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Unfettered III: New Tales By Masters Of Fantasy edited by Shawn Speakman (book review).

May 15, 2020 | By | Reply More

For those who haven’t heard of the ‘Unfettered’ collections, a bunch of authors donated short stories for the first volume to pay for the medical bills of editor Shawn Speakman. The second and third volumes pay that forward by raising money for charities, meaning not only are you getting a huge collection of stories for 748 pages but are helping a good cause.

Most of the stories in ‘Unfettered 3’ are fantasy, with just a few that could be classed as SF, though some, like ‘The Heart Box’ by Callie Bates fall into the Neil Gaiman ‘real world with an element of the fantastical that nobody thinks is weird’ style of fiction.

Thanks to the famous authors that donate their work, the ‘Unfettered’ books have two types of story. Standalone pieces like you’d expect from most short story collections make up about a third, while the rest are ‘side stories’ from already established series. I suspect that these expanded universe stories are the big draw of ‘Unfettered’. After all, who doesn’t want to read more from the original ‘Dune’ or ‘Shannara’?

Naturally, any review of the quality of short stories is entirely subjective, but I found the vast majority of the standalone works in ‘Unfettered’ to be well-written and engrossing. Particularly good are the poignant ‘Seven’ by Naomi Novik, which deals with immortality through art versus living right now and ‘Sidekick’ by Carrie Vaughn which explores the super-hero sidekick shtick from an interesting and amusing angle.

I guess how much you enjoy any of the expanded universe stories depends on whether you’ve read the books they’re based on, though I will point out that every story has a page explaining necessary backstory for new readers. You can find a full list of the stories and authors at: https://grimoakpress.com/blogs/news/revealing-unfettered-iii-and-its-various-editions but a few of the ‘big names’ include Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson filling in the story of the Sardaukar attack in ‘Dune’, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson presenting a ‘deleted scene’ from ‘The Wheel Of Time’ and Terry Brooks providing some backstory from the ‘Shannara’ series. I haven’t read a lot of the original series that the side stories fill in, but didn’t find that to be a problem. Most of the stories work as self-contained pieces and a couple were so interesting that I’ve gone back and checked out the series they came from.

So, assuming you’re looking for fantasy over SF, I really can’t fault ‘Unfettered 3’. Whether you’re looking for more from your favourite series, like short stories that do a lot with relatively short word-counts or just want a lot of pages for your money, this collection delivers.

Stuart Maine

May 2020

(pub: Grim Oak Press, 2019. 748 page enlarged paperback. Price: $30.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-944145-23-1. Ebook: Price: $ 9.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-944145-26-2)

check out website: www.grimoakpress.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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