Man-eating monsters. Devils in the dark. Darkness lingering in the shadows.
Can light overcome it? Can the weak and fearful stand strong?
This anthology will keep you reading past your bedtime with heartfelt stories of light illuminating the darkness.
I received this book for free from the publisher. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.
Where Giants Fall is an anthology comprising of 14 fantasy short stories, all inspired by a message of light conquering darkness, and every story reminded me in some way of John 1:5 – “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. Another prevelant theme throughout this collection is one of loss and grief, being an uncurrent in many of the stories and the main thread in a select few.
While these short stories are written from a Christian worldview, the level of explicit faith in the stories vary, with some of the short stories being much more forward and clear in their presentation, which a few times came off as preachy but I applaud the authors’ purposeful intent. However, there were also some brilliant allegories that really spoke to me, and caused me to be self-reflective and encouraged.
The stories in this collection are a variety of lengths and levels of darkness, while still being appropriate for young adults. While life-long adult lovers of the fantasy genre will definitely enjoy this collection, it is also a safe introduction to darker fantasy for young teens, and would be an excellent tool for parents and teens to read together and discuss!
Another observation that is neither here or there, is that this collection has male-dominated stories, making it possibly a better fit for young boys than young girls interested in the genre. While I would have personally loved more female protagonists, I can’t say I would have changed any individual story’s characters.
Since I cannot cover all fourteen stories in detail, I wanted to pull out my three favorites to highlight:
No Hero by Michael LaVoice
“I am no hero, but by the gods, I can make her ready to be one.”
I am a sucker for a “man escorting little girl to safety” story! This story gave me some fantastic Dragon Age/Dungeons and Dragons vibes that really drew me in from the beginning! It contained several great action sequences that were balanced out with sprinkles of enchanting lore about heroes of old. I loved Roark’s journey of discovering hope and confidence, and the tender relationship between himself and the child. If you love D&D, The Last of Us, or A Quiet Place 2, this story will be a run-home for you as well!
Into the Light by Abby Smith
“Darkness enveloped him-so dense he could almost touch it.”
This is another story had some fan-freaking-tastic worldbuilding! It drew me in right away with an excellent depiction of very relatable fear of darkness – that feeling of waking in the middle of the night, and it’s pitch black, and you can’t find the light! Except in this intrigugin world, it is eternal darkness. This story had some wonderful characters, focusing on a small characters of well-formed individuals that told a tight and exciting story. Plus, there was an excellent ballance of high stakes and humor. I will definitely be looking to read more from this author, and would one-hundred-percent read a full-length novel in this world!
And finally, the best was absolutely saved for last in this anthology…
The Silver Dragon by R. J. Setser
“Heartache is poison to the mind when left alone to fester.
This story was captivating from the first sentence, and was written with a raw authenticity that is deep and reflective, like the calm in the middle of the storm. Written from a genuine heart wrestling with pain, anyone who has experienced deep heartbreak will find themselves in this story, as it explored grief and anger through the fantastical journey of a hurting knight hunting a legendary dragon. This story was absolutely incredible, giving me lots of chills and a feeling of being seen, reading like a D&D campaign colliding with David’s Psalms of anguish. The Silver Dragon is for anyone who has experienced loss, and needs guidance to find hope in the darkness of heartache.
Since there are a variety of stories in this collection, it was difficult to find a rating as some stories were 10 out of 5 stars, while a few were only 3 stars. Still, I decided that those big stand-out stories make this anthology something every fantasy lover should have on their shelves winning Where Giants Fall 5 stars!
Trigger Warning: This collection does involve references suicidal thoughts and self-harm.