Unfettered: Tales By Masters of Fantasy Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
You define life or it defines you. In Shawn Speakman’s case, it was both. Lacking health insurance and diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, Shawn quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he did not have the ability to pay. That’s when New York Times best-selling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story that Shawn could sell to help alleviate those bills - and suggested he ask the same of his other writer friends. Unfettered is the result: An anthology built in order to relieve that debt, featuring short stories by some of the best fantasy writers in the genre.
Twenty-three tales comprise this incredible collection, and as the title suggests, the writers were free to contribute whatever they wished. Here is the table of contents:
- Foreword by Patrick Rothfuss
- Introduction: On Becoming Unfettered
- Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks
- How Old Holly Came to Be by Patrick Rothfuss
- The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams
- Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn
- The Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey
- Mudboy by Peter V. Brett
- The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian
- The Coach with Big Teeth by R. A. Salvatore
- Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood
- Heaven in a Wild Flower by Blake Charlton
- Dogs by Daniel Abraham
- The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne
- Select Mode by Mark Lawrence
- All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham
- Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth
- Nocturne by Robert V. S. Redick
- Unbowed by Eldon Thompson
- In Favour with Their Stars by Naomi Novik
- River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
- The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
- The Duel by Lev Grossman
- Walker and the Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks
- The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman
With the help of stalwart friends and these wonderful short stories, Shawn has taken the gravest of life’s hardships and created something magical. Unfettered is not only a fantastic anthology in its own right, but it’s a testament to the generosity found in the science fiction and fantasy community—proof that humanity can give beyond itself when the need arises. After all, isn’t that the driving narrative in fantasy literature?
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|Listening Length||20 hours and 16 minutes|
|Author||Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Jordan, Jacqueline Carey, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Shawn Speakman - editor, Peter V. Brett|
|Narrator||Peter Ganim, Marc Vietor, Bronson Pinchot, Jay Snyder|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||January 21, 2014|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #12,658 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#37 in Fantasy Anthologies & Short Stories (Audible Books & Originals)
#52 in Science Fiction Anthologies & Short Stories
#115 in Fantasy Anthologies
Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2018
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Shawn Speakman has truly made a fine collection of tales from Lev's tale of High King Elliot dueling a raiding pseudoviking, grifting knights coming up with a proposal, dragons fighting off space marines, an unexpectedly scary story by R.A. Salvatore, dwarves playing the fool, children rejecting a toxic father, a druidic take on the holy grail, shades caught in a cycle of suffering and bards using that suffering to fight.
My favorite story is All the Girls love Michael Stein. I just backed a new kickstarter called magical kitties by atlas games which is an rpg for kids and I will definitely steal I mean borrow ideas from that tale when running my little guy an adventure.
My favorite quotes are from the faerie in Shawn's tale: "Asssqueak, Tittweak, Vambies or Zompires?
Highly recommend reading this.
Now for those interested in the why's and why not's then reader further.
Imaginary Friends - Terry Brooks
A master of fantasy writing, Terry Brooks gives us this wonderful story of magic in the real world. Told through the eyes of a child that experiences a fantastic world of elves and dragons. Do you ever remember recreating fantastic worlds when you were a kid? But what happens when those imaginary worlds are actually right there in your neighborhood, just hidden from the grown ups but accessible to you? This is the setting of this wonderful story. It transported me back to my childhood and I truly enjoyed the ride.
