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EBOOK, 242 pages, Kristell Ink

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Book of OrmThere’s a distinctly Scandinavian flavour to this short story collection from celebrated Gollancz author A J Dalton (Tithe of the Saviours), along with a couple of other contributors. Dalton is an exponent of what he likes to call “metaphysical fantasy” – smart, with overtones of the gothic about it, often exploring the dark side of the self. And there’s plenty of exploration of the dark side in “The Book of Orm”.

Opener, and the story from which the collection takes it’s title, Orm is the story of an exiled troll-child, the runt of his litter, who ventures out into the world to find out who he is, only to discover he has an ability no other troll possesses.

Warrior of Ages and its companion story Knight of Ages are both Gemmell-esqe tales of legendary, almost immortal heroes who are battling with the violence of their own inner demons as well as the real-life enemies that besiege them as they are pulled about by the whims of the gods. The collection as a whole is dedicated to David Gemmell, and neither story would have been out of place in Newcon’s Legends tribute anthology.

The Non-Dragon is the story of a dragon who insists she isn’t a dragon, who forms a friendship with an orphan and learns to accept who she is, while The Dark Arts is the sinister tale of a sculptor who takes things too far and becomes trapped in one of his own creations.

There are two other contributors to this collection (I don’t think that makes it an anthology, just a short story collection with bonus tracks ), Nadine West and Matthew White. White contributes a story about clever Hailey Skjervold and her dog Neville, who have to take on a bullying house-sprite called a Nisse when it moves into their house. West’s story, Rusalka, is one of the highlights of the book, a lyrical, timeless legend of a girl confined to an asylum, who loves, and is loved, by the water.

Well worth seeking out,  this collection would appeal to anyone who likes their heroic fantasy smart, with a shot of bleakness and the chill of a Northern winter night.