The Solaris Book of New Fantasy edited by George MannWho 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.

  • Chris (The Book Swede) November 14, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Sounds really good :) Right up my street.

    The only thing that put me off slightly was “magick”! Nobody, even back then, used it! LOL. Bloody Aleister Crowley for having to add his special ‘k’ to the mix :D

    Nice cover art, too, from what I can see.

    The Book Swede

  • aidan November 14, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Indeed, the cover art by Jon Sullivan is terrific!

    The story is good and I just found out that the two main characters are actually featured in one of Mark’s full length novels, Jack of Ravens, which I will definitely be looking into to find some of that missing context!

  • […] – of Janny Wurts. A letdown after the strong, opening in the anthology (Mark Chadbourn’s Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast), I certainly hope that this is the weakest of the stories featured in the collection. digg_skin = […]

  • JDavidBodzin January 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

    First, Thank you for recommending this collection. I went out an bought it a few weeks ago and am now reading it.

    This was an interesting story and entertaining. I think you are correct when you say the story moved a little to fast to follow at times. It was almost as though this story could have been half of a chapter to an actual novel; all the guts and meat removed, and we were left chewing on bare bones. At least the bones were flavorful.

  • Dave January 20, 2008 at 6:49 am

    I just bought the book and read this story. I agree, it’s pretty good, and to team up these two, Swyfte and Colt would make an interesting longer story. Pretty good, but not ass mind boggling as it could be.

  • […] encountered Chadbourn’s work through his short story, Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast (REVIEW), from The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, which features Swyfte and found it quite enjoyable. […]