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Review #1

Unfettered audiobook free

I’ve started reading this short story collection, and so far I’m definitely enjoying it. I’ll keep updating my review as I progress through it.

– Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks => I really enjoyed this story, it’s very well written and I liked the combination of the two worlds, with how each fantastical adventure was preceded by a hit on the head. It made for an interesting story, where you could view it as all in the kid’s imagination, or that it was real. The whole brain cancer (or whatever it was) angle was also really interesting, if this was the precursor of one of his series, I may have to check it out. 5/5 stars

– How Old Holly Came To Be by Patrick Rothfuss => I absolutely love Rothuss’ Kingkiller series, and while this short story is really interesting, on it’s own I didn’t love it. The story telling format was incredibly unique, and I love how it is probably a story/song Kvothe’s world. However, I wish there had been more meat on the bones, I want to know more about the woman and the anthropomorphic Holly Tree, but in this story format that was impossible. Still, it stuck with me, and I really enjoyed it, I just feel like Old Holly isn’t an accurate representation of Rothfuss’ writing for a new reader. 4.5/5 stars

– The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams => This was a really fun little story, but I kind of felt like a lot of possibly cool moments were skipped over, and instead the book focused solely on entertaining conversations. Still, the idea of the short story was very fun and enjoyable (if unbelievable and goofy). Who would expect a story about a whole traveling group of monsters lead by an old knight and an old dragon, going across the country scamming villages? 4/5 stars

– Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn => I loved this short story, and it’s from one of the few authors that I haven’t read in this collection. If the story had a little more world building to explain the magic system and what the characters are doing (and why they are immediately killed if they interact too directly with the real world they took themselves slightly out of) it would be perfect. Still, I really enjoyed the world and the story, and the writing was superb. It’s incredibly original, and really grabbed my attention. My only other problem with it is that while I really liked the ending, I wish that it was a little longer, as it felt a bit abrupt. I’ll be sure to check out this author’s other books. 5/5 stars

– The Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey => This was a good short story, that accurately represents the origin of the author’s main series (except there isn’t any kinky sex). It’s well written, and very visual, but I wish there was a little more to the story. It almost felt to me like this was a small part of a larger story, that the reader is being dropped into a day of. 4/5 stars

– Mudboy by Peter V. Brett => This was an amazing short story, that really makes me wish it was the start of a full book (which I guess it kind of is as the author said in the intro that a lot of the Daylight War features Briar, but it will probably be when he’s older). It has that excellent feel of the other Demon Cycle Books (especially the first), and is a heart-wrenching tale, with very interesting and developed characters and even a new demon fighting/evading technique (unless it was in the other books and I’m forgetting it). I love the child character and the family, and it’s horrible how the rest of the town treats the half-blood Briar. The ending was horrifying but very well written, however I must have skipped over an important part of the plot, as I was confused when Briar realizes what happened, and had to re-read it, but it was worth it (when I saw what the cause of the fire was). This story really makes me want to read The Daylight War immediately, which is currently sitting on my shelf, I think that sill be what I read when I’m done with Unfettered. 5/5 stars

– The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian => Wow, I absolutely loved this short story, which is really a Novelette. It is so well written, that it had me tearing up multiple times throughout. I loved the two sides of the story, where the teacher has to deal with his apparent failure by fixing his most precious instrument and healing his own past, while the student leaves to go fight a war to defend his homeland with the music he’d learn to save the world re-purposed to destroy his enemies on the battlefield. Both parts are excellent, with the music theory, instrument crafting, and general soul of the teacher half being really interesting and heartfelt, while the musical warfare of the student is an awesome and horrifying look into the power of music in this world. I’m really not sure which part I liked more, but both of them are great for completely different reasons. Then the way it ends is also just absolutely perfect, I don’t want to spoil it at all, so I’ll just say that I loved it. It’s been a while since I read Orullian’s debut, so I can’t remember if any of the characters in this story were featured in the book, but I will say that this story seems very different from the epic debut that reminded me of Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. This story was so good that it makes we wish I could read the second book right now, and I would say that this story by itself is worth the price of admission for Unfettered. Honestly, this may be my favorite short story that I’ve ever read. 5/5 stars

