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Publisher's Summary

You define life or it defines you. In Shawn Speakman’s case, it was both. Lacking health insurance and diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, Shawn quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he did not have the ability to pay. That’s when New York Times best-selling author Terry Brooks offered to donate a short story that Shawn could sell to help alleviate those bills - and suggested he ask the same of his other writer friends. Unfettered is the result: An anthology built in order to relieve that debt, featuring short stories by some of the best fantasy writers in the genre.

Twenty-three tales comprise this incredible collection, and as the title suggests, the writers were free to contribute whatever they wished. Here is the table of contents:

  • Foreword by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Introduction: On Becoming Unfettered
  • Imaginary Friends by Terry Brooks
  • How Old Holly Came to Be by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Old Scale Game by Tad Williams
  • Game of Chance by Carrie Vaughn
  • The Martyr of the Roses by Jacqueline Carey
  • Mudboy by Peter V. Brett
  • The Sound of Broken Absolutes by Peter Orullian
  • The Coach with Big Teeth by R. A. Salvatore
  • Keeper of Memory by Todd Lockwood
  • Heaven in a Wild Flower by Blake Charlton
  • Dogs by Daniel Abraham
  • The Chapel Perilous by Kevin Hearne
  • Select Mode by Mark Lawrence
  • All the Girls Love Michael Stein by David Anthony Durham
  • Strange Rain by Jennifer Bosworth
  • Nocturne by Robert V. S. Redick
  • Unbowed by Eldon Thompson
  • In Favour with Their Stars by Naomi Novik
  • River of Souls by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
  • The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Duel by Lev Grossman
  • Walker and the Shade of Allanon by Terry Brooks
  • The Unfettered Knight by Shawn Speakman

    With the help of stalwart friends and these wonderful short stories, Shawn has taken the gravest of life’s hardships and created something magical. Unfettered is not only a fantastic anthology in its own right, but it’s a testament to the generosity found in the science fiction and fantasy community—proof that humanity can give beyond itself when the need arises. After all, isn’t that the driving narrative in fantasy literature?

©2013 Shawn Speakman (P)2013 Audible Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Stephanie
  • Patterson, CA, United States
  • 04-16-14

Mixed feelings

I wanted to love this compilation of short stories. It was written for a pure, altruistic purpose. The contributors included some of my favorite authors, and many more about whom I had been curious for some time. Some of the stories were engaging, but many were not. Many were downright sad and left me not knowing how to feel, what to think, or what the author was even trying to convey with his or her words.

The compilation receives three stars because of those gems hidden inside. I enjoyed Rothfuss' quirky tale. A couple more - one about a viola, another about saving a library from war (I don't recall the authors) - were interesting despite the deep sadness in the tale.

I took away two stars because of the lack of consistency. Maybe I was expecting too much. Maybe it was unfair to expect to be entertained by every story in such an eclectic compilation. But I wasn't expecting entertainment, so much as I was hoping to be inspired, to have my curiosity piqued, or to just hear stories that I could appreciate (at the very least) for their literary value, if not for the tale itself.

I understand the sadness that permeates many (most?) of these short stories. It was moving at times - leaving me shaken and changed - but I also found myself often pausing the book and stepping away because it was just too much.

The narrators are fantastic. They were well-selected for each story and each performs beautifully. I think only one story stood out as "less-well-narrated" - but it was near the end and not significant enough to recall specifically. With so many stories, and so many narrators, that is a job well done in my eyes.

This book is certainly worth the one credit. I'd buy it again, and I'm tempted to buy the hard copy, if only for those special stories tucked amid the less-inspiring.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Excellent writing. Great cause.

This book is well worth reading for the quality of the writing. The bonus is that it's for a great cause. Hooray for you wonderful writers, artists and readers! And man are there some amazing readers in this audiobook. It's always great to help a brother out.

Several of these stories are so good that I have placed the author's books on my wish list. So it's a great introduction to these authors if you are not already a fan. If you are a fan, you won't be disappointed with these great tales, some set in the worlds you already know. All of them are well-written.

Rothfuss: Haven't read his books. Maybe something about that would have made it better. Otherwise: What the...?
Salvatore: Um, OK. Weird.
Orullian: If you were a band geek you might like this one. I wasn't a band geek. I got lost in all of the musical references.
Grossman: Sophomoric.

Brooks (Shannara)
Jordan/Sanderson: Love the Wheel of Time books but it's been a while for me. Maybe that's why I didn't connect with it.

