Review: Tales of Ruma

Posted: August 9, 2018 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Martin Greening (Ed), Alternate Historical Fiction, Anthology, Short Fiction

RPGs are for nerds.

You know it. I know it. They know it. Erm… well, I guess technically I should say “we” know it, because there ain’t no way I’m gonna skirt the issue on this one: we’re pretty much ALL nerds here at EBR. 🙂 And you know what? I think if more “non-nerdy” people would put their petty pride aside for one freaking minute and let themselves get lost in the imagination, adventure, and sheer brilliance of some of the good RPGs out there, the ranks of the RPGers would quickly swell. Because RPGs aren’t just a story; though indeed they are that. And they’re not just a game; though indeed they are that as well. They’re imagination and spontaneity and characterization in a form that you just can’t find anywhere else.

So don’t let anyone sway you from standing up for the oft-berated RPGs and RPGers alike. For it’s from those very annals that Steven Erikson gave us the Malazan Book of the Fallen. And Misters Abraham and Franck gave us the wide tapestry of The Expanse. And for all of you “non-nerdy” people: is there any way you’re going to nay-say the awesome goodness of Stranger Things?


I didn’t think so.

TALES OF RUMA (Amazon) started out over a decade ago as an RPG (fancy that!), and though it didn’t go much of anywhere at the time, it stayed in the hearts and minds of those that had created it. Fast-forward a few years, and Martin Greening decides that he wants to do something with it. So, he puts a bunch of work into, and spit-shine onto, that old RPG and viola! He has himself a viable product. (Interested in it? Check it out here: Azure Keep. Additionally, he decided to gather a bunch of awesome authors together and get some stories to fill out the space of the Ruman world a bit, and then ran it through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

What we got from that campaign is 17 short stories that have at their heart the world of Rome (from old Earth history) and “Ruma”, an alternate history, and it’s peoples and mythology. They vary in size and scope from the very large to the very small, and come from NYT best-selling authors, all the way down to the newbie.

On the whole, I liked what I found. Some stories were better than others, true, like any anthology of this nature. As per my usual, I’ve sorted them into our several ratings thus:

  • Loved: 2
  • Liked: 3
  • Liked and Hated: 2
  • Mediocre: 5
  • Didn’t Like: 4
  • Hated: 0

Those on the lower end of the scale typically had the issue that they all over-reached. They tried to tell stories that were too large for the space they had available. And so, they either had to rush their ending–dumping a bunch of quick information into the reader’s laps that hadn’t been built up adequately–or it didn’t seem like the characters played a significant role in the events of the story and thus became mere cameras through which we watched the actual story unfold.

The stories on the good side of the scale… okay, I really enjoyed some of them. Here are some bits and pieces of my thoughts for those I thought the best:

A God of Death by D.J. Butler — An ex-leader of the Ruman legions that has left the army to live with his sorceress wife, is entreated by a lesser soldier, still on active duty, to help them free another Ruman leader. His wife helps them with the aid of her sorcery. Things don’t go as planned. This was a great story that had me smiling and guessing the whole way down. Felt a little sparse and quick, but that’s kind of what the situation called for.

RPG anthology TALES OF RUMA is a mixed bag of great and not-as-great stories, but still worth the read as it's entertainment value is high.

Soul Invictus by John D. Payne — The leader of a group of soldiers completes the process that will turn all of his soldiers into vengeful spirits, but the last step in the process doesn’t turn out like he expected it to. This was another great story, that had a great turn toward the end. Kind of reminded me of “I am Legend” in that way, but I do have to say that I wish that the very last line of this one had been left off.

The Stone Garden by Martin Greening — A girl that grows up in a garden of statues learns something about her life that is enlightening. Pretty simple concept, but I REALLY liked this one (Great job, Martin!). The whole time I was reading it, I was like, “It feels like something is missing from this story, but I just can’t put my finger on it.” Once I realized what I was missing, the story took on a whole new meaning. Really cool stuff.

The Cost of Arrogance by Steve Diamond — Oh snap. This one was brilliant. (Great job, Steve!) A publican is jailed by a governor that has a grudge against the Ruman empire. While in jail, she’s tested as a gladiator of sorts, and only survives with a little help from above. This was a powerful character story, and I think that’s why it resonated so much with me. It had politics and mythology and gladiators… the works. My favorite of the bunch, and I’m glad I can say that because I was a little nervous when I started into it. I needn’t have been though.

At the time of this writing, the Kindle version costs a whopping $3. Totally worth that in my opinion. The best stories are all pretty solid. Even with the faults of the others there really aren’t any “bad” stories in the bunch, and you can’t always say that about anthologies. So don’t let the mid-line rating sway you too much. STORIES OF RUMA stands in some pretty decent company with similar rating from us for: WRITERS OF THE FUTURE, VOL 34 (EBR Review), COSMIC POWERS (EBR Review), and BLOOD AND OTHER CRAVINGS (EBR Review) for starters.

Check it out. Totally worth the read.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Some, but not strong and not frequent
  • Violence: Yeah, quite a bit. These are, for the most part, stories about soldiers in wars doing things that soldiers in wars do
  • Sex: Talk of dalliances and lovers, but little true "content" here

I met Martin Greening at LTUE in Utah this last February. He’s a great guy, and it’s always really cool to read something by someone that you know and then be able to tell them that they did a great job and mean it.

Great job, Martin!


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