– The Coach with Big Teeth by R.A. Salvatore => Man this story was bad, and so out of place, I have no idea what it’s doing in a Fantasy Anthology. It’s written very simplistically, and the story is incredibly cliche and predictable. Then, after of course the main character looses the game for the team, the text shifts to italic and everyone (except for his father) turns into Zombies who promptly eat the kid alive. I couldn’t figure out if this was supposed to have actually happend, or if this was just how the kid felt after his failure (which makes a lot more sense to me). Still, even if you’re going to do a Zombie twist to try to fit the story into a Fantasy anthology like Unfettered, it just wasn’t written well at all. To me, this story feels like it was written by a depressed emo/goth kid setting his heart down on the page after losing the game and gaining the perceived hatred of his peers and father. I don’t know what Salvatore was thinking when he sent this story in, because it never should have left the junk folder on his computer, and that’s coming from a big Salvatore fan. 1/5 stars

– Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood => This was a good short story, but the main parts of it were kind of confusing. The reader gets thrown into a conflict that has been going on for awhile, and you don’t get to learn much about it, other then that a bunch of evil dark dragons and monsters are attacking and killing human cities. The main character here is an apprentice memory keeper, assigned to learn and hold all of the history of their civilization. He’s sent out to gather special berries for magical tattooing, and along the way he get’s lost and encounters a confusing little magical girl that kind of helps him (there’s also a lot of things here which would probably be significant if you’d read his books, but for me was just kind of goofy). Later in the story, there is a lot of prophecy and future telling, where I assume that for Lockwood’s full fantasy series, the main character is the reincarnated character from this short story. I enjoyed the story, but I kind of felt like it would have worked much better if I had read any of his books. 4/5 stars

– Heaven in a Wild Flower by Blake Charlton => This was an excellent story, which was very original and interesting. It’s basically a post-apocalyptic story, where a large group of scientists created their own heaven, and after the people left on Earth attacked them, they released nano-machines that sterilized most of the humans left alive. The story takes place years later, and now the people that ascended into the man-made heaven are reincarnated back on Earth when they want to experience the real world again. Since female humans are so rare in this world, and most of the men are pretty desperate, when a person finds a reincarnated baby girl, their lives become attached to the girl, and if she dies the father dies as well. However, having a daughter is a huge social benefit, as the few adult women want to raise a daughter of their own, and will become a partner to the father for the chance, so when the main character Lopez finds a glowing reincarnated baby on his property, he takes it in and ties his life to her’s. The story that follows is very heartfelt, as the daughter grows up but is diagnosed with Leukemia, and most of the medication that would have cured it isn’t available anymore. I almost absolutely loved this story, but it was just so depressing, I wish there was at least a little bit of hope to be found here, or if the reader could have learned more about what happened, or something else. Still, it’s an excellent short story. 5/5 stars

– Dogs by Daniel Abraham => This is another story that I disliked and felt really out of place in the anthology, but at least it had much better writing than The Coach with Big Teeth. First off, I know that this anthology is called Unfettered, but every author is a Fantasy author, and almost all of the stories are fantasy stories, so when a story takes place completely in the real world without any fantasy, it’s weird and doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. Even goofier, is that in Daniel Abraham’s introduction, he talks about how this is a horror story, and it just flat out isn’t. This is a story about a guy recovering from a vicious attack by a roving pack of feral dogs, where he tries to live in a world where everything has changed for him. While there is a lot of stuff about how we’re living with predators, and how 1 in 5 dogs bite, how crazy an idea it is (I disagree with a lot of the assumptions the author makes). The whole attack and the main character’s recovery of it bears much more resemblance to a gang rape than a dog attack, and I’m not sure why the author went this route. If he wanted to talk about rape, the main character should have been raped, but for it being a dog attack it just didn’t really make sense (maybe he was just trying to go about it in a round about manner, but I didn’t care for it). I found a lot of problems with the story itself as well, mainly with how the main character opens the door for his little dog after he’s back home, relegating the tiny house doggy (if it could fit into his friend’s jacket it must be really small) to the dangerous outside world almost guarantee’s its death by being run over, eating by larger predators, or starvation. It’s even weirder with how he has no remorse over it, and his other reactions when he still goes to the pound to look at the dogs. If he couldn’t handle having a dog after being attacked, he should have re-homed the dog, instead of just letting it free in the urban jungle. This part just really bothered me. I thought it was also goofy how if he was so scared of being attacked again, why didn’t he carry a can of mace, a knife, a baton, a gun, something to defend himself. He just seems so completely helpless, and they also don’t talk at all about his family or who the guy was before the attack, the character just wasn’t developed enough. Then to end as it did, I get what the author was going for, where it’s saying that this character will have to live with the anxiety for the rest of his life, but it’s just an odd abrupt ending. I simply did not like this story, and I would give it an even lower score, but honestly the actual writing was good, even though the story was bad. 2/5 stars