Brooks (Word/Void): A charming tale.
Vaughn: Interesting premise well carried-out.

Lockwood: A great story that is far better than his first novel.
Durham: Really imaginative! And just a really nice story.
Bosworth: Intriguing story with an electric ending.
Williams: I smiled all the way through this great one.
Thompson: I really enjoyed the characters in this one and want to read the novels.
Novik: I tire of dragons sometimes but this story rekindled my interest. I put her novels on my wish list.
Sullivan: My favorite story by one of my very favorite authors. If you are unfamiliar with Michael J. Sullivan go buy his books. All of them. NOW. You won't be disappointed.
Speakman: Great characters in a compelling world. Made me want to read more.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • gerry
  • milton, ON, Canada
  • 03-12-14

Great Crash Course on Fantasy Writers

I thoroughly enjoyed Shawn's assembly of writers and as an added benefit I hope I was able to assist him in beating his illness. My best buddy is recovering from Leukemia and I know the challenge - GodSpeed!

Glenno's review was very helpful as well. and for efficiency, I will use his as a reference. I am a huge Rothfuss fan, but he is correct - what the??? I will read it again but I don't think it will help. I generally agree with Glenno except for Orullian. I see his point as I am not a band geek either, but the musical references add a unique perspective to the story, are easy to understand and add a fresh creative touch to the struggles(for me). I want to highlight these other writers` outstanding material:
- Tad Williams - Quaint, quirky and fun
- Todd Lockwood - Simple story made into an enticing journey of a young loyal disciple.
- Eldon Thompson - My favorite but he has nothing on audible to follow up with.
- Michael J Sullivan - I love the moral choice dilemna and will be looking for more thoughtful stories.
- Speakman - Amazingly creative story that held me the entire 2 hrs.
Lastly, on a negative note, I could not finish Michael Stein`s inane story of a dead cat - maybe I am a dog person, but this one stretched my patience - others seem to like it though so it is a matter of perspective.

As far as the the narration, they were all amazing, but again Bronson Pinchot blew my socks off. His variety of voices was impressive as usual!

Great Job Shawn - I will look for your next book!

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Excellent Anthology

When I first read about this anthology, I wondered to myself, "How good can it be?" Given its origin, with all stories donated to pay for cancer treatment, I figured that the quality would be low. In fact, just the opposite was true. It seemed that the authors either attacked the project with the gusto born of a good cause, or dusted off that one story they'd been saving for a special occasion. Either way, I loved most of them.

Of note, several of them are set in worlds already created by the authors' novels. In some cases, it really helped to have read the novels (Like the Wheel of Time), but for the majority, it didn't matter.

My personal favorites:
1. The Sound of Broken Absolutes, Peter Orullian. I'd never heard of this guy before, and I don't know much about music, but it was just plain good. Original. Well written. I went out and bought his book The Unremembered and am already enjoying it. Just ticked that there's no audio version of it!
2. The Old Scale Game, Tad Williams. A fun story, enjoyable. Kept me laughing on a road trip.
3. Select Mode, Mark Lawrence. Fascinating story. I looked up his Broken Empire books, (the world this is set in). I was going to buy it, but reading the Amazon reviews changed my mind. I guess they're pretty gruesome. This story was dark, but not upsetting.
4. Unbowed, Eldon Thompson. I have no idea who Kylac is, but it's a good story.
5. All the Girls Love Michael Stein, David Anthony Durham. A simple, feel-good story. I listened to it with my daughter.

I would highly recommend getting the print or e-book version along with the audio. In the written version, each author writes a 1 or 2 page introduction that illuminates the story, and I found this very helpful, especially for some of the ones that required background knowledge or were just plain confusing.

The narration was top-notch. I found myself wondering if the narrators had all donated their skills as well?

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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While I love fantasy and Sci-fi, I found most of these stories fell squarely into the WTH classification. Several times I was listening and following along then the next tale started. What? That was it?

Several of the tales fell so flat I was wondering if I had stumbled across some long lost Edwin Abbot story.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • George
  • ABERDEEN, MD, United States
  • 02-26-14

Great cause and good collection to preview Authors

Would you listen to Unfettered again? Why?

Yes I will listen again. Many of these Authors and Narrators (voice actors) are new to me and so this collection of short stories is a great way for me to preview the writing and reading and determine if they are a good fit for me.

Any additional comments?

