Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King (Legends 2, Volume 2 of 2)Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King bounds together short stories from five bestselling authors in fantasy in one-half of a follow up volume to the first Legends anthology. Edited by Robert Silverberg, this collection sees returning authors such as George R.R. Martin and Orson Scott Card with newcomers Terry Brooks, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Haydon. All are connected to the author’s best known established universe; however the success of each story is how the reader quickly understands the universe connected to it.

The first three stories in this volume are the best of the five, whether stand alone or part of a prequel sequence, they’re success was on how minimal the reader needed to be knowledge about the author’s established universe regardless of how long their story was. The last two stories while okay-to-good suffered from the reader trying to comprehend some aspect of the established world or in the case of one story having no clue about the importance of anything given that the story was an epilogue of an entire series.

The fact that the two weakest stories of the collection finish off the book gives the overall volume a bad rap when finishing it, however the first three stories make this collection for any first-time readers of their authors. For long-time or experiences readers of any or all of these authors, these stories will be well worth the read.

Individual Story Ratings
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Sworn Sword by George R.R. Martin (4.5/5)
Tales of Alvin Maker: The Yazoo Queen by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
Outlander: Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon (4/5)
The Symphony of Ages: Threshold by Elizabeth Haydon (3.5/5)
Shannara: Indomitable by Terry Brooks (2.5/5)

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Lord John and the Succubus (Lord John #1.5)

Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A recurring secondary character in Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Lord John Grey is secretly homosexual–an important fact to know if you haven’t read the series like myself–at a time in which it was “frowned” upon to say the least. This important secret affects how John interacts with all the other characters throughout this mystery in which English, Hanoverian, and Prussian soldiers and nobles seemingly deal with the supernatural.

In and around the town of Gundwitz, a succubus is believed to be attacking men-both civilian and military. John as the liaison officer between the England and various German allies and townsfolk finds himself in the middle of the investigation. Meanwhile he is in a weird love triangle between a Hanoverian officer and a young widowed Princess, who gets really interested in him after he helps her young son not be kidnapped by “a witch”. Yet, it turns out that incident is connected to everything else going on that John has to deal with. As a mystery it keeps the reader guessing until the solution comes into focus, yet while John deals with this mystery he attempts to guess about a possible love connection as well.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume II

The Complete Sherlock Holmes 2The Complete Sherlock Holmes 2 by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world’s most revered and famous fictional detective first appeared from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle almost a 130 years ago, but the author did not finish with his greatest creation until almost 40 years later even after unsuccessfully killing him off. In this second volume of all the collected works that feature Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson, the reader gets reacquainted with the great detective and his friend through 33 short stories and a short novella with the added bonus of two Doyle written parodies as well as two essays by the author.

The second volume of the original works of Conan Doyle, in the American publication order, begins with Holmes return to life in “The Empty House”. The opening story of The Return of Sherlock Holmes is just an okay start to the detective return to practice before the story quality through most of the collection improves—“Priory School”, “Three Students”, “Solitary Cyclist”, and “Dancing Men” being the best—until the final three stories. The novella The Valley of Fear begins a noticeable drop in quality throughout the rest of the works, the first half the novella is Holmes at his best but then Conan Doyle repeats his great since with his first Holmes novella Study in Scarlett in which the second half is all flashback of dubious narration or not.

In the collections His Last Bow and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, only four of the 20 stories could be considered close to the same quality of the earlier Holmes stories. In “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”, Holmes finds competing with a county Inspector who’s methods of deduction gain Holmes’ respect while “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is a well-written twist of an earlier Holmes story. The Holmes narrated “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” is the better of the two Holmes ‘written’ stories while “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” was Conan Doyle writing a wonderful counter-formulaic story.

Yet while those four stories stood out as the best of the late Holmes stories, the others were of subpar quality and included two of the worst. The third person narrative of “Mazarin Stone” doomed the story from the start and details within the study defied the reader’s suspicion of disbelief. The very next story was in my opinion the worst of all Holmes stories, “The Adventure of the Three Gables”, mainly due to the fact that the Sherlock Holmes presented in that story was not the Holmes in all previous stories and all those that followed.

Although the majority of the volume saw for the most part the quality of Conan Doyle’s storytelling fall, one cannot fail to notice that the author who at one time loathed his creation would do ensure that his—both Sherlock’s and his own—legacy endure with as best writing as he could produce. Within the collected 34 original works, there are many diamonds in the rough that any reader will enjoy reading whether they have read other Holmes works or not.

