I’m not sure about “best”. Other than containing a mediocre Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser story, it seems like there are a lot of fairly standard, stereotypical stories in this collection. Not one of them, sadly, jumped up and grabbed me. None of them were horrible, but none of them were really good, either, and I can’t pick a story out of the batch that stands above the others.
And there’s not a lot of variety in the fantasy represented here, with the bulk of it, even admitted by the editor, falling into the Sword and Sorcery camp. That’s clearly what Mr. Carter preferred at the time, which is fine, but in that case, why not call it Year’s Best S&S?
But I suppose the thing that bothered me the most about this volume is that the editor slipped one of his own stories into the volume. Not a crime in and of itself, maybe until you learn that it’s not just any story, but one that hadn’t actually been published. So how was it eligible for inclusion in a Year’s Best anthology? Oh, it had been accepted at Fantastic, but Fantastic folded before the story could be published, and the editor thought it was a great story, and since it had been accepted at a now-defunct magazine it clearly should be counted among the best the genre had to offer during the previous year. Well, no. To my reading, it’s a rather derivative tale of a barbarian warrior king, walking over some ground that was pretty well trodden even in 1980.
Overall rating: 2 stars. Full of meh.by