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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #276, April 25, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #276, April 25, 2019

Fury at the Crossroads” by Troy L. WigginsTroy L. Wiggins

Hangdog” by Dayna K. Smith

Reviewed by Jeffrey Steven Abrams

Fury at the Crossroads” by Troy L. Wiggins d by both sides of the conflict, lea

Characters and dialog are the keys that bring this story to life. Conversations between Fury and Junebug, in a gritty urban-speak, show their closeness. Here, Junebug’s warning gives a perfect encapsulation of their relationship and an overall feel for the story. “A hard head makes a soft ass, Fury Mae. Better be easy. I might not have a body, but I’ll still whoop a knot on your head.”

Even though the tale is over seven-thousand words, it never feels drawn out or tedious. I did have a little trouble getting my head around using a guitar as an implement of destruction, but in a fantasy world, why not?

Hangdog” by Dayna K. Smith

Grinn and her friend Buddy are shapeshifters, travelling through the Civil War-torn south near Vicksburg. They’re herding a group of horses when a moanful cry catches their attention. Investigating, they find a lone wolf, dressed in a Union uniform, hanging by his neck from a tree. His claws have been cruelly ripped from his fingers, someone’s sadistic demonstration of power.

After rescuing the hanging wolf, the three begin a journey but are caught by horse rustlers. It turns out that the hanging wolf is the lead rustlers’ old dog, Jonah.

Before the rustlers can escape with their loot, a ghost storm arrives, pinning them in place, turning the world into a surrealistic collection of ancient wolfen memories, ghosts, and psychedelic images. Using strength she didn’t know she had, Grinn orchestrates Buddy’s, Jonah’s, and the horses escape.

The story’s strength lies in its characters. A thirteen-year-old girl before being bitten, Grinn now prefers to live as a wolf. She’s a complex mixture of canine instincts and powerful woman. Buddy is a sweet, Disney-like sidekick who you know will come through in the end. Jonah is a beaten-down everyman. Interactions between these three are what make “Hangdog” worth reading.

Much as I loved the characters, Smith’s writing style made “Hangdog” a difficult read for me. Dialog and thoughts are written with a wild-west twang, while the remaining prose is eloquent modern day. The rapid jumping between both felt a little jarring.