The Best Fantasy Short Story Collections: Must-Read Anthologies

 

The best fantasy books don’t always come in elongated tomes filled up with some 200,000 words and expanded on over massive works stretching three to seven novels. Sometimes fantasy work is more subtle, following the brief adventures of a short-lived hero or taking a quick but often deep dive into a new slice of an already established world.

For those who want to experience such tales, there are plenty of fantasy short story collections out there that offer up exactly the kind of fiction you are looking for. From stories of monsters and mythical creatures to both light-hearted fantasy affairs and grimdark adventures, fans of the genre have a wealth of anthologies to pick from.

The Azrian Portal is all about short fiction, which is why I’ve put together a list of the best fantasy short story collections out there; books you really should pickup if this type of fiction interests you.


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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Anthology

Synopsis: Collecting more than two dozen stories that appeared for the first time in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction—the premiere speculative fiction magazine—this extraordinary anthology celebrates sixty years of top-notch genre fiction. Many of these highly acclaimed, award-winning authors’ careers were jump-started by their appearances in Fantasy & Science Fiction.



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The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2

Synopsis: A mutant baby goes on a rampage through Central Park. An immigrant reveals secrets in the folds of a perfect gift. Lucky Cats extend their virtual paws to salute a generous revolution. The Internet invades a third-world village. The premier speculative-fiction magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction continues to discover and showcase many of the most inventive authors writing in any genre. Now drawing even more deeply upon F&SF’s impressive history, this extraordinary companion anthology expands upon sixty-five years’ worth of top-notch storytelling. The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume Two is a star-studded tribute to the continuing vision of F&SF.


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The Azrian Anthology

Synopsis: Enter the world of Azra with The Azrian Anthology: Volume #1. Explore the depths of sacred forests, witness horrors of both monsters and man, and follow uncertain and unhinged figures as they navigate the tough Azrian landscape. The Azrian Anthology: Volume #1 features examples of both high and low fantasy, perfect for all fans of the genre. Looking for tales of magic and mythical creatures? There is something here for you in this free fantasy ebook collection. Prefer a story wrapped in character detail and internal struggle? Then you're in luck! Explore dark fantasy short stories guaranteed to delight and disturb.


The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories 

Synopsis: Ken Liu is one of the most original, thought-provoking and award-winning short-story writers of his generation. This is the first collection of his work – sixteen stories that invoke the magical within the mundane, by turns profound, beguiling and heartbreaking. Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.


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Legends

Synopsis: Legends is an anthology of all original stories written to honour the memory of one of Britain’s greatest fantasy authors. Determined warriors, hideous creatures, wicked sorceries, tricksy villains and cunning lovers abound as fantasy’s finest imaginations do their best and their worst. James Barclay reveals the origins of his elite mercenary band The Raven, Adrian Tchaikovsky unveils new aspects of the realm of the Apt, Tanith Lee, Joe Abercrombie, Storm Constantine, Stan Nicholls, Juliet E McKenna and more weave their magic as only they can. Produced in cooperation with the David Gemmell Awards, Legends will, in part, act as a fundraiser for the awards. Steel yourself, throw caution to the wind, and dare to enter the realm of Legends.


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Legends II

Synopsis: Determined warriors, hideous creatures, wicked sorceries, tricksy villains and cunning lovers abound as fantasy’s finest imaginations do their best and their worst. In November 2013, NewCon Press released Legends: Stories in Honour of David Gemmell. We are now delighted to unveil a second volume of original stories from some of the world’s leading fantasy authors written in honour of one of the genre’s greats. As before, Legends II will act in part as a fundraiser for the David Gemmell Awards.


Blackguards

Synopsis: ROGUES. ASSASSINS. MERCENARIES. Coin is their master, and their trade, more often than not, is blood. These are BLACKGUARDS. Whether by coin or by blood...YOU WILL PAY. Swift from the shadows, comes an 'edgy' anthology, featuring sundry tales of roguish types—assassins, mercenaries, thieves—many of whom are already established in well-known fantasy series.


Rogues

Synopsis: Twenty-one all-original stories, by an all-star list of contributors, will delight and astonish you in equal measure with their cunning twists and dazzling reversals. And George R. R. Martin himself offers a brand-new A Game of Thrones tale chronicling one of the biggest rogues in the entire history of Ice and Fire. Follow along with the likes of Gillian Flynn, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Cherie Priest, Garth Nix, and Connie Willis, as well as other masters of literary sleight-of-hand, in this rogues gallery of stories that will plunder your heart and yet leave you all the richer for it.


