I was a bit bummed seeing this. It’s not new content. It’s not an alternate universe. It doesn’t provide new information. Sanderson is my favorite author in the game these days, and I’m always excited for new material. I don’t even mind re-reading it. I’m currently re-reading The Way of Kings as a way to get ready for the new Stormlight book. For people who haven’t tried any of his work (if they exist), this is a nice introduction. I’m a huge Dalinar fan, and this arc is wonderful. I just wish I had new Sanderson rather than stuff I’ve already paid for and enjoyed.
Spoiler Free Summary: Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan is the eighteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Everyone knows not to go into the forest. Everyone. But Wren’s lost a sheep, and her brother needs to find it. When he doesn’t come back, her parents leave. When they don’t come back, she goes looking. What she finds is a terrifying situation that forces her to pit her wits against an ancient creature bent of bringing something terrible to life.
Character: Wren was one of the more memorable characters in this anthology. There was a good amount of fear and bravery. Being young, she couldn’t be that competent (unless she was a prodigy, which she wasn’t), but she makes up for that with sympathy and proactivity.
Exposition: This was also fantastic. The story flowed seamlessly and was very hard to stop listening to (I listened to the Audible version). I don’t remember any point at which this story slowed down at all for me.
Worldbuilding: This is probably where the story fell short a bit for me. The reader honestly gets everything he needs, but this world seems so fascinating, and we don’t get much information on how this world operates. This might be from a larger story or series, which would mean fans already familiar with the world already know what’s happening. Even though I did get what I needed, I wish I had a bit more of this world to enjoy.
Dialogue: I can’t put my finger on what this story reminds me of, but a significant portion of the story is Wren’s battle of wits with the creature she meets in the woods. That conversation was very well done and is probably why I enjoyed this so much.
Description: I was satisfied with the description in this story if not impressed. Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t put this story in my top three from the anthology was because I would have liked a bit more sensory data here. Levels of description in order of desired outcome: 1) The reader knows what’s going on. 2) The reader can imagine some of the scene or characters. 3) The reader can imagine all of the scene and characters. 4) The reader has vivid imagery and imagination of the story. However, the highest level is this: The reader FEELS like HE is the character in the story and FEELS like he is in the story. I have the description for this story somewhere around 3, which is good, but not great. A story this fantastic deserved a bit more.
Overall: This was a rather disturbing fairy tale. It’s compelling in its conflict and imagination. While I wouldn’t call it one of the greatest stories ever, it’s certainly deserving of being read or listened too. If you like your youth fairy tales a bit on the darker side (I.G. Witches or The Watcher in the Woods), this is probably right up your alley.
Spoiler Free Summary:The Gunnie by Charlaine Harris is the seventeenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Lizbeth has to help a group of people travel across the post apocalyptic landscape her country has become. When her team is hit, can she find a way to even get back home safely? Let alone find the people she promised to see safely to their destination.
Character: Lizbeth is the type of character I really like. She’s skilled and driven. She has good motivation. The secondary characters fall way short though. Her connection to other characters wasn’t really investigated, so we miss out on the emotion we’d normally want to see.
Exposition: Even with first person, this is good. Again, Lizbeth isn’t the problem. It’s her lack of connection to other characters that holds this story back. Lizbeth has everything you could ask of a first-person narrator. She’s clever. She’s skilled. We learn about the world as she talks about it, and that keeps the pace moving even as we’re learning about things.
Worldbuilding: It’s not poorly written by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a post apocalyptic journey, and it doesn’t really stand out in my mind from any other “the world has been obliterated, and we have to survive” story. To really stand out, I need a post apocalypse that is unique in some way, and this just isn’t.
Dialogue: The dialogue in this story isn’t bad. It doesn’t stand out, but the characters have unique voices, and the plot moves with the conversations rather than dragging.
Description: As is typical of this genre, the description is good if graphic. I wouldn’t say it was more graphic than I could stand, and that’s nice. It wasn’t as cinematic as I’d like, but I could definitely imagine the scenes as I read. The character descriptions could probably have been a bit more consistent.
Overall: If you like post-apocalyptic fiction, you’ll probably enjoy this story. It’s good, but it’s not unique in any way. It’s still a fun read or listen if you’re on a short drive.
