Book Review: The Toll of Another Bell
I am pleased to write to you today about an excellent book of short stories. Pleased because this book has just entertained me so well, and because my own story, Jilted River appears under this same cover. Xchyler Publishing’s new Anthology, The Toll of Another Bell, kept me turning pages all the way to the end, and wishing for more.
I could go through the tales one-by-one, in a linear fashion, shooting verbiage at you like a shotgun, but you can do that just as easily by buzzing the Goodreads or Amazon pages. What I have to tell you is my impression of the stories now, fresh on my mind, as a recent reader. I have been swept into the birth of humanity, offered as a human sacrifice, burned in flight from Hades, and then recreated as a monster that is bred as a killing machine. Then, I rode a magical horse with six legs to a Japanese village that was protected by a lovely female samurai, just to be led down to a lost river, where I disappeared while singing a folk song. After that, I discovered that I am not a boy with a collapsed lung, I’m actually a superhero. But after that, I had to leave a land where dreams come true, but I die every day, just to live in the more predictable “real” world. Fortunately, that didn’t last long, because I escaped from a preternatural demon by going out into the stars.
That, my friends, is one action-packed fantasy theme park.
The book doesn’t skimp on talent. I have to admit that, even though I’m in this thing, I was pleasantly surprised. Discovering new, innovative ideas throughout the book, I often found myself screaming, “Why didn’t I write that?” The concepts here are both fresh and, occasionally, not. It’s fantasy, so “something old, something new” is the law of the land. However, some of the new ideas inside these covers pushed delightfully at the limits of my imagination. I came away from it believing that I had just tried on a trunk full of costumes and run around the neighborhood, sword fighting.
Jodi L. Milner‘s “Breath” weaves a legend of gods who protect the new earth, and then poignantly rips at your heart. Unfortunately, telling you more would spoil it. Timothy Vincent’s “Awareness” played with me in the same way: I was in a torture-porn universe for a few pages, marveling at where these images could come from.
Even seeing the way it was going to end did not minimize the impact. Elise Stephens’ “Phoenix,” delivers the Orpheus and Euridice legend almost defiantly, weaving two young rockers into a 21st century celebration of love and song. Thaxson Patterson II’s “Life Under Research Conditions” knocked me cold with monster after morbid monster, but all of them acted strangely . . . .human. No more on that, for fear of spoilers.
Scott E. Tarbet’s “The Year of No Foals” was the second story in this book to give me a clear character voice (the first of them being Thaxson Patterson’s). A woman recounts her youth to her granddaughter, which is normal enough, until she begins to tell the child about how people started to ride on flying horses to begin with. F.M. Longo’s “Naoki No Yokai” had me doubting my ability to follow him through an almost Anime story of Japanese demons which are devastating a village, but the action drove the story well enough that even I could catch up. Again, no spoilers, but expect some action packed swordplay. Ginger Mann . . . right, that’s me. One preview (not review) of “Jilted River,” coming right up. Expect plenty of blue birds, evil fairies, and banjo music. (Yep, banjo music.) , J.R. Potter‘s “Tower Gods” goes back into the high tech, transforming a crippled teenager into a superhero, and then training him on “everyday tasks”. You know, like guarding the world.
I was then absolutely charmed by the voice of Danielle Shipley, whose story “Reality As We Know It” is both innovative and affectionate. I loved her treatment of the dream world versus the real world, and the creation of two characters who loved each other as soul mates, enough to transcend the boundaries of each reality. T. C. Phillips brings it home with primordial demons that chase a girl into the stars, making me glad I stayed awake long enough to finish the book.
To sum it up, friends, this has been an incredible journey. For the price of this book, don’t think twice about adding it to your collection. You are in for a treat as you travel, unrestrained, through ten distinct and tantalizing worlds of fantasy.