– The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne => I really enjoyed this story, it works very well as a back-story for the character if you already loved the Iron Druid series, or as an exciting standalone adventure re-imagining of King Arthur’s hunt for the Holy Grail. This story has humor, action, and an intelligent/interesting new look at a historical fantasy tale. Personally, I haven’t read any of Kevin Hearne’s books, though I do have some sitting on my bookshelf, and reading this short story really made we want to jump into his full books. My only real problem with this short story, is that I felt like it could have possibly been longer, mainly when the Iron Druid comes to the castle and meets with the the Pict Necromancer. To me, it almost seemed like the set-up for a bigger story, but since it had to be shorter, instead of playing the long game, the Druid immediately confronted the main villain. This whole scene was very cool, the action throughout the story was excellent and exciting, but I just thought there would be a little more to it. Still, I really loved this story, and I think I’ll have to move his books up on my to-read list. 5/5 stars.

– Select Mode by Mark Lawrence => I really thought this was a great little story that amazingly shrunk the entire essence/concept of the Prince of Thorns book down into a very condensed short story. It has the post-apocalyptic world with misunderstood technological remnants from the builders, Jorg’s unique personality and impulsive gritty violence combined with his tortured history, all wrapped around in Lawrence’s excellent writing. I will say though, that the author introduction was very odd, as while the title of the Anthology is Unfettered, and some authors wrote completely random stories that didn’t fit in with everything else, Lawrence on the other hand was asked by Speakman to create a story set in his broken empire, a Jorg story, which seems very limited/fettered. Still, for the story itself, I immensely enjoyed it, and I think that it should be a great story for readers new to Jorg and Mark Lawrence, along with being awesome for people that have already enjoyed the adventures of our Prince/King/Emperor of Thorns. However, it does feel fragmented, as the reader doesn’t get to see how they were captured, or what they were doing before hand. This just feels like a tiny little vignette into the day of the life of Jorg. Still, I loved this tiny little short story, and it makes me look forward even more-so to the release of Emperor of Thorns. 5/5 stars

– All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham => I really enjoyed this short, simple, and heartfelt story. There isn’t a whole lot to it, and it’s a bit childish/unbelievable (This story’s world is absolutely filled with highly intelligent cat ghosts), but I loved it for what it was. I think that this story would make an amazing picture book for children, it’s very visual and original, and I think it would be perfect if it was fully illustrated. If I compare it to my favorite stories in this Anthology, it doesn’t quite compare, but it’s just a well written quick little story with a lot of heart. 4.5/5 stars

– Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth => For me this is the most forgettable short story in Unfettered. There’s nothing really bad about this story (although the reasoning of the main character is really goofy), it’s just that I would keep thinking about what this story was, and it would always take awhile for anything to come to mind. There isn’t too much to the story, it’s just a quick origin for two characters in the author’s series. I wasn’t sure what was up with the cloud that followed her (if it was real or not) and what was up with the brain control the random guy apparently had. The writing was fine, but there wasn’t enough about the characters for me to dig in, and ultimately I just didn’t really care for the story. It’s highly possible that this short story would be awesome for people that are fans of the author’s books and already know the characters/world, but for me it was nothing special. 3/5 stars

– Nocturne by Robert V.S. Redick => Ugh, this story was an absolute mess. It’s just all over the place, and I have no idea what the author was trying to do here. None of it makes any sense, it first appears that the main character is a prince and his city is under attack, but then after his treasonous guard captain talks to him in full eloquent sentences through morse code, the story changes and he’s apparently hallucinating, then he’s still in the castle but now he’s a musician and his Dad is talking about him and he seems like he’s in a mental institution, but then it randomly shifts to a confusing flashback, and then an even more random/abrupt jump forward where apparently he has been reincarnated? This is just so bad, and I found myself skimming hoping that the story would be shorter and I could finish it and move on to something better. I just didn’t like this story at all, and I really think it’s a poorly/over-written confusing mess of a story. 1/5 stars

