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Legends edited by Robert Silverberg
(HarperCollins Voyager, 5.99, 380 pages, paperback; published 3 April 2000.)

Legends must have seemed like an inspired idea to the publishers. Take half a dozen of the best-selling fantasy authors of the last twenty years, then get them to write new short stories set in their own fantasy worlds. With names like Stephen King, Terry Goodkind, Orson Scott Card, Ursula Le Guin and Raymond Feist, not to mention Silverberg himself present as both editor and contributor, what fantasy fan could resist the finished concoction?

Not this fan, that's for sure, especially as the collection has, as its crowning glory, a new story in Le Guin's 'Earthsea' setting. "Dragonfly" carries on with the work started in Tehanu, of redeeming the female role in Earthsea society. In this case, it introduces a woman into the all-male enclave of Roke, where wizards are taught. Predictably, this causes considerable upset, but leads to a surprising development fundamental to the understanding of magic on Earthsea, and to the nature of dragons.

Not to be outdone, Orson Scott Card also contributes a delightful addition to his "Alvin the Maker" series. "Grinning Man" crosses Alvin with the legend of Davy Crockett, with hilarious results. Card's alternative frontier tales have often seemed a little forced at novel length: here, he pitches the story just right.

Those two stories are worth the price of admission alone. That the book contains four more fair to middling efforts set in such diverse series as Stephen King's "The Dark Tower", Terry Goodkind's "The Sword of Truth", Robert Silverberg's "Majipoor" and Raymond Feist's "Riftwar Saga" is a bonus for lovers of those particular series. From my point of view, the King was too slight a tale, and rather obvious, the Goodkind a decently framed side-issue to the main event, the Silverberg a middling piece on a world with diminishing appeal, and the Feist an over-emotive side-bar to the Riftwar stories, with none of the main characters present. It's a nice idea for a collection, and works really well in about half of the stories, which makes it a success in my opinion.

Review by John D Owen.

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© John D Owen 8 July 2000