Donaldson’s first collection since Daughter of Regals (1983), though, of the eight substantial stories here, 1984—98, five have appeared previously in other volumes—the title piece in After the King (1992); “The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed” in Arabesques 2 (1989); “The Kings of Tarshish Shall Bring Gifts” in The Book of Kings (1995); “The Woman Who Loved Pigs” in Full Spectrum 4 (1993); and “What Makes Us Human” in Berserker Base (1985). As for the newcomers, “The Killing Stroke” is an agreeably metaphorical blend of magic, martial arts, and the philosophy of knowledge. The bitterly ironic “Penance” concerns a vampire healer as the focus of a religious war. And in “By Any Other Name,” a good-hearted merchant finds that he’s constrained to honor a dreadful bargain. Fans of Donaldson’s longer fiction (the Gap SF series, the fantasy Thomas Covenant Chronicles, etc.) will dive right in. Even his critics are due for a wonderful surprise: these thoughtful, well worked-out, often fascinating yarns are largely free of the preposterous weight, impossible convolutions, and tormented prose that make the novels so troublesome.