– Unbowed by Eldon Thompson => I really loved this short story, and since I haven’t read anything by the author before, I’m definitely going to have to check out his books. This story feels like the beginning of an excellent book, but it still has an appropriate and fitting end. I kind of wished that things had went down differently, but what did happen was very powerful, and provided a great character building experience for the main character. There’s just so many awesome things about this book to talk about, but to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that I loved the characters and the writing is excellent. Unbowed is definitely one of the best stories in the Unfettered Anthology, and I can’t wait to read the author’s other books, especially if this is a good example of his other work. 5/5 stars

– In Favour with Their Stars by Naomi Novik => This short story is kind of goofy and confusing, as it’s essentially an alternate universe futuristic sci-fi version of the Temerarie books. For a while, I couldn’t figure out if they were the same dragons but they survived until space travel/colonization existed, or what as everyone has the same names as the books. Also, the sci-fi stuff didn’t seem really believable, and I found it to be very difficult to visualize in my mind. I also thought it was weird with how the story just ends, when it really just seems like the beginning of a story. The writing itself is fine, I just wasn’t very impressed with the story. I almost wonder if people that haven’t read any of the Temerarie books might enjoy this story more, as I really just felt like this was fan-fiction, not a short story written by the same author that created the original books. The story isn’t necessarily bad; I just didn’t really enjoy it. 3/5 stars

– River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson => I’ve read every Wheel of Time book except for the last one, so I had a little trepidation that there might be some spoilers, but there really weren’t any. I enjoyed this short story, and surprisingly the main character which is kind of evil. I really enjoyed how it gave another look at the other side, with how this character had his own prophecy to fulfill and he had a whole group adventuring with him as well. However, I kind of wish that there had been more here to sink my teeth into. First off, in the big battle of the short story, it cuts away and comes back at the end, which was a letdown. Then, I felt like there should have been more before it finishes, and it instead just ends up feeling like a rough draft of the first/second chapter of a character’s story in the final WoT book. I’d love to see it expanded, and what is here I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t anything amazing, and I was left slightly disappointed. 4/5 stars

– The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan => I really enjoyed this short story, especially with how it kind of resembled a modern version of a moral myth. As usual I loved the characters here, even if you put aside the always awesome Hadrian and Royce, the small side characters are interesting, well developed, and goofy. Even the character we never see alive that provided the name for this story is really entertaining. I also loved how we once again see an example of why Royce absolutely hates Dwarves. My only complaint would be that I wish there had been a bit more to the story, but if there was it probably wouldn’t have been a short story anymore. Also, I think that a little bit more character development could have been added to the story (and it almost/kind-of was), where Royce could have learned that while he many times doesn’t agree with Hadrian, he can be right. Overall, I thought that The Jester was great, and it’s an excellent example of the rest of Sullivan’s writing. 5/5 stars

– The Duel by Lev Grossman => This was a good short story, but I had a few problems with it. One of the big ones was that I found the very modern day language to be a little jarring when the setting is a fantasy world. I mean this was in the full books to a certain extent, but I don’t remember minding it, but in this short story I found it distracting. I also found that the main character was a bit overpowered, with him never really being in any danger, and the few times he is he’s immediately pulled out of it. Still, it was a fun little story, and the action was entertaining, if a little one sided and basic. It’s a pretty good example of the rest of the Magician series for readers that haven’t experienced it yet, and it’s a cool little side story for fans of the series. 4.5/5 stars