Some of the stories I loved, some I liked and some I hated. Take the tour, it is worth it. You may find some new favorite writers and readers too.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Short review of short stories

The performances are good and the stories are some good and some not so good. I think that the good outweighs the bad and it introduces listeners to new authors.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • carmen
  • OFallon, MO, United States
  • 06-06-15

A lot of good stories

These stories were put together by Sean Speakman in order to defray costs for cancer treatment, so good cause and definitely worth getting for that reason. That being said,I did not give it 5 stars because some of the stories are excerpts from bigger stories which end abruptly and hence are not satisfying. All is not lost,there were several stories that appropriately dealt with loss or illness that could be cathartic for some. Heaven in a Wildflower dealt with how hard illness is to a parent. In this world the parent literally suffers when a child suffers the illness. It reminded me of a friend whose daughter suffered from cancer and how much he suffered as a result. All the Girls Love Michael Stein was about what happens in the afterlife of a cat. Anyone who has lost a pet would find that story comforting. There was also a story that likened the fighting of an illness to the fighting of a dragon in a way that would bring hope to a young person. Additionally, the narration was the real star of this anthology. The narration of Game of Chance by Dina Pearlman was beautiful. I have laughed out loud at her narration of funny stories, I have bit my nails to her reading scary stories and this time I was touched by the range of emotions. Also Scott Brick, am I right ladies.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Love sifi and fantasy, this not so much.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The endings of some of the stories were abrupt. Other stories were just mediocre. .

Would you ever listen to anything by the authors again?

A few of them yes.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

for the most part

Any additional comments?

I was left unsatisfied after the majority of the stories. A few of the stories (about 5) were quite enjoyable and entertaining. The rest I could have done without.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A lot of fun, great if you only have 10-15 minutes

An excellent conglomeration of stories, I really enjoyed the performances by the narrators, and the stories were all worth at least one listen, some are worth an extra listen. Simply put, and to avoid spoilers, I liked it...check it out.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Euan
  • 05-14-14

It's basically Russian roulette

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Because they are all short stories, if you like fantasy you will enjoy at least one of them, most likely a few. However there are some absolute howlers in here. Quite a few are not even fantasy. Patrick Rothfuss's one was the single worst thing I have listened to on audible, and after terry brooks insulting ( to me as someone who went through childhood leukaemia ) opener I nearly gave up. However I persevered and am enjoying new authors I would no have if I had not listened to this.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Some were good. Most were awful. I assume because it was for charity they were not willing to spend a great deal of money on a good narrator or two, but the result is dreadful. It took me halfway through the mark Lawrence to realise it was his ,as the character is 13-15 from somewhere in a post apocalyptic Europe. but instead the narrator is simple reading the story with his 40 something full blown Brooklyn accent. That's just one example.

Do you think Unfettered needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

If all the authors put in some effort other than just a few and decent narrators were brought in then I would happily listen to a second volume

Any additional comments?

In you in two minds about it then get it. If you don't like a story in the first 5 mins then skip it there will be something on there you do like, and it is all for a good cause anyway.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris
  • 12-12-14

Something for everyone in here.

Would you listen to Unfettered again? Why?

Yes, although I may skip some of the stories now I've listened to them once. This is the reason for giving the book 4 stars. Some of them I would have given 5, but others within the collection would only have got 2 or 3.

What did you like best about this story?

Some of these stories are great, others didn't tickle my fancy as much, but I would say that if you're even vaguely interested in fantasy then there'll be something in here for you.<br/>As always with an audiobook the narrator has a big hand in the quality of the finished product, some were new to me, others I'd heard before.<br/>As a reader of their other work "How Old Holly Came To Be" and "Mudboy" we good (always helpful when you're familiar with the "world")."The Unfettered Knight" was excellent, as was "Keeper of Memory", "The Sound of Broken Absolutes", "Unbowed" and "In Favour with Their Stars". The surprise for me was "All the Girls Love Michael Stein", which I enjoyed greatly, even though after reading it, had you described to me what it was about I wouldn't have expected to do so.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

As always for me the emotion and the ability to give the characters a bit more life through differing voices are the key to any good narration. They can help to set the scene with the tone of their voice, even before they've started uttering the actual text.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A collection of different worlds, and some stories from with them!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Eva O'Donnell
  • 09-24-16

The good bits aren't good enough to carry it.

Any additional comments?

I like Patrick Rothfuss in particular and fantasy in general and I thought this collection might introduce me to some new authors. Maybe I missed out on something but I couldn't finish the collection. Some of the stories sounded more like enthusiastic but unskilled fan-fic than the work of real authors. The tone of a few of the stories was confused, somewhere between self-aware, post-modern and traditional fantasy. The final straw was a terrible attempt at accents in "The Chapel Perilous" by Kevin Hearne. I gave up at that point, maybe all the good stuff happens in the second half.

