The Sword Review, Issue 12, March 2006

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"The Betrayer" by Donna Johnson

"The Savant" by Donnie Clemons
"Becoming the Warrior" by Matthew Wuertz
The March issue of The Sword Review runs a bit short on fiction, focusing more on inspirational poetry and columns.

Grand Inquisitor Alsophos Bradek journeys back to the ruined city of Montinora where he used to live, where he used to toss lives away like spare scraps of paper, and where he used to have a family in "The Betrayer" by Donna Johnson. The rumors say that the city was betrayed, and the name of the miscreant was written in blood across the Keep door. Bradek must know who did this, no matter the cost.

The main fault with "The Betrayer" is the blatant withholding of information from the reader and the prominent use of flashback as a storytelling device. Mixing these made for a good start, but a fuddled middle. The ending came off predictably and didn’t give any resolution to the conflicted character of Bradek. I guess all villains receive villainous endings no matter how much they repent.

"A Stroll Down Grace Street at Twilight" by Mark Allan Gunnells, as the title suggests, takes the reader for a walk. Every week, our narrator, an elderly gentleman of stereotypical proportions, goes for his walk down Grace Street to clear his head and ease the pain of arthritis. This personal routine changes from normal to fantastical when the sidewalk ends and a dirt path opens to a mysterious, magical forest.

Gunnells’s prose is fluid and elegant, and the journey from the beginning of Grace Street to its end is full of quirky surprises and enough urban fantasy to make it dreamlike. Well-paced with a genial moral, "A Stroll Down Grace Street at Twilight" is a poignant story, the highlight of this issue.

"The Savant" by Donnie Clemons tells the story of J.J., a veteran space pilot for the Alliance, and his adventures involving the retrieval of a code breaking device that could help deter the hostile planet Sandrune. Along the way, he encounters some natives that just might change his entire outlook on life.

Clemons starts "The Savant" slowly with a lump of exposition, but eventually picks up the pace once the main characters come to the forefront and the spaceships fade to the back.  The contrasts and comparisons of alien life to that of human are done quietly, having a greater effect on the reader and making this space opera just above the norm and worth the read. It originally appeared in Issue #3 of Amazing Journeys.  

Matthew Wuertz‘s "Becoming the Warrior" is the second part of a three-part serial.