#WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Hero’s Best Friend: an Anthology of Animal Companions {edited by} Scott M. Sandridge

Posted Sunday, 20 May, 2018 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Tomorrow Comes Media and Seventh Star Press – whilst I participated on the blog tour in [2014] for this title, I was unable to read the stories for review until this year [2018]. I received a complimentary copy of “Hero’s Best Friend” direct from the publisher Seventh Star Press in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What originally drew me into wanting to read this lovely anthology:

Hero’s Best Friend

What I appreciate the most about this particular collection of stories is having each of them capture the essence of a genre-bending sphere of literary delight! They are representative of their actual genres, but they sound as though they give a bit more than what those branches of literature might usually encompass at the very same time! I love fiction that takes on new meanings and new depths, whether I am soaking into a book, a short story, or even whilst immersed into the latest Doctor Who episode I am discovering for the very first time! I find that the series is the epitome of ‘genre-bending’ and brilliance of execution on captivating a person’s attention at the jump-start beginning!

Sandridge and I share a common ground for appreciating animal companions, as his top three choices match my own, as I quite literally rented “Benji: the Hunted” from the rental shoppes so often they nearly gave me the VHS tapes for free! I say ‘nearly!’ as they never could seem to get permission from corporate to do so! Oy! I was simply captivated by Benji, for the same reasons I loved “The Adventures of Natty Gann” in which Natty’s companion is a wolf; “The Neverending Story” who as the wickedest dragon on the planet! (another film in common, he mentions this elsewhere on the tour!); the Mountain Family Robinson trilogy where Crest protected the family; previously I have mentioned my affection for “Pete’s Dragon”; and many others I am failing to draw to memory today! What I appreciate about Jack London is his ability to get your heart attached to a wolf in a way that is different than Natty Gann but is a bit similar to “Due South”; a tv series which features a deaf wolf who takes interest in protecting a Mountie!

From our beginnings of noting animal companions and animals in fiction, we differ a bit on our paths after childhood because I am suspecting the video games are not the ones I’d personally play myself! I’m always going to have half a step and foot on the family and children side of the ledger, not only because I’m a future foster-adoptive Mum, nor even because I’m an Auntie at present, but because I tend to like the innocence in stories for younger generations. I’d wrap myself into a family film far quicker than I would an intense video game! I am a gamer, a title I apparently acquired at three, as I’ve been playing games on the computer since I first started using one! Wayy back when Atari was all the rage and long before Nintendo or the ability to borrow my neighbourhood friend’s Sega Genesis so I could play with Sonic, the quirky hedgehog!

The best news of all, no matter how we gather our passions for animal companions, nor where we wander to find the companions that mean the world to their masters, we each have our own ‘coveted niche’ in the genres we appreciate reading and watching! And, I for one will always celebrate the uniqueness of our individual passions if we can sometimes draw a common thread towards each other and celebrate the love of story-telling which ignites a fever pitch passion for our imaginations!

-quoted from my Spotlight on behalf of Hero’s Best Friend

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#WyrdAndWonder Book Review | Hero’s Best Friend: an Anthology of Animal Companions {edited by} Scott M. SandridgeHero's Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions
by (Editor) Scott M. Sandridge, Herika R. Raymer
Illustrator/Cover Designer: Enggar Adirasa
Source: Direct from Publisher

How far would Gandalf have gotten without Shadowfax? Where would the Vault Dweller be without Dogmeat? And could the Beastmaster been the Beastmaster without his fuzzy allies? Animal companions are more than just sidekicks. Animals can be heroes, too!

Found within are twenty stories of heroic action that focuses on the furries and scalies who have long been the unsung heroes pulling their foolish human buddies out of the fire, and often at great sacrifice-from authors both established and new, including Frank Creed, S. H. Roddey, and Steven S. Long.

