In chronicling Red Sonja’s adventures over two previous volumes Gail Simone and Walter Geovani have offered a lot of sword, but not much sorcery. The Forgiving of Monsters heads in that direction for the first of the two stories in this collection.

As she did in Queen of Plagues and The Art of Blood and Fire, Simone employs misdirection well, sometimes via an overconfident Sonja, and sometimes via other methods, but frequently able to pull one over on readers. There’s a nice twist in the opening story, but it veers into astonishingly gruesome territory, with Geovani not holding back on showing some injuries. Beyond that he’s on top form, with a stunning spread of a monster hunting down a villager at the midway point, and his suitably hideous design for a sorcerer.

Over the entire series Simone has provided Sonja with good dialogue, a quip here, a put down there, imaginative insults, and a lack of any respect for anyone who presumes it’s not earned. It’s a skill that’s been refined as the series continues, and flourishes nicely here. Sonja now has a rounded personality and a voice that echoes in the head. The literalism of the closing chapter to the first story isn’t as well conceived, more stock fantasy than Simone’s stock in trade, and it seems a valedictory piece on Simone’s part, returning plenty of people seen in the previous books. It might have been a better place to end, as the final two episodes don’t provide enough space to both establish a credible threat and deal with it. We’re left with a fairy tale villain, too many characters squeezed into too little space, and an all too rapid ending. This is among the customary novel action scenes.

She’d write Red Sonja’s teaming with Tarzan, but this is Simone’s final work on a regular Red Sonja series. It’s a success by any standards, looking good, reading well and redefining a sexually objectified character for the 21st century. Her entire run is due to be collected in November 2019 as Red Sonja: The Complete Gail Simone Omnibus.