How old Holly Came To Be - Patrick Rothfuss
A chant or rhythmic prose that reads like a poem by Patrick Rothfuss. Although this type of writing has never been my cup of tea, the underlying story is one of wonderment, love, good and evil but ultimately of beauty. Definitely a different side I have not seen from Patrick Rothfuss. Completely different from his highly successful series and books, The Name of the Wind and Wiseman's Fears
The Old Scale Game - Tad Williams
Funny! Highly entertaining. Tad Williams writes a great story about a Knight and a Dragon in cahoots to scam people out of their money. Reminiscent of the movie Dragonheart but what happens when other fairy creatures figure out what these 2 are pulling off? Then things get quite interesting and funnier. Brilliant! If you liked this story then you should also check out his short story anthology A Stark and Wormy Knight
Game of Chance - Carrie Vaughn
Refreshing! The story of these people that can be called very well masters of the world. They have magical abilities that allows them to influence the world. Their agenda to stir the motivations of these political figures. But what is the price of using these abilities? How far can they push before they are drawn back into the real world they are trying to influence? These and other questions are answered throughout the story brilliantly told by not the most powerful of all the masters of the world.
Mudboy - Peter V Brett
Demons in a world where humans fend off as best as I can to keep them at bay. A child learns from his father how to battle them. His mother teaches him how to cure the wounds they give. Briar is young but already exposed to the evil of this world, to the demons that surrounds us. A terrific story that begins brilliantly and ends perfectly. This story was intended to be part of his book, The Daylight War. An emotional story that has made me a new fan of Peter V Brett
The Sound of Broken Absolutes - Peter Orullian
Mr. Orullian writing is both fantastic and musical. How can you not love a fantasy where the magic system is rooted in music? Well I guess if you don't like music. But lets assume you do... Then you must read this story. A man that lost his family do to war, leaves his training incomplete and joins the war. He uses his voice and knowledge of music to exact justice. Or is it revenge? There are always consequences to all the choices we make and he is not immune to that. I liked this story so much that I went and bought a copy of The Unremembered. This is a must read story in this anthology. Musical and Excellent!
The Coach With Big Teeth - R.A. Salvatore
The story of a kid that is not one of the jocks. He is there at the baseball field, on the right field where statistically nothing will ever be hit at. And if there is a slight chance of that happening, the good coach will switch you out immediately to avoid anything bad happening. After all we all want to win, right? How can you turn this story into something supernatural? Well read this story from R.A Salvatore and you can find out. Perhaps, you were a kid just like the one in this story once and it might just resonate with you. A well done supernatural horror story.
Keeper of Memory - Todd Lockwood
Perhaps you know Mr. Lockwood for his awesome artistic skills on the many fantasy books his art is shown. Terry Brooks and Shawn Speakman works sport some of Todd's magnificent work. This time though we have Todd's writing and let me tell you it is nothing short of awesome. Dragons, magic and a terrific shocking ending. Can the Keeper of Memories survive his fate? I am not gonna give you any other details, this is the kind of story you have to read to have a really good appreciation for it. Like a painting, no matter how much you want to describe it, you need to see it for yourself to be able to relate to it. Read this story if nothing else in this book. Absolutely Outstanding!
Heaven in a Wild Flower - Blake Charlton
This story is both an incredible tale of love, magic and wonderment. It almost made me cry. I said almost. Touching and so real. I think unless you are Dexter (Showtime series), you will be moved by this story. You don't know who Dexter is? Ok, go fix that. But seriously now, it is an emotional story that will touch your heart. What would happen if you decide to intertwine your life essence with that of a child? Would you do it willingly, not knowing what will happen in the future? What if your chances are slim? Does love conquers all? Read this wonderful story from Blake Charlton and find out.
Dogs - Daniel Abraham
An interesting story with deep psychological undertones. What does happen to the mind of a person when they have been attacked by dogs? This is the question Daniel Abraham explores in this tale of loss and fear. It is about the human condition, of the things we take for granted - of how safe that walk to work might or might not be. Mr. Abraham shares the construction of this wonderful story with us. This is both a great story and a rare opportunity to get behind the mind of an author.
The Chapel Perilous - Kevin Hearne
Who doesn't like a story about a lost powerful item? The Holy Grail of eternal food? The chalice that doesn't stop feeding people? Mr. Hearne writes about it in a celtic, druid type setting. Our protagonist a powerful druid infused with nature's own magic. Our antagonist is no other than a Pict with dark powers. This story is both adventurous, funny and full of that good old fantasy we all like. Thumbs up for a well written story. I read this one in one sitting as I needed to know if in the end good prevails or not.