Spoiler Free Summary:Bulletproof by Mark Lawrence is the sixteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. The story is set in a sort of alien western world. There are fantasy creatures and alien creatures, but it’s all set in a western age civilization. Mikos (I think. This is an audio book, so I have to spell by sound), is about to watch a gunfight. That battle will determine who is in charge of the town, which is a foothold of the planet aliens intend to use.
Character: I like the characters in this story. They’re sympathetic and proactive, which is all I really want out of any character. Mikos is a young boy (I think), and his father was the sheriff not too long ago. A story this short really demanded the listener to keep track of a bunch of faces, races, and terms.
Exposition: I actually think this needed a bit more exposition. I’m glad the story didn’t drag down, and I don’t necessarily think all the pacing issues would be resolved by exposition, but I definitely could have used a bit more here.
Worldbuilding: This was the other area I felt was lacking. The author just sort of forces you to go with whatever is happening. This may be because the story is from a larger series, which would make some sense. Still this story didn’t rank higher in my opinion because I just didn’t really know what was going on, and by the time I had a grasp on just what I needed to enjoy this story, it was over. There were so many cool details and implications in this story, and I felt a bit left out of all that cool information.
Dialogue: This was good. Each character sounded unique. The conversations advanced the plot without sounding like author explanation.
Description: This is probably where the story shines. The action sequences were cool. The town felt real. The creatures and aliens all felt real. Like I said, listening to this story felt more like I was listening to an excerpt of a bigger story than the entirety of one. I had a glimpse into this really cool world and concept, but I never got to investigate it the way I wanted.
Overall: This story is worth a listen. If you’ve read Lawrence’s work before and know if this is part of a series or bigger story, please let me know. This tale is one of the better ones in the anthology, but it wasn’t one of the best.
Spoiler Free Summary:The Raven by Erin Lindsey is the fifteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Tom is brother to the king, and his kingdom is at war. The war, caused by the king’s transgressions, is causing bloodshed and strife. The only alternative, rebellion. Will Tom betray his brother for the sake of peace?
Character: It took a good minute for me to remember this story, but once my memory was jogged, I remembered liking Tom. The arc made a ton of sense, and watching a loyal brother be placed in an impossible position time and again was a very powerful source of conflict (and therefore interest) for me. While the author did a fantastic job of showing the strain Tom went through to protect his brother and aid him out of several questionable situations, what I think made this fall short (i.e. forgettable) was the author didn’t do such a great job showing me how much the brothers loved each other. I understood it, but I didn’t feel it, and that’s why the story didn’t stick with me.
Exposition: On the other side of forgettable stories is the benefit of not remembering it was bad. Usually this means the exposition was just fine. The story flowed well and quickly. The prose was solid. Poor character plus poor exposition = a bad story. Poor character with good exposition = an easy to read but forgettable story.
Worldbuilding: This was good, especially if you like political intrigue and things like that. Those who liked The Game of Houses from The Wheel of Time of the economic details in Dune will appreciate that part of the story. The best and most interesting part of this story is the political ramifications of the choices Tom and his brother make.
Dialogue: The conversations were interesting. There’s a debate about a course of action to take that I found very compelling, but I don’t think the characters felt unique to listen to. That puts the dialogue for this story in the “not bad” category. It’s probably better than average since that scene is one I remember most.
Description: There wasn’t much in the way of description. Sure, there was battle, but that’s not what I remembered about the story (see above). I think this could have been a bit better. At the very least it could have been a bit more vivid. I think if the characters were at least memorable by description, this story would have been stronger.
Overall: This was a good story; it just wasn’t memorable, and that’s because the characters didn’t quite meet the mark for me. I understood the goal and complications, but the motivation seemed off. I didn’t get that sense of love for the brother. It felt more like duty, which took away the potential for emotional power. It’s still interesting. It still has scenes that grab you, but like most average stories, I read it, wasn’t too disappointed, and then I forgot it soon after. If that relationship were better conveyed, I connect with the character, and this story is probably one of the better stories, especially considering Lindsey’s strong prose. Still, if you like good world building and political intrigue, this story has merit and deserves a fair shot.
Spoiler Free Summary:Victim with a Capital V by Scott Sigler is the thirteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Lisa is a Victim. Yes, she was once a victim, but then she was trained to become something more, an avenger. She trained her whole life to prepare for the day she came face to face with the man who hurt her. That day has just arrived. What will she do? There are others nearby who are showing a bit too much interest in her as well. What will they do?