Whether you're a fan of Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Science Fiction, or just animal stories in general, this is the anthology for you! So sit back, kick your feet up, and find out what it truly means to be the Hero's Best Friend.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 978-1937929510

Also by this author: , Hero's Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions, Gifts of the Magi

Series: Anthologies from Seventh Star Press


Also in this series: Writers Workshop of Science Fiction & Fantasy, , A Chimerical World, Hero's Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions


Genres: Fantasy Fiction


Published by Seventh Star Press

on 12th February, 2014

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 472

Published By: Seventh Star Press (@7thStarPress)
Available Formats: Trade paperback & Ebook

Genres: Short Story | Fantasy | Animals in Fiction

Converse on Twitter: #HerosBestFriendAntho & #7thStar

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Stories inside: Hero’s Best Friend:

Joy Ward: “Toby and Steve Save the World”

Frank Creed: “Dusk”

Cassie Schau: “The Hunter’s Boy”

Steven Donahue: “Grit”

Jason Cordova: “Hill 142”

Herika R. Raymer: “Dook”

Essel Pratt: “Brothers”

Lisa Hawkridge: “Ezra’s Girl”

S. H. Roddey: “Look What the Cat Dragged In.”

Steven S. Long: “The Wolf Sentinel”

Laura Anne Ewald: “Memorandum”

Cindy Koepp: “The Hat”

Ian Hunter: “Scarheid in the Glisting”

Steven Grassie: “The Masterless”

David Wright: “Wind of Change”

Renee Carter Hall: “The Emerald Mage”

Nick Bryan: “The Violet Curse”

Lillian Csernica & Kevin Andrew Murphy: “The Restless Armadillo”

Douglas J. Ogurek: “Stuck on the Squigglybounce”

Sheila Deeth: “Passage”

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About (Editor) Scott M. Sandridge

Scott M. Sandridge Photo Credit: Stephen Zimmer, taken on a book convention floor.

Scott M. Sandridge is a writer, editor, freedom fighter, and all-around trouble-maker. His latest works as an editor include the Seventh Star Press anthologies Hero’s Best Friend: An Anthology of Animal Companions, and the two volumes of A Chimerical World, Tales of the Seelie Court and Tales of the Unseelie Court.

Photo Credit: Stephen Zimmer, taken on a book convention floor

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My Review of hero’s best friend:

 { am electing to highlight the stories within the anthology

which piqued my interest the most out of the ones offered inside }

I spotlighted this anthology in [2014] – wherein, I was able to host an Editor’s Guest Post writ by Mr Sandridge on behalf of the anthology itself without being privy to reading the stories, as my review copy went errant in the Post! I was able to receive a copy sometime over the course of the past year or so, as I don’t recollect exactly when I received it – mostly due to the fact, since my father’s stroke in November, 2016, I have found my memory for arrival dates for certain stories to be absent. I almost feel as if [2018] is my re-set year past [2016] rather than [2017]!

I knew as soon as I was confirmed as a co-hostess for #WyrdAndWonder, I wanted to read the stories of this anthology! As they have curiously held my attention all these years later!

| “Dook” by Herika R. Raymer | ( Site | @HerikaRRaymer )

This is a short story for the sentimental hearts who appreciate being wrapped inside a tale of love and memory! The anchour for this short is from the point-of-view of a grand-daughter who is grieved dearly by her half brother for not recognising why she is full of angst in being kept from her inheritance of her grandmother! The brother in question has no constriction of conscience from removing her inheritance from her possession nor in keeping it hidden from her sight!

Although, this one is not set in a fantastical world and does not feature a creature of Fantasy, what appealed to me is the craftiness of her conviction in re-assuming her right to her inheritance and how she chooses to use the crafty nature of ferrets to help her resolve this most afflicting circumstance! This is my second short I’ve appreciated reading by Raymer, as the first one was found within the anthology: Gifts of the Magi.

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| “Brothers” by Essel Pratt | ( Site )

This one was especially emotional after having found out recently the protections for wolves are being removed after a period of years where they were a protected class of wildlife. My heart has a soft spot for wolves, including their brothers who are hybrids – they have been misunderstood for so very long, it’s hard to believe there are those who would seek to destroy them now. Tabling my emotions on that particular issue – what drew me inside this short, is how lovingly it is told from the perspective of the ‘wolf’ rather than the ‘human’.

The fantastical elements of this world are lightly drawn, etched only so far to encompass a knowing glance of it from a distance as the heart of the matter is the connection between wolf and man. The two shared a bond which was strengthened in battle, solidified in friendship and the companionship they both felt til one passed on before the other was heart-warming!

You truly get caught inside this lovely short, as love and death are part of all of our lives, including those of us who have companions in fur who give our lives extra purpose and who give our hours extra happiness. The reason this one stood out to me is how the story is told – even the small details about how the wolf was physically affected upon his return to the cemetery and how the graveyard itself was projected as being observed felt authentic to not just this story but to anyone’s story who can relate to the situations being explored.

