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Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories: A dark fantasy anthology Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Like Economy of Words? I thought I had a handle on that aspect of my writing until I read this short story collection.While the author doesn't describe every facet of setting, the vivid direction is there for the taking.
He never says when we are either, not directly. He doesn't have to. Somewhere off the Silk Road perhaps, an Imperial Land that has either reverted back to crude weapons, or is stuck in time.
I can't get enough of this brave, disastrous, and comical duo in Nine Parts Bluster. Senesio is the perfect mix of charlatan and hero while Chen is a happenstance boulder. I want to follow these two on every adventure from now until the end of time. Yes, I could be summoned to quest after quest in my armchair. I would walk along the path of danger, hardship, and riches with this pair any day, all the while laughing with my popcorn, still ready with my sword on standby.
Like Characterization? Anthony spends all his writer money on just that:
"Senesio had a way with words, to be sure. He shaped the hopes and dreams of men like a potter did clay. And like clay after it was fired, what Senesio promised was prone to shatter."
The author's action scenes and monster are great in this. I do not want to give anything away here, but the way men die in this and Sensio's reaction tells the reader so much.
In Respectable Work, the author jumps back to the duo's first meeting. The action scenes are quite stellar and the origin story is there for the taking:
"A second knee caught him (in) the chin and he stumbled backward, spitting blood and what might've been a tooth."
My favorite by far is Kiss of the White Mistress which had me entrenched in the protagonist's inner and external battle. Again, the author's ability to work magic with less is seen here. It is all characterization:
"He smiled at the pale chunks of white mistress floating in the simmering stew, and for an instant, in that shallow hell of a prison, he could swear the stew smiled back."
This story was intense and deep. It had me up swilling Merlot last Saturday, turning pages and dreaming of a nightmare.
In the Garden of Giants, he describes a troop in almost another world that could be its own series as well. This story really brought out the author's sense of narration. It made me feel like he was an authority, an old man of sorts that I could count on for a good tale.
How this book effects my writing:
While I am here toiling away with the mostly real and dark, A.Z. Anthony is creating a convincing, dark world of his own. I twist reality while he creates one.
Really, Anthony reminds me what it is like to read for pleasure again and be entertained. My wife watches these Chinese recent release, action/fantasy shows that I get sucked into from time to time.
A similar hint of lore is there. His writing is so deep but he uses less. How? I appreciate Anthony's presence, his word choice as a narrator, and his economy of words.
There are four stories in this collection, presumably brought together by the shared world that they inhabit as well as the obvious thematic links between them. They are as much vignettes as they are full stories in themselves, but when taken as a whole they convey their message clearly. The world of these stories is not a nice place to live and both petty cruelty and blind ambition are rewarded readily with suffering.
I am aware that Anthony has a novel in the same setting as these stories, one in which the events of this collection will likely be entirely meaningless due to distance, but that novel seems to be the pivot point for each of these stories. We are given little detail about the world that the brutal events take place in, being granted only glimpses and place-names that may provide us with some insights based on our knowledge of their real-world counterparts and history, but that is rarely to the detriment of the plot. Each one of the stories is tersely written in a curious blend of an archaic, almost purple prose and a strangely clipped ultra-modern style that lends itself perfectly to the stories themselves.
The titular “Nine Parts Bluster” and the closing story “Respectable Work” share characters and give the clearest impression of the living and breathing world that Anthony is attempting to reveal, one in which a hero in one town may be the villain of the next and where monster hunting and murdering runaway debtors for a crime lord are considered to be of equal value and importance. Their timid narrator is used to extol the dubious virtues of those around him and give us a sense that while his companion is loathsome up close, he would likely strike a fascinating, one might almost say heroic, figure to the people within the world.
“In The Garden of Giants” and “Kiss of the White Mistress” form the mid-section of the book, depicting both ends of the social spectrum and their starkly different attitudes. The former story actually shares many plot elements from “Nine Parts Bluster,” which caused the reader to compare them almost immediately, but while the character of Senesio Sulemain Zhao is potent enough to carry the same course through to victory, there is no such happy ending for the foppish explorer of “The Garden of Giants.” Kiss of the White Mistress, meanwhile, features the lowest of the low in Anthony’s world, swamp dwellers and bandits living constantly on the edge of desperation and death. It is the strongest of the four stories, with genuine tension from the beginning to end.
I questioned the order of the first two stories to begin with until I realised that the invitation to compare them was a deliberate decision. Just as Anthony borrows from Asian cultures to furnish his world, he has similarly drawn on Chinese literature as a format, with each story’s similarities and differences being layered upon one another to form a more developed view of the world overall.
While reading this book I was most closely reminded of the work of Robert E. Howard. There is little dialogue, with most characters preferring actions to words and the writing strongly favouring the brief bursts of action. While Senesio is no Conan, he certainly shares at least some of the same DNA, and it isn’t impossible that the famous Cimmerian might not have ended up as a similar ambition obsessed monster if he had been dropped into a world like this.
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