This short story collection from 1997 is one I had missed until now. I remember loving “The Innkeeper’s Song,” to which it’s connected, but not very much about that book. As Beagle says in his introduction, the stories here are not closely tied to the earlier novel, just on the same world.
All of the stories but one are narrated by someone with a distinctive, and at times almost too omnipresent voice that tends to get in the way of the storytelling, but each story is interesting and involving all the same. “The Last Song of Siril Byar” is about a talented song-writer and bard in his final years, and how he finally comes to resolve the mental anguish of an old lover. “The Magician of Karakosk” is about a man with a natural talent for strong magic, and how it forces him from the simple country life he wants to dwell in a king’s castle and serve a ruler he does not like. “The Tragical Historie of the Jiril’s Players” follows a theater company into the halls of power, where they become pawns in the political games of the king’s family, each with a lust for the throne. “Lal and Soukyan” is the one not narrated in first person, and the one with the most connection to the earlier novel, as it follows two freelance warriors on a last mission together to settle old debts. “Chousi-wai’s Story” is connected to that one by the narrator, and tells of a thief who is hired to steal a bride. “Giant Bones” is about an ancient race of giants that is dying out, and the regular-sized person that becomes part of their final days.
As with much of Beagle’s work, there is a thread of melancholy and regret, but also humor and clever ideas. Recommended.