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An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat (Dread Empire) Paperback – July 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
These 10 shadowy short stories take place in the same world as Cook's 1980s Dread Empire sword and sorcery novels. Ghost Stalk, Call for the Dead and the previously unpublished Hell Forge form an episodic tale of a damned crew's quest to escape hell. The other stories stand alone but share settings and characters, including the despotic empire itself, which lurks as an unseen but omnipresent menace. In this gloomy world, all are subject to the whims of those above them, quests rarely end happily and comic elements are limited to gallows humor. Fans of Fritz Leiber and Steven Erikson will enjoy these unjustly overlooked tales. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Before each new story the author also includes some thoughts as to the story being told such as where it first appeared and some history of himself in those times as he was writing it. Maybe I'm just a bit of a homerish fan of Cooks, but I really enjoyed this book and there are some great small stories that could have easily bloomed into bigger stories. Some of them also cross over into the time line of the main Dread Empire saga and were pretty neat to add to the flavor of that world.
If you are old fan of Glen Cook and have missed this or the Dread Empire series I highly recommend it. If you are new to reading Cook's work try it out as well as the Black Company and Garrett Detective novels.
Cook is better known for his Black Company and Garrett PI novels, but he shows here that he can work in short fiction as well.
The best stories are "Filed teeth", "Soldier of an Empire Unacquanted with Defeat", which is almost a novella, and the first Vengeful Dragon tale. All of the contents are well worth reading though.
Simply put, these tales are fun, if a little dark. Here's hoping NightShade gets around to publishing a 4th Dread Empire collection.
The stories vary in tone and engagement. Some are harder toned than others, some more mythic, and some more engaging. Almost all fall clearly under the sword and sorcery milieu, with their gritty feel, petty quarrels, ambiguous protagonists, and rampant, unbridled, and unapologetic sexism.
The collection opens with "Soldier of an Empire Unacquainted with Defeat" (1980). In this dreadfully dull and unengaging tale, a soldier from the Dread Empire hangs about with farmers while seeking a new life. I found this the single least engaging story in the book, and also the longest. Once past it, I found the remaining stories far more engaging and gripping.
"The Nights of Dreadful Silence" (1973) is a Bragi Ragnarson story. A wizard has been promised a payment by the king of his own daughter, but the king refuses to honor his word. Bragi stumbles into the argument on the wizard's side, and trickery ensues.
"Finding Svale's Daughter" (first appearance) is a fairytailish story. To be honest, I had to skim this story to remember anything about it. It's competent, like oatmeal. Its very palatablility renders it unmemorable.
"Ghost Stalk" (1978) is the first of the Vengeful Dragons stories. The Vengeful Dragon is a terrible ship, full of horrible crew, who do horrible things (trigger warning, especially terrible things to women), and meet their doom due to terrible magics. This, and the following Vengeful Dragon stories, make an excellent set. This story is also noteworthy for having the genetics of the Black Company running through it.
"Filed Teeth" (1981) is as close to a Black Company story you can get without actually putting a label onto it saying, "the Black Company." Although set in the world of the Dread Empire, it could easily be ported to the North. All the elements that would come to set the tenor and tone of the Black Company are laid out right here. Of all these stories, this is the only one which I had read in my youth, having received "Dragons of Darkness" for Christmas.
"Castle of Tears" (1979) is a Ragni Ragnarson story. This time, he goes looking for a legendary object to save a princess.
"Call for the Dead" (1980) is the second Vengeful Dragon story. Continuing where the first story let off, the damned crew are "rescued" by a wizard from a black throne. Motifs here will reappear in the Black Company's southern adventures.
"Severed Heads" (1984) is a story of vengeance where not a single word is wasted. It's a damned tight story, from beginning to end, and shames every other tale in this collection. This story also requires a trigger warning. If you can keep going, then do.
"Silverheels" (1981) is another fairytale like story. A man, a talking pony, and a talking kitten have quite an adventure in very few pages.
"Hell's Forge" (first appearance) is the final Vengeful Dragon tale. The crew is summoned by yet another evil wizard for more evilness, only to learn that any deal with the Vengeful D. crew is a bad, bad, bad deal.
All in all, I found the collection both satisfying and enlightening. I really do need to read more sword and sorcery.