The King Must Fall | Grimdark Magazine
Today, I am looking at The King Must Fall. An anthology that has been compiled by Grimdark Magazine.
I would like to say thank you to Adrian Collins for the opportunity to listen to this one.
There's a general who's who in this book, and also some new ones that I am not familiar with.
About The Book
Power corrupts all who thirst for it. Friendships shattered, ambitions stoked, loyalties betrayed, and plenty of blood spilled.
Nineteen stories about people who will stop at nothing to gain power or topple it. Whether it be bringing down a king or empress, a queen or gang leader, these warriors, diplomats, blackguards, and traitors will do all the wrong things for the right reasons, or the right things for the wrong reasons, to sate their thirst for power.
The King Must Fall is a new anthology of stories by Grimdark magazine and edited by Adrian Collins.
The central premise of the anthology revolves around the change of power when the monarch changes, either by revolution, mortality or any other reason.
The collection gathers together a number of authors that I am familiar with such as Anthony Ryan, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Anna Smith Spark, Anna Stephens, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Jeremy Szal, Devin Madson, Matthew Ward, Justin Call, Trudi Canavan,Matthew R. Fletcher and some that are new to me such as Lee Murray, Daniel Polanski, Alex Marsahll, Peter Orrulian. Shaun Speakman, Lee Murray and Cameron Hurley.
Obviously, the overall tone of the anthology is Grimdark and if you are familiar with the genre you will know what to expect.
Now, I am not going to discuss all the stories, but just pick out a selection from the eighteen tales. Otherwise we would be here all week, and I am a busy book nerd you know!
The collection kicks off with Devin Madson's cautionary tale 'What you Wish for'.
Now I liked this one and it is a very good opener. Devin Madson is one of those authors that I am very familiar with but haven't read any of her stuff yet (note to self: must remedy this!). It kind of put me in mind of The Twilight Zone and the type of stories that were contained in that series. The story centres around the king of Vircena, a once vast and prosperous empire that has been shut off from the world following the inception of a magical barrier. When we start, the people are revolting against the barrier, and what they believe are the lies perpetrated by the Royal line to keep them in power. However, we soon learn that everything is as it seems and the people get exactly what they wish for, with unexpected consequences.
Another story that stood out was Michael R. Fletcher's Mother Death. A story set in the pre history of the world of Norylska Groans. Now I love Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton Snyder's Norylska Groans and was very happy to go back to this world with its highly original magic system (even if it was set in the distant past of the world) and enjoyed learning about the rise of the Stone Sorcerers. As you would expect the story is quite brutal and I really enjoyed this tale of a grieving mother who becomes a mother to all she kills.
Now, I have never read any Daniel Polanski before, but as far as introductions go, this was a pretty good one. The story revolves around the death of an emperor. Whilst the emperor is dying, his insipid Wardens are arguing over the rights of succession. However, unbeknownst to them, a fop has stolen the torq that signifies the emperor and this begins a tale of murder and greed as the torq passes from hand to hand, entrancing everyone to commit murder for the chance to wear it.
The wit of this story buoys this tale along with its mesoamerican setting and the parablistic undertone of succumbing to greed and lust, reading a little like the tale of the ring in Lord of the Rings and how the piece of jewellery seems to drive those around it to violence at the sight of it.
Adrian Tchaikovsky's short is another one that stands out. Written in the present tense, it tells of a king deposed by his vizier. After being thrown down a well, he finds the old city and the dead gods. In his desperation he prays to the dead god to restore him to his throne - with disastrous consequences. This is a clever little tale that has a sting in its tale
Jeremy Szal's short is an interesting one. With its anthropomorphic lead characters it reminded me of one of my favourite 2000AD characters, Nemesis the Warlock. It has a kind of Sci Fi/ / Fantasy crossover that shows the bad side of the human population.
Matthew Ward's short The Varcolac is another that caught my attention. Set in the past of the legacy series. The story is set around Govadra and his children as they hunt King Willem and gain vengeance. However, things are not what they seem and Govadra must learn to the old lesson of know thy enemy.
Deborah A. Wolf is another new name to me, but after this captivating tale of revenge I will be seeking out more of her work. This story is just beautiful and has a slightly mythological edge to it as we learn of the captive princess, a bastard daughter of a god and a queen,who when seeking her fortune has her song stolen by a good looking bard. After being cast into the sea she is saved by the sirens who demand Lille's mortal soul in recompense. However, Lille barters for the sum as this is too high. Instead she teaches them the magic of her song, the one that has been stolen by the trickster. This is just a gorgeous little story and I loved the ending which is no surprise, but is beautifully executed.
I listened to this book on audio and I must give special mention to the extraordinary talent of the narrator Greg Patmore. He did a superb job to bring this book to life showing a massive range and versitility in his storytelling. In each of the stories he utilises a plethora of voices, tones and accents. He successfully alters the timbre of each story with a change in rate, rhythm, enunciation and inflections of his vocalisations and giving each story an air of individuality. Utterly brilliant.
However, there was another new experience for me and this was the first book that I listened on Spotify. This is a new aspect of the popular streaming service that has recently been rolled out. I must say that whilst it is okay, it does lack some of the nuance of audible, especially when it comes to the speed variability. I tend to listen to my audiobooks at conversational speed and Spotify only has static increments of speed rather than a variable slider, which for me works better.