Heroic Fantasy Quarterly 26 is now online. This issue contains three pieces of fiction as well as three poems. I found this particular issue to be one of the more enjoyable issues of HFQ in quite a while. The stories are certainly among the best HFQ has published.
The lead story is “The Voice of the Green Flame” by J. R. Restrick. Here the king of a besieged fortress undertakes a hazardous journey to consult a group of feared priests. While a tad overwritten at times, this one didn’t go in the directions I thought it would. The ending had a degree of ambiguity that added to the effect. This was the darkest of the fiction this quarter. The hero’s hiding place near the end was a nice eerie touch. I’ve always thought that the best S&S has an element of horror running through it, and this story exemplified that.
Speaking of dark, the HFQ 25 was extremely dark. The second story in HFQ 26, Jon Byrne’s “Beggar’s Belief” made up for it. This story has one of the most upbeat endings I’ve seen in a heroic fantasy story in a long time. Here an embittered beggar with a crippled arm discovers that not all heroes have to be big and brawny. They just have to do the right thing. The character arc in this one was solid and well done. I particularly liked the optimistic ending of this one.
Robert Zoltan’s “The Blue Lamp” introduces us to a pair of adventurers who haven’t quite cemented their friendship, at least not at the beginning of the tale. Trying to escape the annoying verse of the poet and swordsman Darion Vin, the tattooed hillman know simply as Blue wanders into a shop and sees a collection of small silver statues. They represent most of the known races and ethnic groups of this world, and they are incredibly detailed. Of course these are no ordinary statues, as Blue soon learns. This story was a lot of fun; Blue and Darion Vin are a pair I would like to see more of. The story also contained a nice illustration by the author.
There were also three poems included in this issue. As usual, I’ll avoid going into them in any detail. I don’t want the review of the poetry to be longer than the poems themselves.