Who couldn’t love an irascible, chocolate-loving warrior giant, a witty, but earthy female commander of the King’s guard who has captured the giant’s heart and the band of quirky friends who surround them? I most certainly adore them and delighted in this set of short story tales that may not have provided a big epic adventure like the novel that precedes it, but does give a humorous, heartwarming set of tales with gives those glimpses into the characters’ daily lives. Speaking of the first story, I recommend that for optimal enjoyment of this short story collection that this be read after ‘The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu’ so events, backdrop and characters make better sense because these stories just jump right in assuming the reader knows these characters and their backstories.
As is the case when I review an anthology or collection of short stories, I will not be reviewing the stories individually. There were twenty-eight short stories that would probably be more aptly described as little vignettes. The stories generally feature Boudicca the Commander of the king’s guard or her mate, the Haanta giant, Rautu as the main characters, but on occasion one or more of their friends will get the spot light. For the majority of the time, the stories have a light tone with the action teasing or tender. The voice of the stories is not casual, but has a classical structure that will make readers who are used to ‘laid back’ speech the need for an adjustment period. The stories are told third person narration, but it’s not difficult to emotionally engage because dialogue, thoughts and expressions are detailed.
Now, out of the twenty-eight pieces brought together here, there were only one or two that I was ‘meh’ about. My favorites were ‘The Five Second Rule’ where Rautu learns to appreciate the Frewyn attitude toward food that has been dropped on the ground, ‘The Spider Killer’s Reward’ where Boudicca must sooth her giant who is fearless of all, but one thing, ‘Games’ where Leraa enjoys learning a few games and the others show their competitive natures, ‘Drawing’ with a sweet little moment between Kai Linaa and Leraa, ‘Offense’ in which young Frewyn warrior trainees learn to respect a Haanta giant’s mate and ‘Scissors’ in which Bou and Rautu come to a compromise regarding her long hair were my favorites. The first two for their humor, the second for their family feel, and the last two for the sense of relationship. Truthfully, I enjoyed them all for one reason or another. Like the variety of chocolates in ‘The Box of Chocolates’ story, I found reading each of these vignettes was like pulling out a different piece of chocolate from a box and enjoying its distinct flavor.
I need to mention the stories off an extra surprise when reading this book. There are illustrated drawings by the artist Twisk that are scattered throughout the stories. The stories do not do a lot of character description because the previous book has already introduced them, but the drawings capture those previous descriptions perfectly. The very last illustrated drawing of Bou and Rautu sleeping together has been a personal favorite for the way it captures their relationship so perfectly even in sleep.
This will appeal to those who enjoy light fantasy that has endearing characters, witty and humorous language and a homey feel to it.
My thanks to Paper Crane publishing for providing my copy of the book for review purposes.
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