Friday, March 07, 2014

Review: Four Summoner’s Tales by Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathan Maberry

Four Summoner’s Tales
Authors:  Kelley Armstrong, Christopher Golden, David Liss, and Jonathon Maberry
Publisher:  Gallery Books, September 17, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  $16.00 U.S.
ISBN:  9781451696684
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Four bestselling authors. One hellraising premise.
What if the dead could be summoned from their graves—for a price? What if a quartet of distinctive storytellers took a stab at this deceptively simple idea—on a dare? The answers lie here, in Four Summoner’s Tales, as these acclaimed writers accept the challenge and rise to the occasion—in four brilliantly chilling ways. It’s all in the execution. . .

“SUFFER THE CHILDREN” BY KELLEY ARMSTRONG, #1 New York Times bestselling author
A preacher and his adopted daughter must solve the mystery of the newcomers to their isolated 19th century village—men who are preying on residents' overwhelming grief with promises to bring the stricken back to life.

“PIPERS” BY CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN, New York Times bestselling author
Twenty-three people have already lost their lives to the ruthless cartel terrorizing their small Texas border town. But one man has a plan for revenge, if the town’s survivors will let him use their loved ones—to raise an army of the undead.

“A BAD SEASON FOR NECROMANCY” BY DAVID LISS, National bestselling author
In merry old England, a rascally con man stumbles upon a book for raising the dead. But instead of using it to make money by reviving relatives for the rich, he'll do just the opposite. Because some family skeletons need to stay buried.

“ALIVE DAY” BY JONATHAN MABERRY, New York Times bestselling author
In war-torn Afghanistan, a U.S. military operative and his team face off against an ancient horror during a harrowing off-the-books search-and-rescue mission.

Doreen’s Thoughts

What a great premise – four different authors take on the same concept, raising the dead for a price! Even though the stories were basically the same, as the tagline said, “It’s all in the execution. . .”

Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Suffer the Children’ takes place in the backwoods of Canada during the late 19th Century. In it, Addie is a young fosterling being raised by Preacher and his wife, Sophia. After a tragic epidemic killed most of the children in the village, a peddler and his old assistant come into town offering to raise the children – for a price. What follows next is a sad tale as parents are asked the question – what are you willing to pay to bring back your loved one? Armstrong does a terrific job as she shifts her perspective back and forth between Addie and Preacher in telling the tale.

Christopher Golden’s story, ‘Pipers,’ raises an army of the dead to face the cartel that has been terrorizing their small Texas border town and riffs on the story of ‘The Pied Piper.” Golden’s main character, Zeke Prater, loses his daughter during a massive cartel drive-by attack and then takes up an offer to get revenge for her murder. Along with 22 other “proxies” - family members willing to raise the dead, Prater uses a bone pipe and blood magic to raise the girl. When the group of avengers is double-crossed, things go south quickly. Out of all of the stories, I liked the ending to this one the least. But Golden does a great job describing how the dead are healed as they come back to life, and the ending definitely was in keeping with the overall premise of the four stories.

David Liss uses medieval England as the setting for his “A Bad Season for Necromancy.” His con man, Reginald January, takes on the persona of a gentleman of leisure so that he might secure for himself a wealthy bride. But when he discovers a book for raising the dead, he uses it as a threat against a group of Four Widows and their entourage who have acquired their wealth through the deaths of relatives. When they refuse to pay his blackmail, he raises a dead husband in revenge and, at that point, loses control of his own power. He winds up raising his own father to get him out of his dilemma. This story was very interesting as its use of language mimicked stories from that time period.

Lastly, Jonathan Maberry sets his character, Captain Joe Ledger, in the middle of a war zone in Afghanistan with three other military team members in an effort to rescue another lost team. While I don’t typically enjoy militaristic stories, the addition of an elder demon/deity was a nice touch. The story itself flashes back to the past, focusing on the first team’s efforts and how their mission went wrong, before jumping to the present, where the second team tries to recreate the story and find the lost team members. The story is dark and graphically violent, with what seem to be flesh-eating zombies in thrall to the demon/deity.

Overall, the stories were basically the same – what happens when someone offers to bring back the dead, but the delivery of each author was distinct and unique. As mentioned before, the premise bring up many questions – what would you be willing to give to have your loved one restored to life? Are you willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice, a life for a life? If you do pay, what will you bring back? Four Summoner’s Tales was an experiment that delivered well on its premise.


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