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Tales of the Emerald Serpent
 
 

Tales of the Emerald Serpent [Kindle Edition]

Julie Czerneda , Juliet McKenna , Harry Connolly , Lynn Flewelling , Rob Mancebo , Todd Lockwood , Michael Tousignant , Martha Wells , Scott Taylor , Jeff Laubenstein

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Product Description

Product Description

Taux, city of cursed stone and home to a growing population of the displaced. Deep within its walls rests the old Ullamaliztli Stadium, and it’s fabled Black Gate, where life treads a fine line between law and chaos. Tales of the Emerald Serpent allows readers a glimpse into this shadow world as nine authors tell a shared world mosaic that sets this fantasy anthology apart from any on the shelves today.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3546 KB
  • Print Length: 180 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Art of the Genre; 2nd Edition edition (15 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008C6JE2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #405,531 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great "shared-world" anthology! 23 Aug 2012
By Lou Anders - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Tales of the Emerald Serpent (Ghosts of Taux)is a shared world anthology, very much in the tradition of Robert Lynn Asprin's Thieves' Worldseries. It's the brainchild of Scott Taylor, a blogger and senior editor at Black Gate magazine. And it's a Kickstarter funded project, raising an impressive $13,418.

The book features stories from authors Lynn Flewelling, Harry Connolly, Todd Lockwood, Juliet E. McKenna, Michael Tousignant, Martha Wells, Julie Czerneda, Scott Taylor himself, and Rob Mancebo. The cover art is by Todd Lockwood, with interior art by Jeff Laubenstein and Todd Lockwood.

I confess to funding it out of curiosity to see just what was possible on Kickstarter, more an act of research than one of pleasure. However, I finished reading Tales of the Emerald Serpent this past Saturday, and my verdict is that I'm very impressed.

It's worth noting that I funded a second book project around the same time. That one achieved ten times its funding goal this past April, and two months past its estimated delivery goal, has yet to materialize.

By contrast, Tales of the Emerald Serpent made its funding on April 18th and had shipped out all copies of it's digital edition by June 26th. The delivery process was professional and efficient, with daily updates explaining which reward levels were being delivered when.

The book itself (and I've seen the physical edition though I speak here of the ebook edition) is a thing of beauty. Todd Lockwood's cover is absolutely gorgeous, and the cover is reproduced inside the ebook and - most importantly - at a decent resolution. The ebook also includes all the interior art, also at a high level of resolution, and has an embedded back cover. It's a good deal better packaged and presented than a good many books coming out of professional houses.

Also, note the medallions in the corners of the front cover. You'll see that three are in sepia tones, while the fourth, in the upper right corner, is in color. These medallions indicate what era of Scott's enormous history these stories occur in. This is similar to what the Star Wars books do, with the icons on the novels telling you where a story takes place in the Old Republic or the New Jedi Order, etc... It's a device that I've been kicking around in my own head for a while now, considering for a project I'm working on, and frankly I'm jealous Scott's beat me to it.

I would like it if there was some sort of introduction that placed this city in context. Perhaps some notes on how the idea came about (I've heard that it was the setting for a RPG campaign but nothing in the book confirms or denies this) or some background on the world in which the city of Taux resides. A glossary would also have been nice. More importantly, the book has a lot of invented races, the Aspara, the Jai-Ruk, the Kin. Wonderful pencil illustrations of these creatures were included in email updates sent out to the Kickstarter backers, but the book itself would really have been served by including them. I found myself logging on to Kickstarter throughout the reading experience to see who was what, and I imagine someone who wasn't a backer, and thus couldn't access the posted art, might have been even more confused. But given that few "traditionally published" anthologies even have interior art, Tales of the Emerald Serpent still comes out at the head of the pack.

Are there nitpicks? Sure. But speaking just in terms of the professionalism of the product, from its "customer service" to its presentation, I give this one an A-. And that's a very high grade.

Now on to the fiction...