– Walker and the Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks => Ugh, this is another really bad and weird addition to this anthology. Even in the introduction to the story, Terry Brooks says that this is a crappy deleted scene that was removed because it didn’t make any sense and was a useless repetition of things that had already been said (I’m paraphrasing of course). Even that was just him surmising why the scene was removed, as he said that he has no memory of it, but Shawn Speakman just happened to find it in the archives and thought that it should be shown the light of day. As for the “short story” itself it simply isn’t a story; it’s just a quick little scene that doesn’t really make any sense unless you’ve very recently read the books that the two characters are featured in. In this scene, the one character has doubts about his journey to find the lost scrolls of the druids, and has come to the ghost of the druid hero from the earlier books to ask for advice. The ghost then in a goofy roundabout way tells him to stop being a pussy and just go get the scrolls; that members of his group will die and/or be wounded but he will ultimately succeed in his goal. Then it just ends. This is just such a weird edition to the anthology, especially since Brooks already has a much better story in the Unfettered Anthology. I don’t understand why it was added, I mean at most it could have been posted on Brooks’ or Speakman’s blog as an interesting aside for fans of the series, but not as a featured story in a big anthology. 1/5 stars

– The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman => This was a very good and relatively long short story that should be a great example of the author’s writing. I have The Dark Thorn on my to-read list and sitting in my kindle, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. The world in this story is essentially an Urban Fantasy, where there is a Fae world separate from ours, which has Knights that guard the portals that cross into the real world. For this story, it takes place in The Vatican, where there is a lot of Catholic symbols brought to life. It was a little clichéd, but I enjoyed Speakman’s creative uses of the religion and the different artifacts. This story also features vampires, but I really enjoyed this incarnation, as the main villain is Lazarus, who was brought back to life as an immortal vampire after coming into contact with the literal blood of Christ. Some of the different magic of the main character could have used a little more development, but what’s here is fine for a short story, and I’m sure there’s more world building in the full book. The only weird thing about the Unfettered Knight, is how the main character kept talking/thinking about his wife and unborn child, which makes me think that he isn’t the main character in the full book, and instead it’s his son, but I really don’t know. Also, the way it ends definitely feels like the set up for another story, and not quite a true ending. Overall though, I really enjoyed this short story, and it’s an excellent end to the Unfettered Anthology. 5/5 stars

After finishing the anthology, I’m still going to keep my 5 star rating even though if I average all of the scores it would get a 3.93/5 because there are some absolutely amazing stories here, and they make up for the bad ones. I will say though, that the Unfettered Anthology could have been edited much better, especially with the placement of the stories. Also, it’s weird that almost all of the stories take place in the worlds featured in the author’s other books, but then there are a few completely random ones, especially the two stories that take place in our world without any fantasy at all. Still, I would recommend this anthology for a couple of absolutely amazing stories, especially Peter Orullian’s story.

Review #2

Unfettered audiobook Series Unfettered

I downloaded this because I’d gone away for a long weekend and forgotten my book. It was a good choice! I am part way through, and am enjoying the offerings of the various authors who donated their works free of charge. It also gives me the opportunity to sample the writing styles of authors I am not familiar with. Some of the selections are long, some short, so you can choose according to the length of your airport wait or rail journey. All the stories are hyperlinked individually, but you can’t tell how long or short they are until you’ve opened them.

Review #3

Audiobook Unfettered by Terry Brooks

I downloaded this because I’d gone away for a long weekend and forgotten my book. It was a good choice! I am part way through, and am enjoying the offerings of the various authors who donated their works free of charge. It also gives me the opportunity to sample the writing styles of authors I am not familiar with. Some of the selections are long, some short, so you can choose according to the length of your airport wait or rail journey. All the stories are hyperlinked individually, but you can’t tell how long or short they are until you’ve opened them.

Review #4

Audio Unfettered narrated by Peter Ganim

This book was amazing, the legend that is Patrick rothfus drew me in, Peter v Brett was my first love before buying his 4 Demon cycle books, then there was Shawn Speakman, you’re writing is fantastic and thank you for doing creating such a collaboration, I’ve just downloaded the dark thorn so I must dash. I too am a survivor of that horrible disease or at least as much as anyone can be a survivor and we all do some odd things, mine was to up sticks and move to the other side of the country to start a new life, but Shaun, you’ve done it with flair.

Review #5

Free audio Unfettered – in the audio player below

This little gem is just the perfect short story “taster menu” combination to offer any fantasy reader. On finishing each short story, I found I instinctively had a sense of the writing / storytelling style of each author and immediately knew whether that author was going to be the newest addition to my ever expanding reading library.

I always look forward to reading anthologies as I can find new authors – this one was really awful – it was a trial to read! Only a few of the stories were engaging.

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