Fantasy Magazine #56, November 2011

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Fantasy Magazine #56, November 2011

“Seven Spells to Sever the Heart” by by K.M. Ferebee
“Christopher Raven” by Theodora Goss
“Red Dawn: A Chow Mein Western” by Lavie Tidhar

Reviewed by Chuck Rothman

K.M. Ferebee‘s “Seven Spells to Sever the Heart” is the story about Samuel Crew, the seventh son of a seventh daughter.  His brothers were to one degree or another wizards or dabblers in magic, all of whom either died or vanished due to their abilities.  Samuel is depressed by all this and tries to take action. This isn’t my type of story at all — too depressing without anything other than Samuel suffering throughout.  It’s well written, but seems to be trying for tragedy and, as is all too often the case, confusing futility with tragedy.  Definitely the product of a talented writer, but not my cup of tea.

“Chistopher Raven” is a ghost tale, as a group of women from a 19th century girl’s school reunite at Old Girls day several years after graduation.  They shared an adventure of sorts:  as roommates, they all dreamed about a romantic poet name Christopher Raven, who seduces them all while they sleep.  They discovered that Raven was real, and had a strong connection with the founder of the school.  This is at heart a mystery story as the girls try to find out about Raven and what happened to him.  Theodora Goss draws some excellent characters and characterizations, and slowly reveals not only the mystery, but also how the women were affected by the events.

“Red Dawn: a Chow Mein Western” implies a somewhat lighter story then it actually is, but that’s hardly a flaw.  It’s set in an alternate 19th century world where magic exists in stones filled with Qi — magic energy.  The main character finds his world destroyed by English troops out to gather his town’s Qi-rich stone and grows up to try to seek his revenge.  The story avoids the pitfalls of a revenge tale with some excellent plotting, and I’ve always wondered why there are so few fantasy stories set in China.  In any case, Lavie Tidhar has concocted a story with something to it besides just the plot; the result it just plain good reading.