Select Mode - Mark Lawrence
Select Mode is a short story in Mark Lawrence's trilogy world The Broken Empire. If you have not read him already, please do yourself a humongous favor and pick up Prince of Thorns. The short story could be read without previous knowledge of the series and I have to say Mr. Lawrence pulled it flawlessly. The story begins in a grim situation for our protagonist. He is a prisoner and only The Arch can judge him to be Select or not. The situation for Jorg is difficult and chances are he is not gonna live to see it through. His hate for his captors is quite obvious and his skills as a fighter even at his young age are quite apparent. There is no sugar coating in the action and the descriptions of Jorg and his Nuban acquaintance. The story is gritty and real. But what will happen when they are finally in the presence of The Ark? The answer is told in this excellent story. Brilliant, Grim and Gritty - just how i like my stories. Perfectly executed. A must read!
All the Girls Love Michael Stein - David Anthony Durham
A cat story that is unlike any you have ever read. Dead cats that can see people and other dead cats. But what about people that can see dead cats? But even better, what about people that can also hear dead cats talking? Well this story is all that but not in a spooky creepy kind of way. This is a children story about love for those pets that have departed us and those that are with us. This is a story I will read to my young children. I can describe it in just one word, Beautiful.
Strange Rain - Jennifer Bosworth
This story serves as a prequel to the events before Struck and her short story Prophet. What are the origins of the followers of Rance Ridley Prophet - Iris and Ivan? Well this is their story before they were supercharged with powers. I have always liked background stories, like this one. Where we get to learn more about those characters that are in epic adventures but we can't get enough of them. I enjoyed the way the author develops them throughout the story. Good solid writing that I found most enjoyable.
Unbowed - Eldon Thompson
The story of the origins of Kylac one of the characters in Eldon Thompson's The Legend of Asahiel trilogy. Kylac will get his own spin-off series according to the foreword by Thompson. The story is full of good action and a strong plot. This story is so good that without hesitation, I went and bought the trilogy. I really cannot wait to read this upcoming spin-off series on Kylac. The character is believable and the ending was impressive. The story is 40 pages long and I read it in one sitting. That is quite an achievement for me, to be able to read that many pages uninterrupted. The story was that good. All I have to say is, Thanks Mr. Thompson this story is fabulous.
In Favour with their Stars - Naomi Novik
I am sure that with the adequate background into Naomi Novik's Temeraire this story would be even more fun that it is. But it stands on its own and delivers good fantastic fun. Again I read the story in one sitting but ran out of funds to start buying the books in her series! I blame Eldon Thompson for that. But do not despair, this story was so good that I will be buying the whole series to read, perhaps for Xmas. I don't want to spoil the details, but there are Dragons in it. Lovely!
The Jester - Michael J. Sullivan
A story of friendship, adventure and where fate is decided by the choices we make. Powerful story-telling and clever use of characters makes the story even better. This is one of those stories I wish I could spoil to you. Just because I enjoyed the internal conflict of the characters - I felt I was there with them in the story itself. Although, in retrospect that would have been extremely hazardous to my health. Anyways, please read this story and try to picture yourself in their shoes. I think you will enjoy it more that way.
The Duel - Lev Grossman
Oh boy did I laugh reading this story. Mr Grossman story is both hilarious and epic. The way I imagine this story is from the perspective of a 20th century man that now is King in a fairy tale world. And although I have not read Mr. Grossman Magician series, I can tell you that it must be very good. This is a story as the title says... about a duel. And what a duel! Action packed sequences and funny sketches is all I pictured in my mind. Elliot our protagonist, has a unique personality that I can relate to. He feels all too human, all too real. Our hero Elliot , King of the Fillorians, figures out that the best way to stop an all out war that will just end up crushing his enemies in a way that is not even funny is to just duel their best warrior. Elliot is the protagonist and the King of basically every possible fairy monster you can pull out of D&D manual. Get the picture? The bad guys are just screwed... Or so he thinks. Do you want to know who wins? His adversary is nothing short of outstanding himself. Modeled after GRRM's Strong Belwas but with the super powers all too necessary in a fairy world, this man is by no means a walk in the park.
