Article by Corey M.
Featuring several authors from many backgrounds including members of metal bands Manilla Road and Solstice, Swords of Steel is an exciting collection of short stories that are for the most part squarely rooted in the tradition of serialized weird fiction.
Sword of Steel is a high-quality volume; each of the eleven short stories is interesting and worth reading at least once. Some of the stories are obvious tributes to famous and pioneering writers, while others (usually the better ones) have a very distinct and idiosyncratic voice The latter alone make the book worth a purchase.
The opening piece, Into the Dawn of Storms, is an entertaining introduction to a longer story but is one of the least engaging partially due to the density of descriptions, which feel a little forced and though the premise is interesting, it is bogged down in too many literary formulae. The Riddle Master is made up of more forced prose, transparently emulating the more verbose characteristics of Poe and other Nineteenth century writers. This story also hinges on a swift conclusion after an agonizing tense build-up, but ends up making little sense even in its own context, so manages to be one of the few disappointments.
Meanwhile, All Will Be Righted on Samhain is a gory revenge tale that keeps the tension high throughout by establishing an extremely grim setting and enhancing it with surreal visuals and atmosphere that reminds us of the gory inevitability that hangs over the heads of the characters. The Mirror Beguiling is also among the better stories; it’s a somewhat more epic narrative that describes the interaction between three forces and their intertwining motivations and personalities without being too constrained by hero/villain dichotomies. However, the narrative does not eschew identifiable human characteristics so you are always cheering for the adventurers.
As a fan of weird fiction, science fiction, and classic Gothic/horror, I enjoyed a lot of these stories because they have engaging themes, imaginative locales and heroes, and they do not feel too much like throwbacks or rehashes banking on the appeal of nostalgia (which I was wary of going into the book). The aforementioned stories All Will Be Righted on Samhain and The Mirror Beguiling, along with the closing piece, Vengeance of the Insane God, are particularly intense, flow well, and resolve satisfyingly without being predictable. For these reasons, I highly recommend this book to any fan of fiction, and metal fans will get along especially well accompanied by a playlist of Gorguts – The Erosion of Sanity, Intestine Baalism – An Anatomy of the Beast, Dawn – Slaughtersun, Septicflesh – Mystic Places at Dawn, and Sentenced – North From Here.