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  • patricia gascoigne
  • 09-21-16

different stories

It was an unusual book as I was expecting a whole story but I don't remember reading about the book. It was not a disappointment and I found it enjoyable as I could listen to a story then get back on and do something because I get so engrossed in a story that I try to listen to the whole book.

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  • Andrew
  • 07-07-14

A great introduction to a variety of authors

If you could sum up Unfettered in three words, what would they be?

Collection of Short Stories

What was one of the most memorable moments of Unfettered?

The stories are unrelated and cover a lot of different styles. I must admit a couple of stories did not engage me that much, but as they are all short, it is no great hardship.

What about the narrators’s performance did you like?

The narration of each chapter seemed to suit the material quite well.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The story of the cats I found really enchanting.

Any additional comments?

If you really enjoy one of the tales, it isn't easy to identify which author wrote it, and there is a really bad edit in one chapter (3rd from last if memory serves).<br/>Highly recommended - especially if you like a short story to fill in time.

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  • Caz in Maspalomas
  • 12-05-14

A book for children

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A better story

Has Unfettered put you off other books in this genre?

Made me very cautious

Did the narrators do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

Not really

What character would you cut from Unfettered?

The lot

Any additional comments?

This is a children's story book and not very good at that. I bought it because on Kindle I had read Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear which was a nice story. I searched on Audible for another of his books and bought this because of the Kindle book. I am getting older and my eyes are fading so an Audible book is preferred to a Kindle one. I should have previewed it first, my fault

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • 02-22-14


A great collection of stories, some fantastic some ok some a bit odd but the collection itself is well worth getting. I got it as a lot of my favorite authors have included a story but it has also introduced me to some new ones who's stuff I'll be checking out. The cast is also very strong.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lindsay Kay Caddy
  • 02-22-14

I expected better, disappointed

What would have made Unfettered better?

The stories just aren't very interesting, I found it difficult to actually engage as it was just so boring I would be distracted. Perhaps 10% of the stories are bearable.

What could the authors have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Needed better more engaging stories, some of them sounded as though they'd knocked them up in 5 minutes.

Did the narrators do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

Better narration needed. There is a story with Irish characters read by an American half heartedly trying to sound Irish and failing hard. I cringed until I had to stop listening

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?


Any additional comments?

I really wanted to like this book because of the story behind its conception but the writing was so bad I just couldn't. I am a Patrick Rothfuss fan and like short stories but this just wasn't any good unfortunately. I haven't finished the book and will be asking for a refund.

1 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Rob
  • 12-02-15

Hands down one of the worst books purchased on Audible!

What were they thinking?!
There are a couple of nice short stories, but for the most part they're woefully incomplete, senseless or predictable. And as for that Patrick Rothfuss short "story" I bet he was laughing when he was paid for it. That was a joke right?

Seriously why is this on Audible?!

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Once We Were Fiction
  • 02-16-14

So this is fantasy?

I'm going to keep this short because the review above is really good. I haven't read any fantasy for about twenty-five years, and when I saw this I just thought - why not? There are some great stories here. Imaginary Friend and All the Girls Love Michael Stein are amazing. That said it hasn't won me back over to the genre, but I have enjoyed listening to this a lot.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • 08-14-14

A worthy cause, average content

[{ "answer" : "I think the stories have been written by excellent writers, it just doesnt \"sound\" as good as it probably looks on paper. Some of the stories are complex and it doesnt bode well for me personally as an audiobook.", "type" : "Overall", "question" : "Is there anything you would change about this book?", "id" : 48, "typeString" : "overall" }, { "answer" : "Its many stories in one book. I liked some, not others. The best one for me was about a dragon, the worst one, was probably by one of my fave authors :(", "type" : "Story", "question" : "What was most disappointing about the authors’s story?", "id" : 15, "typeString" : "story" }, { "answer" : "Its many different narrators, all of them good. ", "type" : "Performance", "question" : " Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances? How does this one compare? ", "id" : 24, "typeString" : "performance" }, { "answer" : "N/A", "type" : "Genre", "question" : "Do you think Unfettered needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?", "id" : 52, "typeString" : "genre" }, { "answer" : "Nope!", "type" : "Misc", "question" : "Any additional comments?", "id" : -1, "typeString" : "misc" } ]

3 of 5 people found this review helpful