The Unfettered Knight - Shawn Speakman
Now to end this review we have the short story from Shawn Speakman. I own Shawn's The Dark Thorn and it is just an amazing novel. The novel is of the caliber of great authors like Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan and Raymond Feist to mention a few. What? You have not read The Dark Thorn? Fix that, promptly. Save some money and buy it. Because the story of Richard Mcallister needs to be read by as many people as humanly possible. So why this intro about The Dark Thorn? Because our protagonist in The Unfettered Knight is an important figure in The Dark Thorn and pivotal on what will happen with Richard Mcallister. Charles Ardall's responsibility is, in a nutshell, to keep our world and that of the Tuatha (fairy tale creatures) separated and in harmony. Easy right? NO! Because no other than a vampire has crossed into our world through a portal under the Vatican itself! Ok, no more spoilers. And no this is not one of those "glowy vampires". This is one of those hardcore, rip-your-heart-out type of vampire. This is the fight of good vs evil. Druidic Powers vs Vampires! Zompires vs Humans! You don't know what a Zompire is? Read the story! I did not know either and well it was more than a bit of fun. Can our champion defeat what could be the most powerful undead in this world? Shawn delivers an exquisite exposition of magic and creepy vampire lore with a twist that you will not expect. Mix that with his already great take in fairy tales and you are up for a great ride.
I want to finish this review with an uplifting note. I met Terry Brooks recently in Connecticut at the Mark Twain House. It was a special occasion for me as I could speak to him one on one at a reception before the event. The question came up then, "How is Shawn doing?" and Terry plainly said: "He is doing great!" Based on the quality of the work that you find in his anthology Unfettered, his short story and that of the authors he chose to have in it, I have to say Terry must be right on the money. Now Shawn get to write, I am waiting for the sequel to The Dark Thorn.
At the time of this review I have not read: Robert V.S. Redick Nocturne, Jacqueline Carey The Martyr of the Roses and Brandon Sanderson River of Souls.
Story two "How Old Holly Came to be is sort of like a poem or even biblical in its word choice. Very strange a tree a tower a woman a man a tower a tree...Time passes the tree grows the tower decays...Rothfuss declares his own work to be odd. He also states he wrote this in a single sitting."
Story three "Tad Williams tells a story about an old retired dragon slayer who asks an old dragon to split his profits for slaying him. The dragon and the dragon slayer strike up a mutually beneficial deal and than con the villages into paying the dragon slayer to kill the dragon in various places. Fun story."
Story four "Game of Chance is a story of people who live outside the world and influence life within it. Godlike or playing a video game with a broader view of how everything influences everything else. One of the characters is trying to influence things for wild political change. However the main character here is focused on the individual and not on the vast change she can make. It is a touching story."
Story five "Martyr of the Roses" was inspired by the authors dream of a rocky outcropping on a beach springing forth a batch of roses. It is a tale of a woman trying to protect a religious relic from unbelievers and had to walk a crazy distance and die which she does on a rocky outcropping on a beach and her footprints bloom roses. Its interesting but strange I suppose she wrote the story to match her dream..."
Story six "Mud Boy" sucked me into a world where demons rule the night and the houses need to be warded against their approach. After reading this short story I very much want to read "The Warded Man" The main character is a six year old who is doing his best to deal with the fear of demons and do his family proud. For a short story I became very invested. Very good."
