The race of man is growing old, but it’s not yet ready to die – not while there are dragons still to kill! The cross-bred dragon armies of the Men of Aerlith are the most appalling horrors ever to threaten the sanity of our future: Termagents ~ three hundred reptilian giants with six legs apiece, the most fecund breeders of them all. Jugglers ~ eighteen of them, growling amongst themselves, waiting for an opportunity to snap off a leg from any unwary groom. Murderers (striding and long-horned) ~ eighty-five of each, with scaly tails and eyes like crystals. Fiends ~ fifty-two powerful monsters, their tails tipped with spike steel balls. Blue Horrors, Basics, Spider Dragons… the enemy has no chance.
Lucius Shepard is a grand master of dark fantasy, famed for his baroque yet utterly contemporary visions of existential subversion and hallucinatory collapse. In Dagger Key, his fifth major story collection, Shepard confronts hard-bitten loners and self-deceiving operators with the shadowy emptiness within themselves and the insinuating darkness without, to ends sardonic and terrifying. The stories in this book, including six novellas, are: “Stars Seen Through Stone” – in a small Pennsylvania town, mediocrity suddenly blossoms into genius; but at what terrible cost? “Emerald Street Expansions” – in near-future Seattle, echoes of the life of a medieval French poet hint at either reincarnation or a dire conspiracy. “Limbo” – a retired criminal on the run from the Mafia encounters ghosts, and much worse, on the shores of a haunted lake. “Liar’s House” – in the grip of the legendary dragon Griaule, destiny is a treacherous and transformative thing. “Dead Monty” – a small-time New Orleans criminal ventures outside his proper territory, and poker and voudoun conspire to bring him down. “Dinner at Baldassaro’s” – a gang of immortals debates the future in an Italian resort, only for events to outrun any of their expectations. “Abimagique” – a glib college loser falls in love with a witch, becoming an involuntary part of a world-saving – or world-destroying – magical ritual. “The Lepidopertrist” – a small boy on a Caribbean island witnesses the creation of preternatural beings by a Yankee wizard… “Dagger Key” – off the coast of Belize, the ghost of a famous pirate seems to control a spiral of murder and intrigue; or is someone else responsible?
A collection of five magical tales of Earthsea, the fantastical realm created by a master storyteller that has held readers enthralled for more than three decades. “The Finder”, a novella set a few hundred years before A Wizard of Earthsea, when he Archipelago was dark and troubled, reveals how the famous school on Roke was started. In “The Bones of the Earth” the wizards who first taught Ged demonstrate how humility, if great enough, can rein in an earthquake. Sometimes wizards an pursue alternative careers – and “Darkrose and Diamond” is also a delightful story of young courtship. Return to the time when Ged was Archmage of Earthsea in “On the High Marsh”, a story about the love of power and the power of love. And “Dragonfly”, showing how a determined woman can break the glass ceiling of male magedom, provides a bridge – a dragon bridge – between Tehanu and The Other Wind.