Anthologies follow a general format. They start with a story meant to intrigue – sometimes a heavy hitter, sometimes just easing you in. The second story tends to be strong. Then you’ve got your ups and downs as you progress through the bulk of the book. The penultimate story is on the stronger side, and then the final tale tends to be one of the strongest in the entire volume. It is, after all, the book’s last chance to make an impression on the reader, so the editors want it to be a positive one.
Which makes it interesting that the two stories I’ve read before are in the middle of the book. It’s also intersting that in an anthology she co-edited, Tanya Huff’s story is in the middle, starring Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr. Yes, it’s one of the two I’ve read before. Nobody’s surprised by that. The other is by Michelle West and is from her Essalieyan universe. (Theoretically the day will come when I no longer have to look up that series name every time I want to spell it.) It also amuses me that the story immediately following Huff’s is by Fiona Patton, her wife. Nice touch.
The problem of anthologies is that most of the stories quickly fade into a blur of whatever the theme was and you only remember bits and pieces about the few that are stronger than the rest, that you’ve read before, or that connect to other stories or books you’ve read previously. So I can tell you that this is not the strongest anthology I’ve ever read, but it is far from the weakest.
Oh right. The book is titled Women of War and it’s edited by Tanya Huff and Alexander Potter. I honestly have no idea who he is. He doesn’t have a story of his own in here, just his part in the introduction. You can figure I bought the book on the strength of Huff’s name – a decision I do not and will not regret. A few of the other authors’ names are familiar for one reason or another, but that’s not saying much given how much I read.
Let’s look at some numbers. I have 857 different short stories contained in 78 different anthologies. We’re not including books like C.J. Cherryh’s Sunfall or Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version whose contained stories really aren’t suited to being published outside the whole. Some authors show up more than others – the most frequently seen are those whose collected works I’ve acquired. So I have 59 short stories by Mercedes Lackey, 64 by Tanya Huff, and Andre Norton is the clear winner with 71. The only story I have three copies of is Falcon Blood, by Andre Norton, appearing in Amazons!, Lore of the Witch World, and Tales from High Hallack: Volume 1, making it the most recurring tale.
So, overall, Women of War is a pretty good anthology and I’m sure I’ll revisit it in the future.