Rueful Yet Hopeful

The Appendix N Book Club podcast has quickly become one of our go-to podcasts: the hosts and their guests discuss the Fantasy books that inspired the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game with affection but also a modern sensibility! Ngo Vinh-Hoi, the podcast’s co-host, wrote a really nice review of our story collection:

I recently read the fantasy short story collection The Red Man and Others as a palate cleanser from a longer SF&F reading project and I’m very glad that I took the time to do so!

The setting echoes early modern Northern Europe, a world coming unmoored in socio-religious upheaval and simmering violence but thus rife with opportunities for adventure. Our protagonists Kaila, Ymke, and Sebastien are the overlooked and never-weres, struggling to get by and stay true to themselves through cleverness, skill at arms, and not a little luck. Issues of queerness, coping with disability, and found family arise organically within the stories, signalling not a deconstruction of sword & sorcery, but a broader inclusivity.

Overall this collection reads a bit like Robert E. Howard’s gritty historical adventures with a dash of Fritz Leiber’s insouciant humor, filtered through Adams’ and van Straten’s own rueful yet hopeful sensibility. The absence of overt magic might technically disqualify these stories as sword & sorcery, but the themes of anti-authoritarianism and survival in an indifferent world make these tales at least S&S adjacent. We’ll just have to wait for more tales of Kaila, Ymke, and Sebastien to be sure:-)

As a bonus, co-author Remco van Straten provides some lovely pen & ink story heading illustrations (more please!) and there are two “Extras disc” essays where the authors outline their influences and writing process.

I’d definitely recommend the The Red Man and Others to fans of sword & sorcery who have worked their way through the classics and are ready for stories that honor the past yet look to the future.

Ngo Vinh-Hoi, co-host of the Appendix N Book Club podcast

When writing anything that hints at social commentary, or drives a point home with a sledgehammer, there is a constant tension between our best and worst instincts about what the world is, about what people are. The compromise we arrive at is perfectly stated in this review: “rueful, yet hopeful.” Amongst other things, the stories in The Red Man and Others are about wiggle room: the possibility, if not the inevitability, of change. In future stories you’ll see that the events of Otasring have changed our trio of “never-weres”. Whether it’s for better or for worse – well, it’s complicated.

You can find The Red Man and Others on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you like it as much too, we would love to hear from you: positive reviews and ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are like gold nuggets for indie writers!