The stories in Tales of the Emerald Serpent don't just share a location, they sometimes share characters. The various events described weave together in much the same way that the tales of Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels do. They weave and wind through the Emerald Serpent tavern, the Silk Purse brothel, and the Raised Market, and events in one story are often alluded to in another. This adds a level of reality and credibility to the setting that makes me long for a detailed map of the city and another of the continent it's set on. What we do know of Taux we have to glean from the stories themselves. Taux is a sort of faux-Aztec or Mayan style city, whose original inhabitants suddenly vanished one day under mysterious, and presumably horrendous, circumstances. The city has been repopulated by immigrants from other cultures, though one wonders about the intelligence of anyone willing to live in a city where the stones whisper. To live in Taux is to convince yourself that whatever happened to them couldn't possibly happen to you. Having spent six years living above a fault line, I don't have any problem buying into this. Meanwhile, the way the book hints at something under the city and the very real possibility that something dire could be coming to a head is just delicious.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the best stories are by the most experienced contributors. Lynn Flewelling, Juliet E. McKenna, Martha Wells, and Julie Czerneda's tales are all excellent--Czerneda's in particular--while Harry Connolly's "The One Thing You Can Never Trust" is worth the price of the whole anthology by itself. His is the tale of Emil Lacosta, a merchant who deals in love potions (and whose best customer is the madame of the aforementioned Silk Purse), who is approached by a client with a very unusual request. I won't spoil it, but this was the story that made me sit up and take notice.

The big surprise for me was artist Todd Lockwood, who contributes the story "Between." Todd labored under the constraints of having to tie his tale directly into two other stories, but he does an admirable job. More importantly, his character of Torrent (the woman pictured center on the cover above) is marvelous--he can really write character--and I hope he gets to write about her again. Lockwood has long been regarded as one of the top illustrators of our genre, but I suspect, with his recent novel sale to DAW, that he will soon have a reputation as a writer as well.

There was only one story that I felt was below professional quality, though I won't say which one. Finally, Rob Mancebo's story suffers from essentially ending with a big "To Be Continued". It's a set up with no pay off, and I wish the book didn't end that way. But I liked eight out of nine stories in the volume, and that's an amazing average.

I'd highly recommend Tales of the Emerald Serpent. I like what it does and how it goes about it. It's a smart, good looking package with some real gems of fiction inside. I have no knowledge of a sequel in the works, but I'd certainly fund a Tales of the Emerald
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tapestry of Tales 3 July 2012
By Self Improver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
The first story of the book feels like an origin, which is appropriate, as the book itself is only the beginning. While not a traditional chapter book per se, a bigger picture forms with each story. The Silk Purse brothel is not only the home of the first stories protagonist, but an employer of the second story's; a death in the second story sets up the protagonist of the third to stay ashore; and so on, until the number of connections and events becomes so intermingled that it becomes difficult to say where one story ends and another begins, all ending in a rather shocking cliff hanger.

It's a fun read full of fun characters, with an unwritten promise in it's many stories: this is only the beginning.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tight, Varied Present for Those Who Remember Thieves World 12 April 2013
By J. B. Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Scott Taylor openly acknowledges that, yes, Tales of the Emerald Serpent is a collection of short stories absolutely inspired by Robert Asprin's Thieves World project. Like Asprin's collections, the stories are sword-and-sorcery centered around a town of cut-throats, tricksters, callous oligarchs and the poor innocents trapped into living next door to them. Unlike the earlier Thieves World collections, this one is a lot tighter, with the stories referencing each other and, in some cases, woven together. Much of it feels like a fantasy version of 24, only with each story being that day from a different character's perspective.

Also, unlike Thieves World's Sanctuary, Tales of the Emerald Serpent's city of Taux is much more of a character in and of itself. The ancient city, clearly inspired by Aztec and Mayan culture, is populated by ghosts, nearly every brick and stone inhabited by the specters of its previous citizens who were suddenly slain in a mysterious magical disaster. Many of the stories center around these ghosts or are influenced by the ever-present threat that the citizens of Taux are both blase about and constantly aware of.