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The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (Part III)

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”

The second story narrated by Holmes himself takes place along the Sussex coast near his villa after his retirement. However mystery finds Holmes as a teacher of nearby school comes staggering up from the coast and dies at Holmes’ feet saying “Lion’s Mane.” Though retired Holmes can not let the strange death not be solved, so the great detective starts investigating and downplaying his extraordinary methods.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”

A landlady asks Holmes to come visit her horribly scared tenant, who seems on the verge of death and who wants to unburden herself of the mysterious death of her husband. Holmes and Watson visit the woman and listen to her account then Holmes persuades her not to commit suicide.

2 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”

A horse trainer comes to Holmes with most intriguing mystery surrounding his employer and his Lady sister who owns the titular location. The astonishing facts laid out by the man very much gets Holmes interests and leads to trip to the country and once again around the equestrian turf.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman”

The last Holmes story sees the great detective taking the case of a wronged husband, whose wife and her lover has fled and taken his savings. Or have they? Holmes has Watson go with their client to his home and then to an out of the way village. Upon their return to the man’s home, Holmes and other detective have some astonishing news.

2 1/2 STARS

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (Part II)

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”

A woman beats her stepson and is found with her mouth to her own baby’s neck which is bloody when she removes her mouth. Her husband is beside himself when he comes to Holmes and begs him to find a solution. As always things are not what they appear when first looked out.

2 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”

Holmes and Watson are asked to consult a man who seems to be close to a financial windfall, however the man’s fellow beneficiary who meets Holmes at Baker Street is a total liar. The older gentleman is in for an unfortunate surprise as Holmes is on to the liar’s trail.

3 STARS

“The Problem of Thor Bridge”

A young woman is accused of murdering the wife of her employer, who does lover her. Her wealthy and volatile employer contacts Holmes to prove her innocence, but the evidence reported in the paper’s seems on the surface very much against her. However Holmes looks at little details to piece together the truth of the matter.

3 STARS

“The Adventure of the Creeping Man”

A well regarded professor seems to have changed drastically after a mysterious trip to around Prague. His actions prompt his secretary and his daughter to fear for their safety in the house. Using the secretary’s notes as well as descriptions of incidents, Holmes and Watson stake out the professor one night to discover the truth, which sends Holmes from detective genre to science fiction.

3 1/2 STARS

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (Part I)

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”

Holmes and Watson are engaged by an intermediary for a third party to stop a marriage of a young woman to a notorious Austrian nobleman. The nobleman makes an attempt on Holmes’ life after he talks with both himself and his intended bride, however Holmes’ uses the attempt as part of his plan. Upon learning of the nobleman’s “little black book”, Holmes sends in Watson to distract his opponent while he burglarizes the home, but he is seen when escaping. However, the resolution to everything is a stunning twist.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier”

Holmes’ narratives this case of a Boer War veteran attempting to learn what happened to a wounded comrade from his regiment. However, the man’s family is being all mysterious about the individual in question making Holmes’ client frustrated.

3 STARS

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”

A crown jewel is stolen and the British government comes to Holmes to find it. By the time Watson enters the narrative, Holmes has the man but not the stone. After a meeting with the culprit, Holmes gets the stone and returns it to a government peer.

2 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Three Gables”

This story is frankly off from the get-go as it seems it is written by someone other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

1 1/2 STARS

His Last Bow (Part II)

His Law Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”

Mycroft and Lestrade come to Baker Street with a case of national importance, but about who did it but where the rest of the state secrets are. Holmes and Watson begin their investigation, but suddenly the case doesn’t seem so straight forward.

4 STARS

“The Adventure of the Dying Detective”

Watson tells of a case during his marriage when Mrs. Hudson comes to his practice to get him to see an ill Holmes. His friend is ill-tempered and forces Watson to avoid touching him and finally getting a layman who seems has combated the exotic disease he has. However nothing appears as it seems.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”

An independent woman who regularly corresponds with several individuals while traveling from place to place has stopped sending letters and seems to have disappeared. Holmes is asked to look into the case and not being able to leave London sends Watson to inquire in France and Germany after her. However things lead to London and after a surprising false lead, Holmes finds the missing woman.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”

While on sabbatical in Cornwall, Holmes gets roped into the investigation of the murder and maddening of a nearby family followed soon after by the death of another family member. The village vicar and hermit African explorer as well as an ill-conceived experiments round out this particular case.

3 STARS

“His Last Bow”

The titular case follows not Holmes or Watson, but a German spy as Europe is on the verge of war. His last operation is seemingly coming together as his Irish-American man brings the British naval signal book, but appearances can be deceiving. This second supposed Sherlock swan song is different.

3 STARS