This compilation brings together an outstanding group of writers who deliver a series of compelling tales of the act of heroism in its many and varied forms. I was especially pleased with the variety of the stories and the fact that a number of the heroes struggled not only with their foes, but also with their own flaws and shortcomings.
In Black Sword, veteran writers Janet and Chris Morris bring heroic fantasy to life through the eyes of the mighty Rhesos. He battles with foes of flesh and blood while dealing with his own inner turmoil and a search for a sense of his true self. Rhesos is a fearless warrior who deals decisively with all comers, yet struggles to understand his place in the world. Great battle scenes combined with a deeper philosophical journey made for a satisfying read.
The Act of Sleepless Nights by Walter Rhein provides the reader with a very realistic portrayal of Kinter, a soldier and leader who’s flaws are many and well know to his men. Yet for all of these flaws, an inherent sense of morality drives him to make the hard choices that others will not. The is a solid story of a damaged leader who’s personal life is a far cry from ideal, but who’s actions in the field speak volumes about his true character.
To Kill a Myth by Jesse Duckworth is a story about having the courage to stand up for what’s right, not matter the cost. The characters Mattock and Delilah, risk all to destroy an evil that has plagued the land for time indeterminate. Duckworth shows how much one will sacrifice for love, but also delves deeper into the way that evil takes many forms as it inserts itself into society.
Bravery comes in all ages as becomes quickly apparent when 15 year old Rasi dives headfirst into a valley of flying death to save an innocent in: No Life Too Small by Douglas R. Brown. Rasi is the embodiment of the hero who faces down seeming insurmountable odds to protect those unable to protect themselves.
Barczak’s To Live wets the appetite with the rise of a gladiator who’s returning memory brings with it the realization that his sword and his life are one in the same.
Dozen by Shane Porteous thrusts the reader into a harrowing attack by bloodthirsty beasts with an appetite for human flesh. The protagonist Seutzingol shows his mettle as he puts his skills to the test against these beasts and makes the choice to stand and fight to help a stranger in need. As you read “Dozen” you may find yourself looking out a darkened window just to be sure the beasts aren’t coming for you. Sacrifice and honor are the most apt words to describe the message conveyed by Seutzingol and his acts of heroism.
Just One Mistake by A.L. Butcher tackles another type of bravery and heroism. Coel the minstrel lives a life that was thrust upon him by his past. An orchestrated encounter forces him to take on a mission in which he is subject to the possibility of imprisonment or death, situations far more than what your typical minstrel tends to risk. He displays both resolve and courage in facing the danger and taking on a mission which will strike a blow against a vile part of the flawed society in which he lives.
In Witness to Death by Teel James Glenn, the reader follows Shouette, a warrior priest of Kova as he uses his finely honed skills to bring evil to heel. In the process he is able to offer his protection to one, and a sense of closure and relief to others. Shouette shows what it is to have courage as he genuinely feels fear, but acts in spite of that fear to do what must be done.
Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke by R.A. McCandless is another great example of the flawed, corrupted hero. Pel Rogue is a champion who’s addiction has taken control and driven him down into a dark place. Yet he finds within him a strength that has lain dormant to help him face his difficult trials. McCandless gives the reader a look into the damage inflicted by addiction and how even the strongest hero can be brought down and must battle his inner demons before he can rise again.
Nine Heroes is a fantastic book and a very entertaining read that I would highly recommend to all.