Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast
by Mark Chadbourn
The lead story in The Solaris Book of New Fantasy is a rolicking, fast paced riff off the classic Sherlock-Holmes-style mystery… only with a cadre of evil Faeries and straw men to spice things up. True to the style of story, super-spy William Swyfte (think James Bond, circa 1598) and sidekick Nataniel Colt get wrapped up in a hairy situation on Christmas Eve and have to keep themselves, along with a houseful of guests, safe until sunrise.
The pace moves quickly, as it should in any piece of short fiction, but at times I felt it moved almost too frenetically, losing me from time to time as I tried to keep up with the characters and the twists in the plot. In many instances, I felt the story lacked context and setup, as though I were supposed to know already why Swyfte was so well known around England, how he was so resourceful and why he wasn’t the least bit surprised by the all magick that occurs over the course of the story.
The high point of the story, however, were the well drawn characters themselves. Swyfte’s sidekick, Nathaniel, is the star as far as I’m concerned. Clever, quiet and resigned to live in Swyfte’s shadow, Nathaniel plays the perfect foil to the spy, while evening out the tone of the story. Also enjoyable was Chadbourn’s depiction of a lovesick, slightly unlikable Sir Edmund Spenser and the relationship between him and his mysterious lover.
All in all, Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast left me entertained and interesting in finding out more about Chadbourn and his novels. I’d be interested to see more of Swyfte, his sidekick, and their relationship with the Faerie race, which I felt just couldn’t be done justice in the short length of the story. Chadbourn serves up an interesting, over-too-quick story that serves as a nice starting point for the anthology.