I definitely appreciated finding a wolf to human companion story which struck the heart with how we each can find a layer of truth in how we care deeply for our companions as much as they care about us in return!

Fantastical elements:

→ Magical aura – the magic of this world is visual in different ways, but one of the ways in which it manifests itself is through energy which can be seen stemming away from those who can conjure it. Magic plays a critical role in this story as it is anchoured to how there is a constant battle between good vs evil.

→ Inter-species partnerships – as this story is about the companionship of a wolf and a human, it also briefly explores how this is made possible from the angle of how sometimes a wolf is not merely a ‘wolf’ and how a connection between two partners is not limited to life but is plausible to be reunited in death.

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| “The Emerald Mage” by Renee Carter Hall | ( Site )

Perhaps it was the cheekiness of the opening or the will of my heart to believe there was a short in this collection which would grab me at ‘hallo’ and not wish to re-alight me outside of it’s world (as isn’t that the quest all of us readers endeavour to uncover?) – there was simply something evocative about following the paws of a snowcat towards their companion who happened to be a wizarding mage! The fact the spell backfired reminded me of my days caught in the halls of Hogwarts as who doesn’t like a good folly of magical proportions!?

What drew me into this story, is the fact it is a timeless tale about a character who is aging and the ways in which their companion are attempting not to allow their aged state overtake their mind nor their heart. The mage in this story broke a few rules along the way, as apparently snowcats in this world are not entirely unlike our own, on the level they are not meant to learn things outside their species, such as language, magical spells and the chores in which those with two legs rather than four are meant to undertake!

Here, we find Jiro trying to keep his master out of trouble whilst realising his very actions went against the principles of his world. The most anxiety of course for Jiro is the pending expedition to meet-up with the other mages of this realm and how he will not be able to hide his companion’s condition for much longer; what impact that shall reflect on his own life notwithstanding, it is a concern which peppers his mind with uncertainty. He’s loyal to the mage but he isn’t as confident breaking the rules even though he enjoys what he can do with his newfound knowledge.

The hardest part of this story is if you have had experiences with family who’ve lost their memory or are struggling through a health crisis, the emotional bits tug a bit harder at your heart-strings, as this is a compassionate look at how we, as caregivers try our best to safeguard our loved ones as they age and the conditions of their mind alter. The most beautiful part of the story is how it ends – how Jiro finds the courage to rise into his true destiny and how this affects the destiny of a dragon. I truly found myself captured by the simplicity of the gestures and the warmth of purpose behind the tale itself.

Fantastical elements:

→ Magic – by way of latent talent and learned skill on behalf of the snowcat whereas it’s innate and an inherited gift of the mage! You can visually see the magic in this short whilst you observe how the two friends move through their world.

→ A snowcat and a dragon – the blessing being these two were put together as friends and it is through their friendship change is possible in their world.

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I began reading several of the shorts before finding traction with a few of them, as I have the tendency to read through anthologies in quite a unique fashion: I move in and out of the narratives, seeking the ones which strike an accord with my imagination whilst leaving the ones which take me out of the ‘here and now’ of the story-line! There were a few false starts, as I enjoyed the opening passages within The Hunter’s Boy before I felt the story was shifting gears away from what I was appreciating within it. This short told the story about an abandoned kitten who was adopted by a new mother who had her own kittens to raise but couldn’t leave this one out in the cold (so to speak). There were interactions within this short between the mama and the kitten which strike a layer of truth for anyone whose raised a kitten or has had a small family of cats; as the truisms ring quite true to how protective cats are of their kin and how they affectionately interact with one another as well!

I wasn’t quite in the mood for exploring Hill 142 – as I’ve been taking a break from reading war dramas for awhile now. I do still read the odd few, but not the ones which are overly dramatic or gutting emotional to tread through – this one I glossed over and just felt I’d either leave it for another time or perhaps just acknowledge it wasn’t my cuppa as I similarly found the case to be true of Toby and Steve Save the World, Dusk and Grit – before finding myself caught in the joy of reading another Raymer short!

