Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #42, November 2019

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Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #42, November 2019

“A Night in the Library” by Robert Zoltan

“Echo of the Siren” by Richard Zwicker
“We Who Are About to Die” by Michael W. Cho
“Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well” by Katherine Quevedo

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The latest issue of this on-line magazine provides a quartet of stories that offer adventure in ancient lands and worlds that never existed.

“A Night in the Library” by Robert Zoltan begins with a woman bereaved by the death of her father and betrayed by her faithless lover. An enchanted mirror and a book of spells transform the mourning woman into a figure of vengeance. In her new form, she confronts her former lover in a library, using magic to reduce him in size until he is only a few inches high. Trapped in the library, he must battle hordes of hungry rats, with help from an unexpected ally.

Allusions to previous adventures make it clear that this is one of a series of stories featuring the man and his warrior companion. Readers familiar with earlier tales will better appreciate it than those who are not. The style is vivid and colorful, with a subtle touch of dark humor. The plot inevitably evokes memories of Richard Matheson’s famous novel The Shrinking Man, as well as the well-known movie adapted from it. This lack of originality, as well as a protagonist who is not very admirable, weakens the appeal of a well-written story.

The narrator of “Echo of the Siren” by Richard Zwicker is the legendary wanderer Odysseus, long after he returns home from his years at sea. He sets out for the island of the Sirens, hoping to destroy the half-human monsters who lure mariners to their doom. He expects that his partial deafness, as well as the cooling of his passions with old age, will protect him from their song. One of the sailors who goes with him is a young man, who fails to seal his ears with wax as ordered. Odysseus struggles to save his life from the deadly creatures.

This brief story paints a convincing portrait of a mythical character. The plot not only supplies an exciting adventure, but a thoughtful allegory of the difference between the boldness of youth and the wisdom of age.

“We Who Are About to Die” by Michael W. Cho takes place at the time of the Roman Republic. A great commander, who often battled the Romans, is betrayed by the king he serves. A large number of assassins, sent by the Roman Senate, invade his villa. The aging soldier makes use of a home full of traps and secret passages, as well as his military skill and wits, to escape with his life.

Students of ancient history may guess the name of the main character, hidden from the reader until the end. The story has no fantasy content, although some may see it as alternate history. Those expecting sorcery with their swordplay will be disappointed. Fans of historical fiction may be pleased.

“Fellscorpe and the Wishing Well” by Katherine Quevedo is a very short story in which the title character accidentally drops a coin into a magic well and inadvertently makes a wish, leading to a major change in his life. This tiny tale has a very simple plot, but at least it contains the important moral lesson that one can make up for one’s previous misdeeds.

Victoria Silverwolf did not predict the identity of the protagonist in the third story.