There’s a belief amongst some musicians that the notes that you don’t play are as important as the ones you do. It might be fun to play more more more (with your amp cranked to 11), but space is important. You have to let the music breath. The same thing applies to books: what’s left off the page is important as what finds its way onto it.
This collection of short stories is a classic example of that principle. There are no wallowing descriptions that suck the life out of the plot. Kormak, his friends and enemies, and the world they live and die in are not served up with lashings of adjectives and adverbs. The text is clean.
It’s an approach to writing common to a lot of great books I have read recently: Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Road. It’s a stark contrast to some less experienced authors (*coughs and looks at feet*) who have a tendency to choke their story with words. (Even if some of those words do go up to 11.) I don’t want an author to spoon feed me their imagination, I’d rather fill in the gaps myself.
From that perspective, these short stories are worth reading. The sparse descriptions are effective and a good reference for authors looking to improve what they do.
One of the stories that features.
But what’s the book about?
It’s a collection of old school sword-and-sorcery stories featuring a world-weary protagonist, Kormak, who fights and thinks his way through a series of ever more fantastic encounters. There are a few unpleasant twists; there’s a dash of humour. The setting is well-fleshed out with a rich history, which stands to reason given the author’s experience and the amount of time he has been writing in this world. They’re a good read. They’re an easy read, too. (I mean that positively.) But, one of the things I really liked about these stories is that they’re short.
I love a good epic as much as the next reader but I also enjoy shorter formats. Especially for a slow(ish) reader such as me, there’s something satisfying about finishing a book in an evening or two. And in fantasy (AKA The Genre of Escalating Page Counts), quality short stories are a rare beast.
In summary, if you’re into dark fiction & fantasy, the stories are worth your time. They work on their own and also serve as a good introduction to the longer Kormak books.
Here’s the catch.
I’m not sure where to get hold of this collection online.
I got my copy as a subscriber to Bill King’s newsletter. I’m not sure if this particular offer will come around again. At present, he is offering a free omnibus of full-length Kormak novels on his website.
You’ll need to sign up to his readers’ group to claim it (here), but he writes great newsletters, too. Descriptive and to the point. Like Kormak.
To finish, I’ll quote Mr King himself:
‘As always, thanks for your time.’
You can read more about the man behind the words here.
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