Silver Thread, Hammer Ring (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Silver Thread, Hammer Ring by Gary A. Braunbeck
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The legendary John Henry battles the steam-drill driven by a mythical creature as part of a rivalry between two other legendary individuals in a world in which alternate history and myth combine. The night before his hammers battle a steam-drill driven by a bullheaded man, John Henry recounts the events that led him to the railroad construction company owned by Mr. Daedalus in the Confederate States of Mexico, led by President John Brown. After proving himself to the foreman Captain Tommy, Henry becomes the crew’s best worker until one day a Mr. Minos and his bullheaded assistant block the tunnel and demand the crew use their steam-drill then kill one of Henry’s co-workers. Henry challenges the machine and later meets with Mr. Daedalus who relates that Mr. Minos and he were once partners but they had a falling out as Minos only wanted money and Daedalus wanted to create for everyone. Years later, Daedalus’ son Icarus and Minos’ son, Perdix, got into a fight and Icarus beheaded Perdix but Minos caught him and chained him to the Gates of Hell that Daedalus had constructed. Incidentally the path Henry will be tunneling will lead him to said Gates and Daedalus asks him to rescue his son. Henry agrees and the next day using hammers that Daedalus says is loaned by a Mr. Thor hammers his way to the Gates of Hell, releases Icarus, and after they escape Henry returns to the contest and bests the bullheaded man and the drill.

Besides the earlier story of Odysseus, this is one of the most fantastical stories of the collection so far. The intertwining of alternate history, Greek myth, American folklore, and other bits of world mythology are expertly combined to create a great story that was slightly ruined by the somewhat out of nowhere happy ending dealing with Henry’s dead younger brother who turns up alive.


Kings’ Quest (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Kings’ Quest by Mickey Zucker Reichert
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

King Harald Sigurdhson, aka Hardrada, suddenly finds himself waking up from death not in Valhalla but in a black misty wasteland. While attempting to figure out what it going on, the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok appears and after some standard “who are” back and forth Ragnar tells Harald he feels divinely inspired to solve their predicament by killing Hel. Intrigued Harald wonders how it’ll work when Loki appears and assures them with an oath that killing Hel would get them to Valhalla. The two warriors make their way through Hel’s domain before confronting the goddess herself, only for Harald to prevent Ragnar from striking Hel when I realized that Loki is to lead the forces attacking Valhalla. Hel reveals that she keeps the dead docile so they don’t attack Valhalla and tells the two kings to take the boat of the dead to Valhalla forcing Loki to take centuries build another especially since she won’t help him this time. Overall a very enjoyable story, even with a few anachronistic words (chiefly the Norse wouldn’t have called themselves Vikings) it doesn’t diminish a great combine take on Norse mythology and history.

Two-Fisted Tales of St. Nick (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Two-Fisted Tales of St. Nick by Kevin T. Stein and Robert Weinberg
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The story of the real Saint Nicholas is a little more brutal than the clean version we know today. Told from the memory of his sparring partner Hammer, we learn that Nicholas was a boxer who allowed a poorer and lower-class Hammer to beat on him in their sparring sessions until Hammer realized that he was taking out his frustrations on the innocent Nicholas. Afterwards the two became friends and trained together and Nicholas even helped Hammer start his own gym. One night they passed an old man’s house and overheard the man telling his daughters that he didn’t have enough money for dowries and would have to sell one of them into slavery. Nicholas decided to help the man out by getting money through a challenge series of boxing matches. After winning relatively two easy bouts, Nicholas places his winnings in the old man’s house. Then Nicholas faces the main attraction in ‘the Mangler’ and gets beaten to a pulp but doesn’t quiet which eventually forces ‘the Mangler’ to quit because Nicholas wouldn’t. On Nicholas’ final trip into the old man’s house, he’s discovered by the man’s youngest daughter who eventually becomes his wife. Hammer then ends his story by saying that because of Nicholas’ gift giving he decided to do the same with his family though he doesn’t think it’ll last after he dies. Overall this was a nice angle on the traditional story; however my biggest problem was the style of the delivery than the plot itself.

Wisdom (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Wisdom by Richard Lee Byers
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For months rumors have reached King Odysseus of Ithaca that the natural order is falling apart and now it has finally reach his home. Taking a ship to Delphi, Odysseus finds the shrine abandoned and the Pythia alone unable to focus her abilities. Killing an owl—which offered itself to be sacrificed—to enhance the vapors’ qualities, Odysseus and the Seer learn that the celebrated Judgment of Paris did not end with Paris giving the golden apple to Aphrodite but Athene. When given his reward, Paris realizes he wasn’t given all the wisdom Athene had and forces the goddess to give it all to him. The result is Paris challenging the gods and winning, transforming all who challenged him into beasts but unable to keep the cosmos functioning due to his ever growing madness. Odysseus travels to Olympus by way of the Underworld, asking Persephone’s permission to Hades’ chariot, horses, and helm. But as he is about to strike Paris, the madman stops him only to find out later that he didn’t see Odysseus real plan which results in his defeat and the restoration of the gods. I have hung on to Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives for almost 20 years because of this reinterpretation of Greek legend. This is one of my favorite short stories and if there are any flaws in it, I overlook them because I love this story so much.

Bast’s Talon (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Bast’s Talon by Janet Pack
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The High Priestess of Bast, Katiri-Maat, goes to yet another meeting with the Pharaoh Khafre and attempts to convince him to dedicate the limestone outcropping in front of his pyramid to her goddess. However, even though she relays a “true dream” from Bast to the Pharaoh the other priests and priestess as well as the Pharaoh’s advisor bring up other gods to be honored. That night Katiri-Maat has a troubling dream and is wakened up by a young acolyte scared that all the temple’s cat are missing. Realizing what the goddess is doing, Katiri-Maat returns to the palace just before sunrise in full regalia along with the large statue of Bast to find all the cats in the city in the palace courtyard making everyone miserable. The Pharaoh concedes to Bast and gives the order for the Sphinx to be sculpted. Overall I did like this story though the ending of the cats mobbing the palace was a bit cartoony, though I was less forgiving of setting the story in the Middle Kingdom when the pyramids were only constructed in the Old Kingdom.

The Wisdom of Solomon (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Wisdom of Solomon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Through the eyes of an 8-year old, the story of King Solomon handling of the case of the two harlots is seen from a different angle. The retelling of the Biblical story is from an old woman remembering when in she was a child how she met her father—Solomon—because of her midwife mother’s attempt to stop a prostitute from killing her children only for the king’s guards to arrest both because of the bizarre situation they came upon. Though the story has elements from the famous story, Rusch changes things around in such a way as to suggest how real events become legends, but it’s up to the readers own opinion on if this story or the Biblical narrative is correct.

Final Conquest (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Final Conquest by Dennis M. Kiernan
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Relating the final days of Genghis Khan through the eyes of a scribe, Final Conquest relates how the conqueror and his Mongol army find themselves traveling in a strange land under strange skies before scouts find a city. After sending contingents to begin battle that never return, the Khan and the scribe ride to find his men just sitting around when a mysterious princess invites the conqueror to destroy the city and then goes with her into it. The scribe doesn’t know how long he waited but the Khan returns in the company of three spirits and looks like he has been weeping. After returning to the army, they journey away from the city and find themselves back in familiar territory but the Khan’s spirit seems broken and dies soon after.

A short piece of only 6 pages, this story just felt off to me and frankly I was glad it was short because if it had been longer my rating would have continued in a downward direction.