If I could have one superpower, I think it would be the ability to split myself into multiple bodies. That way, maybe I wouldn’t be so far behind on reading, writing, and review. You know, the important stuff.
Anyway I promised Adrian Simmons, the editor of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, a review for both the previous and current issues. Both are strong issues.
Going back to the first issue for which I promised a review (that would be issue 31, for those of you who are counting), we start out with “Thokmay” by Dennis Mombauer. It takes place in a monastery high in the mountains. Thokmay is an acolyte sent to recover a stolen mask as his final assignment before taking his place among the masters of his sect. The thief is hiding in a monastery on a remote peak. Thokmay sets out to recover the mask, but things are quite what they seem in this one.
We move from the mountains of central Asia to those of Imperial Japan in Aidan Doyle’s “The Thing Without Color“. Akamiko Iro is a swordwriter. It’s her job, among other things, to deal with supernatural menaces. She’s been sent to retrieve a white sword. In this story, swords have magical properties related to color. Akamiko’s task is to return a sword that has been encased in ice for a century as a gift for the Emperor’s birthday. White swords are grown by burying them in ice. The sword farmer has recently died, and his wife has taken over his responsibilities. Akamiko’s task is complicated by the fact that she had an affair with the sword farmer half a century ago, when his wife was away. But there’s something far more dangerous in the area than just a spiteful widow.
Raphael Ordonez takes us to the New World with a tale of a wandering conquistador in “Heart of Tashyas“. Carvajal, like many conquistadors, is consumed by one thing, and that’s the thought of gold. His search for it will take him to a place of dark magic and strange gods.
This issue closes with “The Price of Mokery in Dallium” by James Rowe. This is a short little tale about a man who is imprisoned in a cave and left to die because he insulted a philosopher. While he’s there, he discovers he’s not alone. There’s a talking statue that promises to free him if he can answer a riddle.
In the current issue, the fiction starts out with “The Deaths of all We Are” by Liz Colter. This is a tale with a dark fairy tale aura to it, or at least it seemed to me. Told from the point of view of a woman who is the chief attendant on a royal as well as someone connected psychically to the earth. Ultimately tragic, she must watch as her lady’s husband returns from battle on day, fatally wounded and followed by the knight who killed him. The knight takes over as lord of the castle. The narrator watches, knowing the future, but powerless to do anything. Or is she?
Ian McHugh’s “Seraph” could almost pass for post-apocalyptic science fiction if you squint just right. It’s certainly concerns a world that went through a great war. A small outpost is guarded by a slowly dying seraph when they are attacked by a bear. This is no ordinary bear, but a relic from the war. It’s hunting the seraph. This one had a nice eastern European flavor to it.
Mark Silcox tells us “The Enemy’s True Name“, in which a retired warrior is lured out of retirement to defend his land against a rogue sorcerer. Along the way he keeps seeing a dark, cloaked figure. This figure, whose identity is easy to figure out, is one the warrior has encountered before. I particularly liked the ending and how the last line played on the enemy’s name.
Editor Simmons provides the final story. “Hard Crossing at Luhinmov Ford“. Here the female champions of two kings engage in single combat to determine how the armies are going to be arranged for the coming battle. On one side, the veteran Cawella. On the other, a scrappy newcomer, the lizard girl Aslanuw. There are some good meditations on mercy and the role it plays in a martial society here. It’s a toss up whether “Hard Crossing at Luhinmov Ford” or “The Enemy’s True Name” was my favorite from this issue
Of course both issues contained two poems. I’ll not discuss them here simply because I don’t want my remarks to be longer than the poems. My favorite poem was Mary Soon Lee’s “Seventeenth Lesson“. One of the things I like best about Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is the consistency of the poetry. There aren’t a lot of poetry markets, much less outlets for genre poetry. There are always two poems in every issue of HFQ, and they’re always excellent. Not all of them are to my taste, but I have yet to see one that wasn’t a well written poem.
And now the KIckstarter. Not too long ago, an anthology of stories from Heroic Fantasy Quarterly was published. There’s a Kickstarter going to produce a second volume entitled The Best of HFQ Volume II. I know a lot of you prefer print to electronic formats (I’m looking at you, DJW), so here’s your chance to score some good reading in either print or electronic format, or both. You can also pick up copies (again print, electronic, or both) of The Best of HFQ Volume I depending on your pledge level. I’ve supported the Kickstarter because I think there should be more markets for quality heroic fantasy. If you agree, then consider pledging.