Liavek – Will Shetterly & Emma Bull

Liavek

Summary

In the city of Liavek, everyone has birth luck, but magicians can bind it during their birthday and use it during the year. Those who fail, die. A shared-world fantasy anthology.

Review

It’s startling to realize that I came across Liavek 35 years ago. I’d been aware of prior shared world projects – primarily Thieves’ World – but somehow never gotten interested, perhaps because I had one friend who was too enthusiastic about them. Liavek, though, caught my eye. It’s chock-full of now-well-known authors, but I doubt I’d heard of any of them then; possibly Pamela Dean.

Looking back on this first volume of Liavek now, it’s astounding who’s in it. The editors admit to inviting some big names: Gene Wolfe, Megan Lindholm (who made it bigger as Robin Hobb), Nancy Kress, Barry Longyear, Jane Yolen, but the original group went on to success as well: Pamela Dean, Steven Brust, Kara Dalkey, Emma Bull, and Will Shetterly.

The book and its concept caught my attention, and I bought all the Liavek books as they came out. Not only were the stories well written, but the stories and characters were loosely but skillfully tied together in a way that made this more connected than a standard anthology, and more diverse than a novel. Looking back on it now, I see some gaps in the magic system, but at the time, it worked nicely for me. The stories themselves, though, stand the test of time – all 35 years of it – pretty well. It’s all pretty well thought out, and I recommend it as an example of a well-executed shared world, as well as a pleasure to read.

Note that the e-editions seem to have split the original five books into eight smaller ones.

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