The Anthology Club presents its second collection. This time it’s pirates, and this time I’m on board. I always feel a little uneasy assigning a star rating to a book that I have a stake in, so: just words, and you must consider this a review of the ten elevenths of this anthology that have nothing to do with me.
It seems invidious to single out only a few of the tales for comment, but there are so many, and anyone who can lay claim to love them equally (except for their obviously biased editors) is an even more eclectic reader than I am. Here we have, not only mongrel pirates of the Spanish main, but steampunk pirates of the air, dimension hopping pirates in time, demon-fighting fantasy pirates, and even one pirate whose rash decision leads him into the paths of classic gothic horror. My gems, then, are these.
Marissa Ames returns to the richly imagined world of Tir Athair and its neighbouring lands with Katra, in which one man’s curse is another man’s gift.
Beth Avery takes us to the Great Lakes in the perfectly constructed Roaring Dan Seavey Proves He Ain’t the Man Some Folk Think Him to Be. To produce an ending that no one could see coming is one thing, but here everything clicks perfectly into place for a reveal that is inevitable only once it is known.
Eric Martell introduces us to The Queen of the Dead Seas in a roistering good yarn, but he gives us much more than that. Many of these stories show us good people in bad places, driven to piracy by circumstances beyond their control. In this piece we see, more than ever, the way that circumstances mould, not character, but the expression of character, and the late blossoming still possible when a man written off by his contemporaries falls into the world he belongs to.
The collection is capped, fore and aft, by the joyful irreverence of editor Michael Wombat’s own Mr Crow and wrapped up, once more, in glorious cover art from Kit Cooper – of whom, more here. Go and look, do. I shan’t hold it against you if you blow your month’s extravagances budget on Kit Cooper tote bags and haven’t any spare for the anthology. At least, not much.
For now, though, I’ll leave you with a teaser from that eleventh tale, my Time to Deserve Better.
“Grigim, can we sail a closer course?”
He ran an eye over the set of his sails, reading his mysteries there, and shifted to turn the wheel.
“Not yet. Only, can we?”
“They will give us a volley, a short, ragged volley, when they think us close enough. Close to them as fast as may be as soon as they have shot.”
And I was back at the rail.
“Well, dogs of mine, you have heard that Aoif’s honour lies in safety. Mine lies in the fight. Are you with me, whelps of the She-Bear?”
I was flying, then, too high to hear their answer, except to know that they were still mine to command. Eskya’s cry came from a great distance, and across the ship my company disappeared behind shields conjured from the deck. There was an age, then, before the harmless arrows rattled down on us, for the clumsy movements of the novice archers had given us more warning than we could ever have hoped for, and then the ship lurched and heeled, and in a blink we had contact with the carrack, and with practiced ease my men were throwing their grappling irons, and I was down among them, ready to flood onto the Hoysarn deck in an unstoppable tide.