There is one short which even explored a post-technologic society, of how technology (in the form of hand-held gadgets and innovations which are regularly used such as computers, etc) turnt on humans to such an extent as to cause their destruction! It was a cautionary glimpse into how technology can become the doom of mankind if tech oversteps it’s boundaries and how, despite this oversight Earth will find a way to re-genesis itself past the age of where technology overtook the sanctity of humanity.

Each of the writer’s chose to focus on a different animal – the most popular choices were dogs, cats and birds of different varieties, but I confess, I was a bit surprised these stories were set more in Contemporary worlds or Historical ones but not entirely set within Fantasy realms – I suppose I was expecting these to be more sublimely contained within Urban Fantasy (at the very least) or somewhere within a High Fantasy environment – which I suppose on recollection, some might pass as being as such, but they still felt more like a misplaced Historical narrative than a slice of High Fantasy! I was even surprised there weren’t as many fantastical creatures selected for inclusion – such as dragons or even shapeshifters, as those were the ones I thought might get a focus somewhere within the pages of this anthology.

Even the cover art bespoke of the kind of companion stories I thought might be found within this selection of stories – as ever since I first saw Narnia on film, I have appreciated lions as companions and/or outright leaders of their world. I remain curiously curious about the lion and the woman now featured on the artwork gracing this cover – as I did not find them in my readings of this collection.

For the most part, I felt a bit disappointed by the stories in this collection – I had grown a fondness for reading them as I presumed what I would find inside only to discover what was presumed was not entirely the reality of the collection! For one thing, everyone knows wild animals eat their prey and their food with gusto, but why do a lot of the stories featuring wild animals have to focus on how they consume their food? Honestly, I think we can use our own imaginations towards that end! I also noticed a lot of the stories are focused on the darker shades of cautionary tales and how the darker side of how a story can be told was opted in lieu of the more hopeful stories I was attempting to seek out. There is a different tone in this collection compared to the stories I’ve happily devoured and read within the pages of FAE, CORVIDAE and SCARECROW. In fact, if you re-visit those reviews, you’ll notice how enjoyable those collections are to be reading – which is one reason why I am eager to resume reading the rest of the series they are a part of! I have become spoilt you see, as those anthologies felt curated to run concurrently into each other, where each story was building on the next or at the very least was complimentary to each other based on similar themes or executions of a premise behind the collection itself.

Between now and next year’s #WyrdAndWonder event, I do wish to seek out more fantastical worlds – which do broker into High Fantasy or Epic Quests, where I might find non-human characters who are either in leading or supportive roles. I know a few authors who have made landmark stories to be the benchmark of their careers – perhaps, a few of them will resonate with me or I might find new authors who dazzle me with their stories of animal companions! For now, my introduction into this classification of Fantasy will have to sate my curiosities!

Small fly in the Ointment:

As per usual, I do note which stories have overt vulgarity and sprinklements of strong language as found within the stories I am reading for review. One of the reasons I elected to pass over Hill 142 were the language inclusions – of the rest of the stories I read and am highlighting on this review, I can happily attest they were cleanly written!

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This review is courtesy of:

Seventh Star Press Logo badge provided by Seventh Star Press.

What draws you into reading anthologies in the fantasy realms?! What are some of your favourite fantasy-centered anthologies of short stories!? Are there any authors you were ‘introduced to’ via an anthology that you regularly read now!? Who are some of your favourite ‘animal companions’ in fiction and motion picture?! And, don’t forget to share your thoughts about the book cover art!

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This post is part of Jorie’s participation within the blogosphere event:

Wyrd and Wonder banner created by Imyril and used with permission.

Follow her fantastical adventures via this main hub of the 2018 event!
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{SOURCES: Editor photograph of Scott M. Sandridge, Editor Biography, Book Synopsis, Book Cover and Seventh Star Press badge were provided by Tomorrow Comes Media and were used by permission. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Wyrd and Wonder banner created by Imyril and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna, Sci Fi November banner and the Comment Box banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 20 May, 2018 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Action & Adventure Fiction, An Editor Point of View, Animals in Fiction & Non-Fiction, Anthology Collection of Stories, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Convention, Bookish Discussions, Fantasy Fiction, Genre-bender, Imaginarium, Indie Author, Indie Book Trade, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, Science Fiction, Seventh Star Press, Short Stories or Essays, Speculative Fiction, The Writers Life, Tomorrow Comes Media, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Writing Style & Voice




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