I love small presses. Really, I do. They are so much more likely to put out interesting anthologies, such as When The Hero Comes Home.
So what's this book about? Exactly what it says on the tin. It's a collection of nineteen short stories from a wide variety of authors, some better known such as Todd McCaffrey and Ed Greenwood, and some not so well known but you should really look for such as Marie Bilodeau, Erik Buchanan, and J.M. Frey (pronounced Fry by the way), all about what happens when the hero comes home.
I had the good fortune to meet Marie, Eirk, and J.M, and have sign my copy of When The Hero Comes Home, at the champagne brunch launch at Polaris earlier this month. Check them out and then come back and read the rest of my review.
No, really. I can wait.
Done? Good, on with the review.
So, as I said, this book asks the question, what happens after the battle is over, the princess saved, the dragon defeated? What does the hero do once he's won, or at least survived, his quest, when the place he's come from has stayed the same while he has changed so much? This book answers those questions, with stories that run from humorous to heartbreaking, bittersweet to hopeful.
Let me highlight some of the gems inside, in order of appearance. Erik Buchanan's What Evil Remains gives us a picture of a veteran of a wizard's defeat dealing with post-traumatic stress, a good man who served his community and bears the mental scars to prove it. Truly heart-wrenching.
Brine Magic by Toni Pi is astounding, a compelling story about two boys adopted by the court of a fantastical undersea power who serve as guardians and warriors until they find themselves spit back into the real world and how they deal with the transition. Without any hyperbole I can say it's a magical and compelling story.
Oh, how can I go any further without mentioning The Legend of Gluck by Marie Bilodeau, a story about a barbarian returning home with the head of his defeated foe. It has a rotting skull and liquified brains, even an elven sorceress. What's not to love? (Also it gave me the opportunity to make a really bad pun based on the hero's name, something I sure scarred Marie for life when I messaged her with it.) :)
Another highlight is the Once and Nowish King by J.M. Frey. It involves King Arthur returning as a newborn baby with full adult mental faculties and the craziness that induces. It's funny and heartwarming at the same time, something Frey can easily pull off as evidenced by her novel Tryptych.
Really, there are no lackluster stories in this collection, and I could easily sing the praises of each of them. Pick up a copy from Amazon and enjoy, or go to the Dragon Moon Press site to check it out.