Posted by: Mish | February 20, 2009


I picked up Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy because of Orson Scott Card and Stephen King, the latter of whom I figured I should try. I can’t say that I had heard of Raymond E. Feist or Robert Silverberg prior to Legends, for which Silverberg was also editor. It was a nice introduction to the authors and the four series that I wasn’t familiar with. Overall, this small collection of fantasy novellas from 1998 was a good find.

Stephen King – “Little Sisters of Eluria” – Dark Tower:
While on his way to the Dark Tower, Roland of Gilead arrives at the deserted village of Eluria where he is attacked by a group of slow mutants. He awakens under the care of strange nuns who use tiny bug-like creatures that they call “doctors” to heal him. The Little Sisters may have helped Roland, but for their own purposes they don’t want him to leave.

The plot itself was interesting in a macabre sort of way, but the 112-page novella started off slowly. Once the introductory beginning was done it was better and easier to get through. If one is already familiar with and likes the Dark Tower series, then it may make for more enjoyable reading. I had heard from others that King tends to be a bit long winded so I had an idea of what I was in for. Although I’ve thought about reading the Shining, I might pass on reading more King and stick to watching the movies.

Robert Silverberg – “the Seventh Shrine” – Majipoor:
The ruler of Majipoor, Valentine, visits an archeological site to investigate the murder of the head archeologist. Violent death at the hands of another is rare, but ties between the aborigines, whom the humans had been at war with, are still fragile. Questions arise about why Dr. Huukaminaan was killed in the ritualistic way that he was and why the Seventh Shrine is so sacred. Who dunnit?

Silverberg displays friction between the human colonists and the native Piurivars, who are also referred to as Metamorphs. There are parallels between Majipoor’s history and those of this world’s. Between the investigation and learning what really happened in the past, truth is a big theme. Even the ruling Pontifex coming out of his underground residence can be metaphorically seen as stepping into the light.

I enjoyed this 125-page murder mystery and Silverberg’s writing, enough that I recently purchased Majipoor’s Chronicles, the second book in the series, when I came across it in the used bookstore.

Orson Scott Card – “the Grinning Man” – Tales of Alvin Maker:
For this series, Card created an alternate America where the Revolutionary War never happened and folk magic works. Being the seventh son of the seventh son, Alvin is marked as a person of great power and destined to become a Maker. During their travels, Alvin and his ward, Arthur, come across a man with a coonskin cap who’s “a-busy grinning” a bear. While working at a town’s mill, they discover why the miller is so prosperous.

Religious overtones are seen through Alvin teaching Arthur how to become a Maker and trying to change others for the better. Alvin can be compared to Joseph Smith, who had a following and founded Mormonism. Despite that, this tale doesn’t come off as too preachy, I can’t speak for the rest of the series, which Card began in 1987. Balance is also apparent through the ideas that for every Maker there is an Unmaker and that a bit of unmaking is necessary to make. Truth, honesty, and goodness are also themes visited in this short story.

This enjoyable tale gave me the sense that I was hearing it while sitting around a campfire. Card’s use of colloquial language also adds to its depth. 57 pages didn’t seem long enough for this quick read, but short enough that I think it fits the short story challenge. This marks the 5th story by Card that I’ve read and it won’t be the last, especially since I have the Ender’s Game series to finish, Treasure Box in the queue, and possibly more of the Women of Genesis and Tales of Alvin Maker to read.

Raymond E. Feist – “the Wood Boy” – the Riftwar Saga:
Dubbed “the Wood Boy”, Dirk learns to cope with life on an estate that was taken by the invading militaristic Tsurani. When the lord’s daughter, whom he falls in love with, is kidnapped, Dirk sets out on a treacherous journey with nothing to lose and nowhere else to go.

Love, friendship, and betrayal are ideas portrayed in this tale. One can also see how quickly and drastically life can change. With the lacquer-armored Tsurani taking the estate’s items forged of metal for their own, the saying “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure” comes to mind.

This 50-page story was short, but sweet. With the way my reading list is piling up I don’t know whether I’ll get to reading more of the Riftwar Saga or not, but reading more of Feist’s works is definitely under consideration.

Ranking the novellas from those I liked from most to least are “the Grinning Man”, “the Seventh Shrine”, “the Wood Boy”, and “Little Sisters of Eluria”. Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy is a nice little addition to the sci-fi/fantasy books that I seem to be acquiring fairly quickly.

I wouldn’t mind getting Legends 2 and Legends 3, and probably will if they cross my path. The second has stories by Terry Goodkind, Anne McCaffrey, and George R.R. Martin. I really liked Martin’s short story that was published in DAW’s 1980 Annual World’s Best SF so I would like to read more by him. The third features Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, and Tad Williams. It also has a sequel for Earthsea written by Ursula LeGuin, which is a very compelling reason to read the anthology.


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