Plot: Heroika: Dragon Eaters is a collection of short stories from various authors. The common theme is defeating a monster. While this is usually in the form of a dragon, it does also feature wryms and monsters that live in the water rather than the traditional dragon.
The stories vary in length but the majority either feature soldiers or Gods of some sort. Most also include eating the flesh of the vanquished beast – hence the title – but not all go into detail. An interesting collection of stories with different takes on the same themes, although some are stronger than others.
Quote: `We’re all set to kill each other over principles…slavery, states’ rights…and then this dragon threatens to do all the killin’ for us. And we want to stop it so we can get back to doin’ it for ourselves.`
Opinion: A collection of short stories is always harder to review than a novel because each story has different strengths and weaknesses. Heroika engaged me more than I expected, however, as usually I enjoy stories where the dragons are the good guys and on the side of righteousness rather than being defeated in every story. The characters in the majority were strong enough that I was rooting for them.
My favourite story was Against the Sky Tomb of the Earth Kings by M. Harold Page. This story had many aspects of fantasy included: ghosts, dwarves, dragons and flying castles to name but a few. It was the classic tale of someone getting caught up in something far beyond them but becoming determined to save the day regardless. There wasn’t as much focus on the dragon as on the other fantastical elements and the clash of characters between Lazward and the Duchess gave the story some entertainment.
In fact, if I think about it, all of the favourites followed this pattern. A group of people determined to see a mission through because it meant protecting those they loved, regardless of the consequences. They were the stories with the obvious lessons and morals.
My least favourite was The Old Man on a Mountain by Jack William Finley. Not because the writing lacked any quality but because the whole story seemed pointless. It recounted an old battle and a man’s desire for revenge – all very well and good. But the man literally died metres away from his victory of old age and a few injuries. There was no message of will power overcoming anything, just the idea that you could fall short of your dreams at the very last hurdle.
Overall, I thought this was an interesting premise. A lot of the stories involved Gods – whether fantasy ones or ones with roots in our culture – and their battles against the beasts. A lot also involved teams of desperate men overcoming great odds, and we all know that makes a good story.
If you like dragons or are interested in the different takes authors have, then I would recommend this book as one to read.