Dangerous Women

Synopsis: George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have put together a towering anthology of specially-commissioned stories from the most stellar names in the genre, set in a number of readers' favourite fantasy worlds. George R.R. Martin is the bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire, the inspiration for HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. The collection will also feature a new and unpublished 100pp novella by George R.R. Martin set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire – now the award-winning HBO show, Game of Thrones The novella, entitled 'The Princess and the Queen', will reveal the origins of the Targaryen Civil War, otherwise known as 'The Dance of the Dragons', a war that split a then-fledgling Westeros in two, pitting Targaryen against Targaryen and dragon against dragon.


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Warriors

Synopsis: People have been telling stories about warriors for as long as they have been telling stories. Since Homer first sang the wrath of Achilles and the ancient Sumerians set down their tales of Gilgamesh, warriors, soldiers, and fighters have fascinated us; they are a part of every culture, every literary tradition, every genre. We asked our contributors for a story about a warrior. Some chose to write in the genre they’re best known for. Some decided to try something different. You will find warriors of every shape, size, and color in these pages, warriors from every epoch of human history, from yesterday and today and tomorrow, and from worlds that never were. Some of the stories will make you sad, some will make you laugh, and many will keep you on the edge of your seat.


Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery

Synopsis: A truly breathtaking new anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders, Swords & Dark Magic offers stunning new tales of sword and sorcery action, romance, and dark adventure written by some of the most respected, bestselling fantasy writers working today--from Joe Abercrombie to Gene Wolfe. An all-new Elric novella from the legendary Michael Moorcock and a new visit to Majipoor courtesy of the inimitable Robert Silverberg are just two of the treasures offered in Swords & Dark Magic--a fantasy lover's dream.


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Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection

Synopsis: An all-new 40,000-word Stormlight Archive novella, “Edgedancer,” will be the crown jewel of Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, the first book of short fiction by #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. A must read for fans of the series. These wonderful works, originally published on Tor.com and elsewhere individually, convey the expanse of the Cosmere and tell exciting tales of adventure Sanderson fans have come to expect, including the Hugo Award-winning novella, “The Emperor’s Soul” and an excerpt from the graphic novel “White Sand.” Arcanum Unbounded will also contain the Stormlight Archive novella “Edgedancer,” which will appear in this book for the first time anywhere. Finally, this collection includes essays and illustrations for the various planetary systems in which the stories are set.


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Sharp Ends

Synopsis: The Union army may be full of bastards, but there's only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta. Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is. Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp. And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There's only one obstacle left - his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine. Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue's gallery of side-shows, backstories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.


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The Book of Swords

Synopsis: An epic collection of fantasy tales in the grand tradition, including a never-before-published A Song of Ice and Fire story by George R.R. Martin. In The Book of Swords, acclaimed editor and bestselling author Gardner Dozois presents an anthology of sixteen original epic stories by a stellar cast of modern masters, including George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Garth Nix, Ken Liu, Daniel Abraham, Scott Lynch, Cecelia Holland, Ellen Kushner, and more on journeys into the outer realms of dark enchantment and intrepid adventure, featuring a stunning assortment of fearless swordsmen and warrior women who face down danger and death at every turn with courage, cunning, and cold steel.


The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

Synopsis: From Lovecraft to Borges to Gaiman, a century of intrepid literary experimentation has created a corpus of dark and strange stories that transcend all known genre boundaries. Together these stories form The Weird and amongst its practitioners number some of the greatest names in twentieth and twenty-first century literature. Exotic and esoteric, The Weird plunges you into dark domains and brings you face to face with surreal monstrosities; you won't find any elves or wizards here, but you will find the boldest and downright most peculiar stories from the last hundred years bound together in the biggest Weird collection ever assembled.


*Disclaimer*

I wanted to put together a pretty well-balanced and comprehensive list for you, which meant I had to delve deep and look for as many top-rated works as I could. As a result, I wasn’t able to read and review them all, which is why I’ve left it to the almighty publishers to describe their books in their own words. Some might say this is lazy blog writing, I say it’s efficient working. Rest assured, I did do my research, following threads, reading what I could and absorbing all the information I could readily find to make sure this blog listed the best fantasy short story collections available.


Like this list of the best fantasy short stories? We’ve also listed the best fantasy audiobooks available as well!