Dragons, Knights, & Angels, #36, Sept. 2006

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"He Loves a Great Story" by Steven Jopek
"To Err is Human" by Ian Barker
"Cold Dragons" by TW Williams
"Battle of Engorlash" by John K. Patterson
"El Remedio" by Marguerite Croft
"Fang of the Serpent" by Scott M. Sandridge
"Dedication" by T. L. Morganfield
In “He Loves a Great Story” by Steven Jopek, Sandalphon is an Interlocutor whose job is to listen to tales—"Yes, just a story.  Mind you, it needs to be one I’ve never heard before and it needs to be good.  An engaging story that can move even the most stoic of listeners."—and judge their merit, granting the teller some reward. Sandalphon hears one he likes, but the storyteller disappears, and he waits impatiently to see if she will come back to complete it.

Jopek manages to stir the imagination in a story that has no setting, scenery, or background. If you saw it on the big screen, there’d only be two people sitting at a table against a black background. Not altogether amiss, but hard to get accustomed to. I found “He Loves a Great Story” too vague, and though I appreciate what the author was going for, it missed the mark. I guess I’m not deep enough to grasp who Sandalphon was, the nature of his task, or the identity of his boss (although I have a guess). The prose is well done with graphic descriptions and poignant dialogue. All in all, technically proficient, but the theme, sadly, eluded me.

In Ian Barker‘s “To Err is Human,” the children of his world have a strange intelligence that works to their disadvantage. Michael Carson is looking for something. At first, he thinks he knows what it is, the thing society tells him he wants. Then, he meets an extraordinary child among the extraordinary, and his priorities shift. Michael makes a mistake; he errs in the eyes of his superiors.  But is it a misstep he can live with? 

A science fiction Armageddon piece, Barker employs a deft hand with word usage, voice, and style. Though littered with a few stray, choppy sentences, the prose moves along as it should, leaving the plot twist until the last possible moment.

Dragons abound in TW Williams’s “Cold Dragons.” We encounter some old friends as the story follows Garlach in his quest to find a missing knight. He plans to enlist his father’s help, but discovers he’s died. Only dusty advice and haunting dreams are left to help him. He doesn’t know where to turn. There’s no one and nothing, or is there? Garlach’s quest for death and vengeance becomes something else, and he learns that not all things with scales and fangs are as they seem.

I enjoyed Williams’s style; the dialogue is natural-sounding and furthers the plot. I hope to see more of this writer’s work in the future.

We are volleyed right into the throes of a fierce battle where dragons and men fight together on both sides in John K. Patterson’s “Battle at Engorlash.”  Morent, a young wizard, spearheads an attack on the evil Karysians, leading his side bravely into combat. The one-on-one battle between Morent and the Tyrant Dragon is flawless; every move is described with precision. I was swept up by the tension, excitement, and nonstop action. However, there aren’t many places where a reader can stop to catch her breath, and this proved a little tiring, regardless of how well the action was written or how much I sympathized with the main character.  Still, this story’s classic theme was executed with a new voice, one I enjoyed very much.

“El Remedio” by Marguerite Croft follows  young college student Elsie who discovers there is more to learn in graduate school than how to categorize old bones and write reports. She meets an interesting character, Pel, who shows her how to overcome the stage fright she suffers from whenever she has to give a lecture. She   realizes that she needs Pel more than she is comfortable with, and when she enlists his help with an unruly colleague, she is horrified when he takes it too far. However, she gets over his indiscretion and finds the strength she needs to get through one of the most important days of her career.

Giving lectures is not life-threatening, even though it may feel like it if you’re phobic about pubic speaking.  Ms. Croft’s writing  abilities might have been better served if she’d made the process of Elsie overcoming her stage fright a means to a bigger end. 

Scott M. Sandridge spotlights one of his favorite characters in “Fang of the Serpent.”  With a fight every minute and a battle every paragraph, Mr. Sandridge dishes out back-to-back action. Yavar, a young woman forced into the murder-for-hire trade by her husband, searches for her brother and must sacrifice something very precious on her quest. The action and fighting is well written and entertaining for those readers who yearn for duels fought with something other than swords; Yavar wields an axe and two long, curved knives. There’s no lesson here; only good, bloody fun as Yavar cuts a path through the enemy to get to her beloved brother. Will she be too late? Will her evil husband win? Read it and find out.

The setting that “Dedication” by T. L. Morganfield opens with takes some getting used to. Temples and priests mixed with computer pads and coffee counters made it hard for me to figure out what was going on. A man is in charge of an ancient temple being built to honor an ancient god in modern times. He thinks it’s just another job until he gets a shock from one of the temple workers that forces him to take another look at his life.

Although Ms. Morganfield uses difficult-to-follow, Aztec-sounding names, the characters are appealing. However, long talks between two men about ballgames and good food cause the story to lag in the middle.  But the author salvages the story by drawing a striking parallel to Christ’s sacrifice. Ms. Morganfield draws a touching picture of a man who willingly sacrifices everything for others and the impact it has on one person.