Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Issue 13 - Review

  I'm a lazy man far too often.  I set myself tasks and due dates and then I find Fallout or napping is more appealing.  Now I doubt anyone's waiting with baited breath for some new post of mine but it depresses me when I don't meet my own deadlines.  Like reading and reviewing several online magazines like I've been doing for a few months now.  What this means is that I haven't even finished reading the last two issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  I've let my other site (Ape Shall Not Kill Ape - dedicated to North Shore Staten Island History and Stuff) go close to dormant for most of the spring.  It hasn't been good.
   So when I saw the new issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly was out I forced myself to read it almost at once.  It really didn't take much force and I'm glad I made myself do it.  Now if I can only continue to build some sort of discipline in regards to all my other duties and obligations in life.
   Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Issue 13 is graced with a gloomy bit of art by Jonas Jakobsson called "Watched by Owls".  Inside are three stories and two poems.  HFQ's standards are high and the result is consistently excellent collections of stories.
   "A Game of Chess" by David Pilling is a well told Arthurian tale, something I'm always game for.  It's narrated by King Arthur's foster-brother, Sir Kay, and tells how Sir Gawaine's impetuosity in dealing with a Black Knight and a fairy woman forces Kay into a chess match with Oberon, King of the Fairies.  Kay soon realizes he's playing for more than his comrade's freedom but the instead the fate of all England.  
  The middle story is Alex Marshall's "Renegade", a post-apocalyptic piece with shades of Games Workshop (the protagonist's got a "smeltagun"), a blind seeress, raiders, and ferocious plant men.  Dyer, a weary soldier, comes to the Sanctuary of Tsippi seeking the home of the Hundered-Handed God.  Marshall's brutal world, torn by endless wars and raids is vividly presented.  Dyer is tough and broods with the best of them, but it reads like a truncated piece of a much longer story.  
   We get a see the horrific violence in Dyer and what malign past deeds drive him and he gets a quest to carry out in hopes of psychic rest and it ends there.  Its conclusion just felt too inconclusive.  Marshall has several other stories set in his world of Pangaia (a post meteorstrike devastated Pangaea Ultima) and I hope to read them at some point (see first paragraph).
   In my review of HFQ Issue 12 I noted that Seamus Bayne's "Crown of Sorrows" could serve as jumping off point for a much longer story.  Kudos to me for noting the obvious.  Bayne returns in Issue 13 with the continuation of mercenary Ordwin's struggles against his malefactor, the sorcerer-king Thiesius.  Undeterred by the baleful transmogrification worked on him in the previous story, Ordwin has marched on Thiesius' royal city and laid siege to it.  
   Bayne's characters are solid.  In "Crown of Sorrows", both Thiesius and his guard captain, Kadir, were vivid and more than one-dimensional. Ordwin, as narrator, was more so.  In "Dance Upon Sand", Ordwin provides much more of his history giving the reader deeper understanding of what made him the man he has become.
   At the end of "Crown of Sorrows" there was sense of triumph in Ordwin's acceptance of his fate and his fire for revenge.  "Dance Upon Sand" takes much of that away yet it still manages to find a transcendent victory for Ordwin that makes it an almost surprisingly potent story.
   Thee two poems are "Advice on the Slaying of Wurms" by Michelle Muenzler and "Advent of an Apocalypse" by Bethany Powell.  I preferred the former and its advice on the less apparent dangers met when facing a wurm to the latter's description of a valkyries in action.
   Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is good stuff.  So there you go, check it out (remember, it's free!).


  1. I enjoy your blog and thank you for pointing me in the direction of HFQ

  2. Thank you and your quite welcome.