his introduction that’s the “Rogues is not meant to be a fantasy anthology” but I picked it up for the authors that I knew from being a fantasy reader, and I believe most readers will, so that’s where I will focus. The character type is so ingrained in the fantasy genre and some of the authors featured here have already proved themselves masters like Abercrombie, Lynch, Gaiman, Rothfuss and Martin himself, so they are undoubtedly the draw cards. That being said one of the wonderful things about such an anthology is the opportunity to experience a writer’s work that you might not have normally discovered if they were not in such illustrious and familiar company.
With “Tough Times All Over” Abercrombie gives us the perfect introduction to the book. It is fast paced, surprising in both plot and structure and Joe has managed to embody the very characteristics of a rogue into the structure and style of this story as he examines the very notion and idea of what it means just to be a rogue. For a rogue to truly work and seduce their audience they should have an element of humour, whether it is ironic, dark and sarcastic or laugh out loud funny and Joe was having a laugh when he put this one together.
“The Inn of Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes is the anthology’s first traditional roguish tale and welcome it is! A sleeping thief is in the bushes away from the road, avoiding some serious muscle in order to pilfer some unfortunate victims belongings to make up for a disastrous morning of swindling. A very cool notion of magic exists in this world and one I would like to spend some more time in.
“Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick is a rollicking good adventure! A Maverick type tale where both the reader and the characters share in the delight of knowing exactly what will happen and decide to go along with it, despite the obvious risks, because it’s just so much damned fun. Tawny is quite possibly the best rogue so far and is reminiscent of the wonderful Saffron from Firefly, whose every word drips with lies and deceit but she does it with such charm and beauty that one feels the deception is worth the price. Swanwick brings so much fun to the story we are just as complicit in the crime as the main characters and that makes this story totally unique in this anthology.
“Roaring Twenties” by Carrie Vaughn deserves a snare drum just tapping away in the background and a hint of cigar smoke, such is the world created, it’s that good. A tale of Madame M, her bestie/sidekick Pauline and their trip to some sort of mystical speak easy to try and talk to the owner. Vaughn mixes in modern feds, olds school sirens (the singing kind) and a wonderful mostly female cast to great success. The world is undefined but needs not be as the story takes place in a haven, where magic and sorcery intertwine to produce a wonderful overall tone. Our protagonist’s swish and sass their way through this one night tale with confidence and determination despite their odd setting seem eerily realistic and imaginable.
“A Year and Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch is one of the more complete tales in the anthology, and also one that could be a fleshed out even more so and become the basis of a longer and more in depth story. Amarelle is our rogue, however Lynch has put her in a haven of sorts whereby she and her crew, and others, can buy their freedom in exchange for agreement not to repeat their previous dastardly deeds whilst in their new home. Set in a battle between the Parliaments of wizards, Amarelle is tasked with coming out of retirement after drunkenly abusing a very powerful witch, resulting in her having to steal the source of another wizard’s power. This power happens to exist in a 300ft street running through the middle of town. She has a year and a day to achieve it and will need all her friends help to do it and the way they go about it is enormously cheeky.
“How The Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman requires us to thank him for another delightful romp and the standout of the entire anthology. Gaiman leisurely takes us into the life of the Marquis de something something and his quest to retrieve his finery. I didn’t really bother learning his name as he does quite know himself how it is pronounced as he made it up to go with the man he saw in the mirror when wearing a very special coat. A coat of many pockets and “the colour of a wet street at midnight”; he finds his roguish nature tied to this coat and without it he is only half a man and not the half he likes. This was an effortless read. Dive in straight away or save it for a moment when you are struggling, either way it is a wonderful piece of fiction and I want more.
“The Meaning of Love” by Daniel Abraham could have been called the “Long Suffering Rogue”. We have a capable, intelligent woman, Asa, who is in love with a complete fop, Prince Steppen. She has seemingly given her freedom and time over to hiding and protecting this guy, who is some heir to some throne. When he sees a woman from two streets away, falls in love and spends the next week crying about it, she agrees to help find this woman and just hook the two of them up…aka buy her or rescue her. Asa is cunning and smart, but every time she has the chance to demonstrate it, it is glossed over and the fact that her only small moment of rebellion is inspired and dictated by the actions of another was unsatisfying.
“A Cargo of Ivories” is weird as hell and interesting does not begin to describe it. Garth Nix pits a man, his living puppet and a thief against god-like forces contained in tiny ivory statues. Nix has successfully crafted a fully realised world and characters in a very small amount of space and does a great job of drawing the reader in.
“The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss is a magical, rambling, and enthralling tale. If it is your first time reading Rothfuss, as it was mine, this is a wonderful introduction to his the world he has created. Bast is our main protagonist and his origins and motives are mysterious to say the least. He takes a delight in helping children lie their way out of trouble or get revenge on their siblings and also with things more serious when called upon, but adults don’t seem to take him seriously. I know Bast is part of a larger world created by Rothfuss and it is one I am looking forward to learning more about.
“Provenance” by David W. Ball, “Heavy Metal” by Cherie Priest, “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell, “Ill seen in Tyne” by Steven Saylor, “The Caravan to Nowhere” by Phyllis Eisenstien were interesting but not standouts. We also have some stories based in a more real and familiar world from Gillian Flynn, Joe R, Lansdale, Bradley Denton, Connie Willis, Lisa Tuttle and Walter John Williams.
Oh and there is also a little something from G.R.R.M. called “The Rogue Prince or A King’s Brother” and let’s face it, most people will buy this anthology for a chance to dip back into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. You will read it and love it if you are a hardcore fan but it is more of a historical outline than a complete story.
There is so much to love about this anthology and a number of surprises. Two of my favourites were “Tawny Petticoats” and “Roaring Twenties” for their fantastic female protagonists, because the only thing more fun the a male rogue is a female rogue, and they are rarely done so ridiculously well as in these two stories. Female characters are often accused of being one dimensional or purely there to provide the main character with motivation but that is certainly not the case here. I’ve discovered some new authors I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future and had a chance to reunite with some old friends. I highly recommend you give it a try and do the same.