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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Flashing Swords #4

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"The Redemption of Calthus" by Steve Goble
"The Dead God's Destiny" by Robert Burke Richardson
"The Blood Meridian" by Nathan Meyer
"Edges" by Edward Muller
"The Hungry Apples" by Richard Lyon and Andrew Offutt
"Jawbone of an Ass" by Steven L. Shrewsbury
"The Lost Path Between the Worlds" by John C. Hocking

Steve Goble
's "The Redemption of Calthus" is the story of a warrior condemned to burn for six hundred years for an ultimately disappointing reason. He is resurrected by a powerful group of monks to kill a beast tormenting the villagers below. The monks could do it themselves, but they don't want to, Calthus doesn't intend on doing it when they set him loose, but he does. Though the reasoning is weak, if you love the sub-genre you'll overlook it and enjoy this straightforward tale with its light touch of humor.

Robert Burke Richardson's first of three installments, "The Dead God's Destiny" introduces thief Jack Nimble and his assassin cohort Phillipe, aka Platypus. The story follows them as they undertake a job and the subsequent, danger-filled hearing at the Thieves Guild due to said job. The story is not played for humor, but it runs through the fight scenes, Jack's plans, and the fact that assassins dress in the costumes of their chosen moniker. My biggest complaint would be that the world is too lightly drawn and thus a little confusing.

"The Blood Meridian" by Nathan Meyer is neither sword and sorcery fantasy, nor swashbuckling in the strictest sense, given the overwhelming use of guns. The main character, Sabbath, is a condemned killer hired by the mistress of the Governor of Hispaniola to free her female lover from the dastardly perversions of Sinclair—a man who stole the love and life of Sabbath's woman. My journey through this teenage boy's wet dream was worthy of the genre itself, a fight at every step past clunky sentences, oddly placed punctuation and capital letters, and ultimately unrealistic action.

Unlike the other offerings in the issue, Edward Muller's "Edges" is dialogue rather than action centered. Old King Joska has almost succeeded in his bid to rule all the Circle Lands before his death, only one small fin of land at the edge of the world is beyond his control. It holds the castle of the Faramal, last being of its kind. The novel solution to the problem draws out the Faramal and so Joska orders Sir Andor to speak to it, with unexpected consequences. It's a solid, complete story with a realistic main character.

I was confused by the wordy beginning of "The Hungry Apples" by Richard Lyon and Andrew Offutt as it bears little relevance to the story. This, however, wasn't my only quibble with this story of reformed cannibal and pirate, Caranga, as he outwits those meaning to kill him with the "apples" from the title. With some good editing, this could have been a tight, tense action scene pleasingly devoid of excessive exposition and exclamation marks.

An inn, an ogre, and a dirty fight, does it get any better than that? Steven L. Shrewsbury's rollicking good ride, "Jawbone of an Ass," made me giddy as it promised fun from the get go. The plot hangs on Cyrus and Jarius's attempt to capture the warlock Ashtock Sarkis, which, of course, does not proceed as well as they hoped. If you're wondering where the best story of the issue is, it's right here.

John C. Hocking's tale of sorcery, "The Lost Path Between the Worlds" is based around the secrets held in a two volume book entitled "Celestial Couplet," which is strangely capitalized throughout causing the odd effect of characters suddenly shouting when it appears in dialogue. There is plenty for lovers of action and magic in this comfortable fantasy story.

Given that Flashing Swords is a response to the lack of markets for the vast quantities of sword and sorcery supposedly written and desired, I was very disappointed by the quality within.  But it is obviously working for some people, and so I hope it can continue to provide the kind of fiction they desire.