My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s not what you usually think of, is it? What happens to the hero after it’s all over. But that’s the subject of the utterly fantastic anthology When the Hero Comes Home, edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood, and published by Dragon Moon Press. I came to this knowing I’d like at least some of it, because Gabrielle is an incredible editor and I already love JM Frey’s writing. What I didn’t expect is that I would like–that I would love–all of it. (OK, total honesty, I have no stomach for zombies, so the little bit of that in a couple of stories, I didn’t like, but I’m clearly in the minority with the zombie-ickies, so don’t mind me.)
There’s such a wonderful diversity in these stories. Sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, it’s definitely a new experience with every story. And there are some real flashes of brilliance in here.
Keeping Time by Gabrielle Harbowy I read first, because she’s my editor and I idolize her but I’d never read anything by her. I was so pleasantly surprised, both by the compelling storytelling and by the ending. The Once and Now-ish King by JM Frey I jumped to next, since I already love her debut novel, Triptych. That. One. Rocks. So insanely clever and funny.
There’s such raw, real humanity—and inhumanity—in The Evil that Remains by Erik Buchanan. Brine Magic by Tony Pi was unique, fascinating, and moving. One and Twenty Summers by Brian Cortijo left me gasping for more—and those were not tears, really they weren’t. But, Brian, when you write more of this one, I want first dibs.
The imagery and emotion of Ashes of the Bonfire Queen by Rosemary Jones was so real that I find myself still thinking of it, feeling it, more than a week later. Mirror, Mirror by Phil Rossi was such a creepy-realistic look at the human psyche and the things we do and are capable of. And if I’m ever capable of writing the rich prose Erik Scott de Bie does in Oathbreaker, a Tale of the World of Ruin, I’ll die a happy writer. The best part of that one wasn’t just the beautiful drapery, but the way it revealed a fascinating story set in a world far more well-imagined than you usually expect in a short.
Full Circle, by Steve Bornstein, may well be my secret favorite. I’m a sucker for a well-told second person POV and this one is pitch perfect. Steve also builds an great story from very little real info to start on, letting the surprise unfurl with the story, without leaving you scratching your head wondering what’s going on. Just the delicious thrill of I-know-I’m-going-to-love-this-as-soon-as-I-figure-it-out.
Those aren’t all the great things about this anthology, or even the best, simply the ones that stick out to me over a week later when I finally had a chance to write this review. Don’t do yourself the disservice of missing this one. It’s an amazing experience.