The book includes nine stories, many by well-known authors. They range from the straight-up caper-style story (reminiscent of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) Three Souls for Sale by Mike Tousignant to the family drama of Lynn Flewelling's Namesake. Harry Connolly's dark The One Thing You Can Never Trust is probably the most disturbing and Twilight Zone-ish of the stories. The artist Todd Lockwood gives us a rollicking and fun tale about a Corsair who meets an old flame and gets drawn into his schemes. Juliet E. McKenna's Venture is a surprisingly sweet story threaded around the warp of racial tensions in a fantasy world.

Martha Wells' Revnants feels exactly like the sort of story you'd expect from the author of City of Bones, mingling heroic fantasy with cultural archeology. It's a good story, but the ending feels a touch abrupt, as does Rob Mancebo's Footsteps of Blood, both leaving the door wide open for sequels or longer treatments.

And then there's Scott Taylor's Charlatan, which does a masterful job of weaving nearly all the stories together. Almost every other tale gets a passing nod in his story of a devious trickster challenged to a duel he cannot possibly win. It's great fun, even if it's a bit abrupt in the climax (though understandably so).

There's not a bad story in the bunch and my favorite is Julie Czerneda's Water Remembers, which gives us a glimpse at those who dwell among the wizards of the Star Tower as well as the ways in which the haunting of an entire city can lead to surprising transformations among what would otherwise be rather mundane trades crafts.

If you're looking for some new good old sword-and-sorcery derring-do and skullduggery, Tales of the Emerald Serpent is absolutely worth your time and treasure. The characters are intriguing and unique, their adventures feel both fresh and familiar, and there's a fun mix of danger, greed, heart, and humor. Here's hoping we get additional glimpses into the days and nights of Taux soon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun anthology! The City of Taux is worth visiting 2 Oct 2012
By Gary Hoggatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Tales of the Emerald Serpent is a 2012 fantasy anthology edited by Scott Taylor. The book began as a Kickstarter project, and contains nine stories by Lynn Flewelling, Harry Connolly, Todd Lockwood, Juliet McKenna, Michael Tousignant, Martha Wells, Julie Czerneda, editor Scott Taylor, and Rob Mancebo.

The stories each are self-contained, but include a variety of connections to other tales in the anthology, such as recurring characters, scenes, or items. The effect is well-done, giving you a sense that you're seeing various facets of the City of Taux, but - like the characters themselves - never able to know everything that's going on. The stories are in general very good. As is typical in an anthology, the quality varies. A few were especially well done, my favorites being "The One Thing You Can Never Trust" by Connolly, "Between" by Lockwood, and "Water Remembers" by Czerneda. One or two were a bit short of the others, but overall, it's a strong set of stories.

The City of Taux merits special mention. More than any single story or character, it was my favorite part of the anthology. Taux was vacated years ago by the pseudo-Aztec or Mayan people who inhabited it in some sort of catastrophe that no one understands. The current inhabitants moved in later and live in the shadow of whatever doom occurred in Taux, the very stones of the city whispering of what occurred there. Of course, since none know what happened, none know if it might happen again. The Emerald Serpent of the title is an inn that many of the characters visit in their stories (one is reminded of the Silver Eel in Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar's tales). The Meso-American feel of the city is very well done and sets a great tone for the individual stories. It's also very nice to get away from pseudo-European fantasy and explore the fantasy analogue of another culture.

The book includes, in addition to the beautiful cover from Lockwood, who's known for his art, a piece of interior black and white art for each story. These pieces come from Lockwood, Jeff Laubenstein, and Janet Aulisio. The illustrations help set the mood and keep the particular feel of Taux in your mind as you read.

I really enjoyed Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and applaud the well-executed shared world approach to the anthology, as well as the choice to use the myths and legends of Meso-America as inspiration. I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun fantasy read, especially something with a different flavor to it. I definitely plan to read any future anthologies set in Taux.

Note: I received my copy of the book by backing it on Kickstarter.com.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shared world fun. 27 July 2012
By Andy Goldman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Tales of the Emerald Serpent was a blast, especially for someone like me who is a fan of past shared world books like Thieves' World and Merovingen Nights. I was surprised and pleased by how closely some of the stories fit together; it almost deserves an instant re-read, like when you watch Sixth Sense and want to watch it over after you've seen the ending, in order to appreciate it fully.
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