Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Swords and Sorcery Magazine #19

   Sorry I'm so late reviewing this month's issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine.  It did come a little late but it's September now and this should have been up at least a week or two ago.   Continuing to publish solid stories, both of the August issue (#19) are good.  The first, "Fisherman and Old Cloot" is by DC Harrell.   It opens as a folk-tale, complete with a once-upon-a-time setup with lines like "Those few who did dwell" and sounding as if being conveyed by spinner of stories.  It quickly switches from twice-told-tale mode to standard third-person before returning to folk-tale mode.   Old Cloot is a Nessie type monster living in the deepest parts of a lake surrounded by high peaks and cut off from much of the world.  Like the fisherman of the title's sons, we learn the elaborate legend of Old Cloot from a cattleman.  Containing a saint, a magic bridle, and a monster that changes shape into a horse, it wouldn't surprise me if it appeared in a collection of Scottish fairy tales.   Dubious of the existence of Old Cloot, the fisherman comes face to face with the monster one morning.  Contending with the monster's sudden appearance is only the beginning of the terrors the man must face.  The result of his struggle against the beast is something completely unforeseen and devastating.
   Harrell avoid the pitfalls I've found common in such mock folk-tales.  Too often they succumb to tweeness or are smothered by unaffecting pseudo-archaic language.  "The Fisherman and Old Cloot" doesn't and I definitely wouldn't throw it back into the lake.

   Garnett Elliott's "Winter Exodus" is actually a swords & sorcery story.  Young Gecerix leaves his father's royal chamber only to return to find his father overthrown and pinned to his throne with his own spear.  The teenager, his mother and the few retainers who remain loyal to him are cast out into the cold night.  With few supplies they face death at the hands of the cannibalistic Skrae or from exposure and starvation.  
   Driven to seek sanctuary in a haunted tower, Gecerix finds himself tempted by a mysterious, dark figure.  Called Eilu, the dark figure, with words and visions, weaves a tale of an ancient world warm and lush.  Great cities and towers stood where only ruins now remain.  If only Gecerix will do a certain service for it the dark figure will restore that world for the exiled prince and his followers.  The young man's reactions are the heart of "Winter Exodus".
  It's a good story, though a found the end a little rushed.  The sudden ending turns what could have been a great stand alone story into one that feels like the opening pages of a much longer story.  Sometimes that works for me, but here it jarred the story a little too much.  Instead of being great it only ended up be pretty good.
   So there's another month and another two stories by authors I've never read before.  Based solely on these two stories I'd give both another go.   

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