The current issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (number 22) has been out for a little while now. I’ve been reading it here and there when I have a slow few minutes at work. (The fact that it’s taken me several weeks to finish should tell you how many slow minutes I have.)
Once again, this one is strong. There are four pieces of fiction here, two long and two short, as well as two poems. The longer stories are historical fantasy, while the shorter pieces are set in imaginary worlds.
Here’s a quick run down of what you’ll find.
“Crazy Snake and the Comazotz” by Eric Atkisson concerns a wandering warrior, half Mexican and half Commanche, as he discovers a sinister plot to awaken a dark deity in Central America. This was the longest story in the issue, and I found it a nice change of pace from your typical European based fantasy. There have been calls for years now for fantasy based different cultures from other parts of the world. I’ve not been too impressed by much of it. Atkisson, I thought, succeeds in this endeavor where others have failed. I’m anticipating further adventures of Crazy Snake.
R. Michael Burns takes us back to feudal Japan for another adventure of his samurai hero Hokag’e in “Shadows and Foxfire“. Here Hokag’e learns that when aiding a damsel in distress, the person he should most beware of is the damsel. Oh, and even if you’re through with the gods, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are through with you.
The first imaginary world story, “Feathers” by Andrew Knighton, has a single setting, the yard outside a veteran’s hut. The man is a veteran archer, and he’s trying to bring down a cursed raven who is spreading sickness by its very presence. Now the man’s son has fallen ill and is fading fast.
The final story is by far the most imaginative of the lot. “Handful of Spring” by Charles Paysuer pushes the borders of what I consider heroic fantasy, but it’s well worth the read. Here each season has its own realm across the river. On this side of the river, it’s winter. In order for there to be spring, a group of four have to cross the river, collect some, and then successfully pass through the realms of summer, autumn, and winter in order to return. If they are successful, then winter will end. The last few groups never returned. You see there are dangers across the river, and they’re closing in on the group when the story opens. Or at least what’s left of the group.
There are also two poems, “Ice Dragon’s Lullaby” by S. W. Smith and “The Lay of Hrethulf Glamirsbane” by Cullen Groves. Both are moving, the former with a melancholy overtone and the latter with dark tragedy in the old Norse style.
Finally, the featured art is the spectacular “Burn” by Jereme Peabody.
All in all, a solid issue, well worth your checking out.