Beneath Ceaseless Skies #130, September 19, 2013
Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
“The Black Veil” by M. Bennardo is the short tale of a judge in his death throes seeking holy confirmation of his life’s work as a witch hunter. The scant speculative fiction elements could easily be read as a superstitious interpretation of the judge’s past or, at most, might qualify as magical realism, and do not justify the story’s place in a fantasy adventure magazine. This overly short piece lacks vividness and emotional impact.
“Now Ix, He Was a Lover” by Hannah Strom-Martin plunges into the complex love life of Ela, a wife and mother steeped in a repressive society that devalues women and the enslaved race of humanoid elves. When Ela’s oft absent husband strikes her upon one of his short returns home, she follows the advice of her sister and, to her own discomfort, breaks societal codes by visiting an elven massage house. The tenderness of the male masseuse tempts her back to the pleasure house even as the city devolves into racial violence and murdered elves are staked and burned around her. Strom-Martin takes us through a wide emotional range, from infatuation and devotion to embarrassment and fear, making Ela a very sympathetic protagonist in this dark Romantic tale of forbidden love and rampant hate fit for the Greek mythology it loosely emulates.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.