Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, Edited by Janet Morris
I first became familiar with Janet Morris through her stories in the Thieves’ World Series. Morris generally wrote my favorite stories throughout that series, and when her characters from there, “Tempus” and “Niko,” appeared in several spinoff novels I also read and enjoyed those. So, when I heard of a new fantasy anthology edited by Morris, I quickly picked it up.
In Heroika: Dragon Eaters, Morris has put together seventeen short stories that all feature dragons and some aspect of dragon consumption. There are all manner of tales here, including many that use the kind of fantasy setting one might imagine, as well as others set during the Civil War, in the swamps of Louisiana, on a modern earth, and in a post-apocalyptic world.
This is a big book, chock full of stories. I read the kindle version but the paperback is apparently 436 pages. That means plenty of bang for the buck. The stories are also uniformly well done. The biggest names are Janet and Chris Morris, who have two pieces in the book. Most of the other writers are not household names but are definitely experienced and talented writers. I’d read and enjoyed material by such authors as S. E. Lindberg, Walter Rhein, and Mark Finn, and had heard of some of the others although their writing was new to me. I’m not going to do a detailed review of the stories because I don’t want to give things away. Here are some capsule comments about things that I found particularly memorable.
“The First Dragon Eater,” by Janet and Chris Morris has an interesting structure that reminds one of the ancient Eddas.
“Legacy of the Great Dragon” by S. E. Lindberg is set in an ancient Egypt where the gods are real. Great atmosphere and characters in this one.
“Bring Your Rage,” by Janet and Chris Morris has some beautiful writing in it: “When I first saw Rhesos, he came riding a horse white as sunlight, a black dog at its heels…” Also very interesting characters.
“Aquila of Oyos,” by Walter Rhein features the Dragon’s point-of-view, and has a nice twist featuring a second dragon.
“The Wyght Wyrm,” by Cas Peace takes us to the age of Stonehenge and the Druids. Great setting.
“The Old Man on a Mountain,” by Jack William Finley features an aging warrior on his last dragon hunt. You really feel a lot of empathy for this character and his suffering.
“Of Blood and Scales,” by A. L. Butcher. I liked the concept of the “bloodsister.”
“Night Stalkers,” by Travis Ludvigson takes place in the time of Charlemagne and features Roland in a “northern thing” adventure.
“Forged,” by Tom Barczak features a nice surprise before you see the dragon.
“The Rhyme of the Dragon Queen,” by JP Wilder has a great cadre of heroes and rogues, including Spera, an excellent female character.
“The Dragon’s Horde,” by Joe Bonadonna. There’s a lot of creativity in this tale and a very interesting twist on who the villains are.
“Wawindaji Joka,” by Milton Davis. Great character conflict in this one. Jimbia is an excellent character and shows some interesting development.
“Against the Sky Tomb of the Earth Kings” by M. Harold Page wins for best title. Great inventiveness and action here.
“Red Rain,” by William Hiles. Here we have a dragon appearing during the Civil War, and Union and Confederates must join forces against it. A lot of emotional intensity in this one and I’d have to say it was my favorite piece in the anthology.
“La Betaille,” by Beth W. Patterson featured the youngest hero and I loved the details of the swamplands and the people who live there.
“Arctic Rage,” by Bruce Durham features a kind of “Alien” and “The Thing” riff in a post-apocalyptic world.