Story Seven "The Sound of Broken Absolutes" is dark...full of sadness and deal with feelings one has when someone dies. It deals with the feelings of complete helplessness, intensely riveting. Even the title when you have absolutes like a parent or a belief that is absolute and than a parent dies...The Sound of Broken Absolutes. It is not a pleasant sound."
Story Eight "The coach with big Teeth" is heart wrenching. R.A. Salvatore tells in his introduction how he got black listed in little league baseball and how intimidated he was to play baseball for the adults. He was a good player when he played alone in "the sand lot" he was free to be himself. This is a story about how we pressure our kids to much."
Story Nine "Keeper of memory is a story of a man who knew the history of his people and his city and when his city is besieged all the records and record keepers are killed. He runs into a child that is more dream than reality and than the question ends with maybe the Keeper of Memory himself is a dream to the girl...the only record of the people and the city preserved in a vision or a dream. Really cool."
Story Ten "Heaven in a Wild Flower" is about reincarnated people. When they come back to earth they have to be adopted by a parent and than if the reincarnated dies or chooses to return to heaven the adopted parent also dies. The author was explaining that when someone we love dies the parent dies as well...in this story it was literal."
Story Eleven "Dogs" Was a story of a man who is mauled by dogs and his recovery process. It was an analogy to rape victims.
Story Twelve "The Chapel Perilous" is a short story starring the Iron Druid. Makes me want to read a longer story with him. He faces evils in a chapel and takes down a necromancer with earth magics. Very fun and exciting. Reminded me of Michael Sullivan's Theft of Swords series."
Story Thirteen "Select Mode" is from the world of "Prince of Thorns" which exists in a medieval post modern apocalyptic dystopia if that makes any sense. A computer goes back and forth between saying Select and Failure. When the computer god Selects you, you get to live. When you fail you die. Good times Modern and yet ancient tech."
Story Fourteen "All the Girls Love Michael Stein" is about a ghost cat who strives to comfort her grieving owner. The cat makes a deal with the Catfather and his owner is given the ability to see and speak with dead cats. This was a gift from the author to his 13 year old daughter. Touching.
Story Fifteen "Strange Rain" is the story of two adjoined twins who were surgically separated at birth and how through lightning control become fused as one again. Sounds cool sort of like Frankenstein."
Story Sixteen "Nocturne" is the dellusion of a boy fighting with a bout of pneumonia not very enjoyable story."
Story Seventeen "Unbowed" is a master swordsman who is determined not to be a killer not because of the moral question but because the ease of it. Being the best made it to easy to kill so he had determined not to and he is put at odds against his father who is determined to make his son a killer."
Story Eighteen "In Favor with Their Stars" Space and Dragon combat! Fantastic!"
Story Nineteen A short story about the bad guy in book 14 of the wheel of time series. Quick, brutal. Pretty fun."
Story Twenty "Jester" A short story with Royce and Hadrian from "Theft of Swords" it reads like the last chapter of a full feature. The hero is burned, scratched and has a broken leg. We get an epic final chapter and its a run and scream roller coaster ride!
Story Twenty one "The Duel" is brute strength vs every magical advantage in the book. Not that exciting of a fight, maybe there was more background that would of made this short story more enjoyable but it was a lopsided fight at its surface."
Story Twenty Two "Terry Brooks has a second and very short story that reads very much like a deleted scene on a DVD. It is an encounter between a druid and a dead man or phantom maybe a wraith and they have a confusing conversation not attached to any larger story. Uh Thanks?"
Story Twenty Three "Unfettered Knight" is the story of Charles the unfettered knight trying to keep the world safe from a world of trolls, witches and in this story vampires. I got the Harry Dresden vibe from this one. Also if you know the Orcs Must Die video game in which knights defend the rift from stuff coming through to our world that are not invited. It was a fun vampire story."
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I have previously read and enjoyed Terry Brooks and Robert Jordan.
Now I have managed to find some other very good Science Fantasy authors to look out for, which is great. Including Shawn Speakman, who I rate as five stars separately, for "The Dark Thorn".