Character: I actually like Lisa. She’s not the driven killer most stories make characters like her out to be. In fact, that’s why this story is unique. Here she is faced with her “opportunity for vengeance,” and she doesn’t respond the way most books portray it. There’s a fine line between “weak” or “stereotyped” women and characters who simply have every right to be afraid or sad. I affirm that people may be over sensitive to women being emotional. In Caught, my book, Sal, a man, cries plenty. No one has ever said he was too weak. But Kaitlyn, a teenager, sheds one tear and some people declare her type cast. But, there is a point at which people need to evaluate a female character to see if they’re being too weak. I advise authors to listen carefully to their editors when this is mentioned. Don’t be over defensive, but don’t be quick to make changes either. Just listen carefully.
I think the author does a great job of letting a traumatic event actually be traumatic. This story has nice development. I’d read another story about Lisa if it were out there (time and TBR list permitting).
Exposition: This was probably a little heavy handed in my opinion. I really felt like the story was great. I didn’t need the additional context that was there, but that’s just me. There wasn’t so much exposition that I felt the story came to a screeching halt, but I definitely noticed it.
Worldbuilding: This was standard rouge’s tale. This might be early Earth history or it might be a different planet. I don’t know. Neither changes the plot very much. Now, if it was a different world or setting (and not just historical), I would have been happier with a bit more world building instead of the exposition I got. It’s possible that was the author’s goal, but it fell short.
Dialogue: This was good. It wasn’t the greatest dialogue I’ve ever read, but it might be the second best dialogue in the book (all respect to Dresden and crew). The characters had unique voices, and I appreciated that. The narrator may have helped in this regard, but the words and style were still unique.
Description: This probably could have had a bit more description. I can’t tell you what Lisa looks like, but I have a pretty solid memory of the other men around her. I’d assert that if I felt it needed more, it probably did because I never really want that much description in any story.
Overall: This is one of the better stories in the anthology. I’d definitely read more about Lisa, and I’d probably be willing to read more from the author (again, time and TBR permitting). It’s a great vengeance story with plenty of action and drama.
Spoiler Free Summary:Within The Storm by Beth Frost is the eighteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. A grandmother sits her children down to tell the story of when an alien came to get shelter from a storm.
Character: There wasn’t really any conflict in this story. I can say the main character is sympathetic. But without anything to struggle against, there wasn’t much pulling the story along. If you’ve ever helped someone get shelter from a storm, you know how this story goes.
Exposition: This was better than the greater majority of the stories in this anthology. Despite being told in first person, this story doesn’t slow down to explain much.
Worldbuilding: The story takes place on a farm on Earth, so there simply isn’t much world building.
Dialogue: The dialogue is conversational, but without any conflict, it felt mundane. It was like eavesdropping on the Waltons.
Description: This was the strongest aspect of the story. The description was vivid with great attention to detail without forcing the story to come to a screeching halt. The characters received an equal amount of attention as the setting. All the senses got some sort of trigger.
Overall: This story just had no conflict. There was nothing pulling the story along. There was no danger. I can understand if the author intended to have an alien encounter story that didn’t involve some sort of invasion angle, but I had no reason to read other than I had paid for the book. For me, stories need something. No, the alien didn’t need to be hostile. We didn’t even need some sort of rush to save the alien from human experiments, but I certainly needed something. Maybe a “Keep him hidden” angle. Without a conflict to drive the story, I couldn’t get into it.
Spoiler Free Summary:Another Day, Another Dollar by Juleigh Howard-Hobson is the sixteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. During an alien version of a zombie apocalypse, one man finds a way to make a few bucks.
Character: I re-scanned the story a few times and didn’t even find a name. So he’s got a “House, M.D.” sort of jerk-face appeal to him, but other than establishing he hates people and likes money, there’s no real character development in this story.
Exposition: This story was told in first person, so that will always increase the amount of exposition, but I still feel there was a lot more exposition than necessary. I think if this were the first chapter in a story with character development, I’d love it. As a stand-alone story, it’s just a guy complaining about things while he kills alien zombies. Some people will love that. I’m just not one of them.
Worldbuilding: This story takes place on an alternate Earth. There isn’t much more to it that that. We get some details on how this world came to be, but even that was buried in the aforementioned exposition.
Dialogue: This is not applicable as it’s just an internal monologue.
