"Bond" by Joanne Anderton
"Kindred Spirits" by Aliette de Bodard
The first story titled "Last Ditch" written by Jason Gross is the longest and the best of the issue. We follow the adventures of Sandor, the captain of a sled team, making one last run for the season across the wintry wonderlands between Last Ditch and Stonespur.
Gross creates several memorable characters, particularly "Edek," an outsider who is forced to come to terms with a terrible incident from his childhood. Sandor is immediately likable and his narration carries the story well.
For fans of fantasy-adventure, there’s lots of action, some realistic sounding descriptions of gear and camp (the way the snow igloos are created is especially neat), and a powerful sense of setting. This was a fun story to read.
Joanne Anderton explores the bond of friendship in "Bond." Sayne (human) and Merillian (dragon) make a living as mercenaries, hired warriors to give generals and their armies an advantage from the sky. However, when Sayne is offered a position as an adopted member of royalty, she has to choose: Rejoin humanity or sever her lifelong partnership with Merillian.
Anderton writes a nice scene showing how Sayne and Merillian originally became friends. While the rest of the story was a little loose with its plot, "Bond" rewards the reader with a reminder of what is most important in life.
Aliette de Bodard offers the story "Kindred Spirits." Bodard does a magnificent job of world building and creates a vivid backstory for her protagonist and of his "kind." The naga, snake-like creatures of water, need to recover a "flame" of life, so they send Daresh. While Daresh is naga, he was not born with the near-immortality the rest of his kind enjoys. This also means he is the most "human" and is sent to retrieve the flame from the greedy king.
"Kindred Spirits" is a well-written story, but certain events fell into place too easily to push the plot along. Still, another worthwhile story of loyalty and belonging.
Overall, a solid effort and entertaining reads.