The latest issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (issue 33 for those who are counting) went live a few weeks ago. Let’s take a look at it, shall we?
This is a standard issue of HFQ, in that there are three pieces of fiction and three poems. I’ll review the fiction and mention the poems. I’m not sure I can keep my comments shorter than the poetry, and since I’m not sure what purpose that would serve, I’ll keep my trap shut for once. Two of the three stories take place in Central America, and all of them have female protagonists (although in one story, the viewpoint starts out female and changes to a male after another character enters the scene). I don’t know if there is an unofficial theme at work, or if things just turned out that way. Not that it matters. What counts is if the fiction is any good.
The first story is “Between Sea and Flame” by Evan Dicken. A disgraced Aztec soldier named Hummingbird finds herself allied with a chieftain and a rogue conquistador to defeat an extra dimensional menace that threatens the world. This one had some pretty heavy lovecraftian tones to it and turned out to be a lot of fun. There’s plenty of action, and the tale is not without character development. Hummingbird appeared in a previous story, “Mouth of the Jaguar” in 2014, which I haven’t read. I’ve missed a few issues of HFQ here and there, and that appears to be one of them. I’ll have to go back and check the earlier story out.
The next story was harder for me to get into, but eventually I did. “I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” by Raphael Ordonez also features a returning character, although he doesn’t show up for a bit. That character is Francisco Carvajal, who last appeared in “Heart of Tashyas” earlier this year. (My review is here.) I enjoyed the previous story, but it took me a bit to get into this one. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I was reading on my phone and got interrupted a few times. Once I got into it, though, things started moving and it turned out to be an enjoyable adventure with some lovecraftian overtones as well.
The story I liked the most was by Jason Carney. “Rakefire” is about a woman seeking to capture a rogue hedge wizard in order to track down the rogue sorcerer who trained him. There was a freshness to this one that I like. The downside of this story is it read as though it were part of a larger story arc. Having been accused of that type of writing myself, I don’t have a problem with seeing an episode from a larger canvas. What bothered me about this one is that the ending seemed a little abrupt, as though there were a page missing. Still, I’d be interested in seeing more of this character.
So overall, Issue 33 of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is another solid installment. It’s not my favorite issue, but it certainly had some good fiction in it. And that’s probably one of the most important things about HFQ, its consistency. When I read a magazine (print or electronic) or an anthology, I don’t expect every story to always be to my taste. What I look for is consistency in the storytelling. I can set my personal likes and dislikes aside and look at the storytelling and writing. Are the stories well-written? Do they contain characters the reader will care about? Is there entertainment value here?
When judged by those standards and not my personal preferences, I’ve never known Heroic Fantasy Quarterly to fail to deliver. That’s why I’m still reading it long after I’ve quit reading of short fiction venues.