Tad Williams writes doorstop-sized fantasy series where, in his world building, not everything is ever revealed to the reader. One of the great characteristics about series such as Otherland, Shadowmarch, and Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is that, when they are done, there are pieces and connections that your brain continues to try to figure out; it’s not that he leaves big gaping holes in the background of the world or characters, he provides just enough to allow his reader to think, and to imagine. (The other great characteristic is that he finishes these series with a frequency that doesn’t keep his readers waiting for several years; and he always provides a summary of what has gone before, something those of us with poor memories require.)
Thus, I expected this collection of short stories and novellas to be in that category: grandiose fantasies with lots behind the curtain. And some of these certainly fit in that bucket and could be extended into larger stories and worlds (specifically “And Ministers of Grace”, “The Storm Door”, “The Stranger’s Hand”, and “The Terrible Conflaguration at Quiller’s Mints”, which takes place in the Shadowmarch world). But there were other stories that were either completely out of the fantasy genre, or in someone else’s world, or were just standalone fantasy short stories. And unfortunately, there were a couple of screenplays thrown in. Unless it’s Shakespeare, the reading of a screenplay is difficult (unless maybe for actors?), and having one (or two) in a collection of short stories breaks up the rhythm. Structurally, they are quite a different read, and the two included here were a fragment and a horror story. “Black Sunshine”, the horror story, I actually enjoyed, but the reading of a story in screenplay format is not for me.
My favorites here were “And Ministers of Grace”, “The Stranger’s Hand”, “The Thursday Men” (Hellboy, yeah!) and “The Lamentable Comic Tragedy (or the Laughably Tragic Comedy) of Luxal Laqavee”. I could have done without “Bad Guy Factory” (the screenplay fragment) and “The Terrible Conflagration at the Quiller’s Mint”.
Individual reviews below: