I was completely addicted to the Thieves' World
series of the 1980s - at least for about the first six books. In case you're not familiar with them, it's a series of short story anthologies set in the town of Sanctuary, a sort of robbers' den of a town, at the far reaches of an empire that's seen better days - in other words, not much of a law and order kind of place. The trick to these stories, tho', was that any of the participating authors could use any character created by another author, and do anything to them short of killing them. As a result, we had a male character who, in the hands of another author, was recast as a woman in disguise; a thief of unknown parentage who started out just as a simple, hard-working criminal, but later learned that he was more than human; and, in one case, a military type who was revealed to be the avatar of a god and therefore immortal, which allowed another author to have him kidnapped and tortured at length by vivisection (yeah, they cut him up and he healed - over and over again. Didn't kill him - just hurt him. A lot.) They were a hell of a lot of fun to read, until the whole thing devolved into internecine wars between the various factions inhabiting Sanctuary - the failing imperial force, bands of mercenaries prone to switching sides at a moment's notice, an exiled ruler of still another country and her own entourage, including a well-armed militia... I intentionally avoid political thrillers because the who's-doing-what-to-whom part bores me, and I hate it when my SF goes that way. I soldiered on (pun sort of intended) until the series ended with Book 12, but it was only for the sake of finishing the job in a way, not because I was really enjoying the stories. Besides, they lost several of my favorite authors and their characters along the way, which took some of the gloss off.
Which is part of why I enjoyed Liavek
so much - not only is it another anthology with shared characters in the manner of Thieves' World, it also brought back the sense of fun of those earlier volumes. Liavek
was edited by Will Shetterly and Emma Bull, husband and wife authors of/contributors to such delightful reads as the Borderlands series, The War of the Oaks
, and other "urban fantasy" in the vein of Charles de Lint. Apparently there are several other volumes of stories set in Liavek, which I think I'll have to track down.
Liavek is another cross-cultural town like Sanctuary, this one crawling with magics, or "luck" as most is termed - everyone has an opportunity to tap into their "luck" during the anniversary each year of the time frame of their mother's labor. A short labor means a brief time for accomplishing things not normally possible. Those who are magically gifted or trained can "invest" their luck in an object and thus have access to it at all times - but failure in carrying out the difficult investment ritual means death soon thereafter, and success leaves the wizard open to disaster if the object bearing their luck is discovered, lost, or destroyed. With this much magic at hand, most of these stories examine the dangers of an ill-considered reach for power, covert wars between rival wizards to undermine the competition, the complications of being a foundling (thus not knowing one's birthdate/time), etc.
None of the stories is earth-shatteringly good; but sometimes simply a ripping good yarn is just what the doctor ordered.