Description: This is probably the best part of the story. Howard-Hobson’s description is very good. It’s detailed without being overwhelming. It’s strongest in describing the action and the aliens, but there is attention paid to all the senses, and that’s a positive.
Overall: So this was a decent zombie scene. If you like a bit of zombie-killing mayhem, you probably won’t regret picking it up. It feels a bit out of place in the anthology, but it’s a nice little character scene. It drags a bit here or there, but it wasn’t boring. I personally need a bit more from the character than I got (or more of something), but it was ok. I’d say this is sort of like a pop-corn movie for readers.
Spoiler Free Summary:A Mission of Mercy by Mark Lynch is the fifteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Christopher Taylor, struggling with memories of his time as a POW, is about to investigate the most unusual crash ever. But when faced with putting a creature through treatment he’d previously faced, Taylor has to make a decision on what to do.
Character: Taylor is sympathetic and absolutely proactive. The author did a fine job of helping us understand Taylor’s motivation, which is a step up from most of the other stories in this anthology.
Exposition: This is still a big area of improvement for Lynch as well as for a lot of the other authors in this anthology. There was a lot of telling in this story. I’ll concede this exposition at least established something important, but the story dragged because I read a lot of backstory.
Worldbuilding: This story is historical fiction. There’s not a lot of world building other than scene and location.
Dialogue: The dialogue in this story was also limited (another reason the story dragged for me). What dialogue I remembered and reviewed seemed at least natural, but it was a very small aspect of the story.
Description: I think the reader gets what he needs, but even I didn’t get as much as I wanted. There was attention spent on sight, but little other senses, so the story lacked a visceral quality for me.
Overall: A readers opinion on this story is going to depend entirely on what they think of the ending. I didn’t like it, but I did understand it. I would have preferred a different decision for the same motivation. The story wasn’t bad, but it did drag a lot. Taylor makes the story worth checking out if you like character studies. People who both understand and like the ending will think much more highly of it.
First, please let me offer you all a Merry Christmas! I hope this is a time of joy and love for you and yours. I wish you a Merry Christmas and many more. This is the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, who was born into humble human flesh, where he lived a perfect life so that he could die on the cross, thus paying the price for our sins and giving us freedom and life.
“And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” (Luke 2:9-14)
Spoiler Free Summary:And The Light Faded by Lisa Fox is the thirteenth story in the Alien Days Anthology. Rosa thinks she’s about to mournfully observe another new year, another new year in a world without her daughter in it. An alien invasion changes everything. The come swift and terrible, and Rosa is forced to survive.
Character: On one hand, Rosa is very sympathetic. She’s also proactive. This is one of those stories where I like a lot, but the thing I didn’t like, a decision made by the character near the end, really rubbed me the wrong way as an individual. I will acknowledge that Fox did a nice job making that decision seem realistic, but I still dislike the choice.
Exposition: This probably had more than I’d like, especially in regard to the end. It wasn’t so much exposition that it lagged in places, but it was disappointing in that the exposition felt more like the author trying to justify herself than simply provide background. I’ve read a few stories like this, where I feel like the author is trying to defend him or her self. It’s only a problem because it shows the author feels defensive.
Worldbuilding: This is an Earth alien invasion story, so there isn’t much need for world building. In terms of alien invasion stories, it is what it needs to be. Scifi fans who want to be whisked away may not enjoy it, but fans of drama-oriented stories will judge it based on how they feel about the ending.
Dialogue: This was solid. Maybe a little stereotypical, but not unbelievable. This is another area where the conversation seemed to dip sometimes into author justification. There really is only one conversation in the story, so it may be a bit unfair to judge it by that one conversation. Then again, if you’re going to write a story containing only one conversation, perhaps it should be a powerful conversation.
Description: I don’t remember much about this particular aspect of the story, which means it didn’t drag, but it didn’t activate my senses very well either. If I had to choose between dragging the story down or just moving it along, I’d go with the move along option.
Overall: This story hinges on how the reader feels about the end. I personally didn’t like it, but those reasons are as personal as the sort of ending written. I’d say if you want to know, give it a read and see what you think. This ending is exactly the sort of ending meant to be discussed and debated. If you think it works, you’ll probably think the story is OK. I don’t know that anyone would call this story great though. For an alien invasion story, there’s certainly not much happening other than a long conversation based on the wealth gap.