“A Fair Man” by Peter Orullian
Reviewed by David Wesley Hill
“A Fair Man” by Peter Orullian is the first of two strong offerings in the latest issue of Grimdark. Mikel lives in Sever Ens, a city under the control of a new and corrupt aristocracy, which has instituted both gladiatorial combats to the death as well as the custom of droit du seigneur. Although he is employed by the state—he both manages the arena and is the night watchman for the seedy neighborhood known as the Tides—Mikel is disgusted by the excesses of the privileged class, those who “walked on marble floors and drank water chilled.” However, believing that the rule of bad law is better than no law at all, he supports the status quo until his own daughter is called to Prince Aronal’s bed before her allotted time, when he decides to take action…. A taut fantasy with round characters and plenty of hand-to-hand combat.
We return to dark fantasy in “At the Walls of Sinnlos,” by Michael R. Fletcher, which takes place in a world where you can perform magic only if you’re insane. Gehirn, who is a Hassebrand, and his friend the Captain have been sent by the Theocrat to join the siege of Sinnlos, a city controlled by the Delusionist Empress. Their army consists of both men and Dysmorphics, “massive parodies of physical perfection,” but as the siege goes on, they are joined by a cadre of Therianthropes—shape shifters—that includes Asena, with whom Gehirn falls in love. When she falls in battle before the walls of the city, and as the Empress unleashes deadly magic upon the invaders, Gehirn must decide whether to set free his personal power against the Delusionist—or against his own men, the army of the Theocrat, whom he both loves and hates…. An interesting take on magic and warfare sure to be enjoyed by fans of the genre.