Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists was a captivating read from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong; some stories hooked me more than others – as can be expected in any anthology.
Overall, I found this a tantalizing read that delivered wholesale on the mysterious and melancholy promise of the cover.
The stories within, written by a cornucopia of names easily recognizable by anyone familiar with the genre were, without exception, well-written and well-edited. Each had a gritty, soiled feel that left me thirsting for more. And yet, strangely, the piece that I found most stirring was not fiction at all, but rather the Foreword by R. Scott Bakker.
In “On the Goodness of Evil,” Bakker sumptuously defines grimdark in striking terms that give context and meaning to the genre in today’s world of moral turbidity. Bakker paints the grimdark genre in terms of perspective, grounding it firmly within cultural and historical contexts. According to Bakker, grimdark’s pillars run contrary to our cultural norms of good and evil, bringing the nature of evil itself into question as a construct of historical and religious stereotypes.
This essay worked so well for me. Bakker’s assertions acutely echoed my own ideals of the genre, which I have grown to adore for grimdark’s ability to stimulate my own curiosity about humanity’s moral underpinnings.
What the anthology does exceptionally well is cast a stage filled with macabre characters that entice the imagination: tormented, compelled, sometimes coerced, to terrible and often grotesque ends.
In this respect, the anthology promises and delivers with resounding satisfaction.
I loved “The Broken Dead” by Michael R. Fletcher for its exquisite imagery. I also enjoyed “The Divine Death of Jirella Martigore,” finding it well-researched and lavishly gruesome. “Black Bargain” by Janny Wurts sucked me right into her characters’ heads (though I am biased, as I’ve been a Janny Wurts fan for more years than I care to admit). “The Darkness Within the Light” by Shawn Speakman I found to be brilliant, a fresh deconstruction of Arthurian legend. “Blood Penny” by Deborah A. Wolf stood out for the strength of her characterization and evocative plot―a tenderly dark story that I adored. “The Carathayan” by R. Scott Bakker was a joy to read, as the strong, deft prose carried me right along.
All in all, a splendid collection that any adult fan of dark fantasy fiction will enjoy. Highly recommend.
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