Magic. Myth. Warfare. Wonder. Beauty. Bravery. Glamour. Gore. Sorcery. Sensuality.
As with all anthologies, some of the stories really worked for me and others were a miss. The concept of Sword and Soul as a genre is wonderful, and I’m glad Davis included a section in the beginning of the book that explained its origins and the motivations behind its creation. Though the definition given in Griots is more fleshed out, the bare bones definition is, “Sword and Soul is Sword and Sorcery and epic fantasy based on African history, culture and traditions.”
I loved the setting of all of the tales, and the deities/gods that were present were refreshingly different and vividly realized. It certainly felt like I had a new rich world to dive into, and I want more of that. However, the cohesiveness of the collection left me a little confused. Some of the stories read very YA and skewed much younger, but then others in the collection were very decidedly not for younger audiences. I understand the desire to showcase multiple types of voices and writing styles of Black authors, but as a whole, the anthology felt a bit fractured.
Some of the standout stories for me were:
Skin Magic by P Djeli Clark (not a huge surprise as I love their Dead Djinn series already):
A man has ink that writhes under his skin, but unless he can learn to harness the power he wields, it may just ruin him.
The Belly of the Crocodile by Minister Faust:
A very interesting piece of writing told from the perspective of an antagonist; a villain origin story of sorts.
The Three Faced one by Charles R Saunders:
Fantastically written story of a god-touched hero as he stumbles across a conflict between two groups in a forgotten corner of the world. Is this simply human nature at work, or is there a supernatural element to this dispute?
While my overall rating for this is still a 3, the stories I enjoyed, I REALLY enjoyed. So I’m definitely going to be checking out the individual work of those authors as well as reading the Anthology that was released after this one: Griots – Sisters of the Spear.