Beneath Ceaseless Skies #76, August 25, 2011

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #76, August 25, 2011

“The Witch’s Second” by Marissa Lingen
“The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse” by Peter Darbyshire

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

In “The Witch’s Second” by Marissa Lingen, Forsythia and her bosom chum, Lillian, negotiate the social circuit as arranged by their mothers.  Neither of them finds a man who turns their heads.  Lillian makes her frustration known when she challenges Lord Benderskeith to a sorcerous duel, claiming her honor is at stake.  Forsythia is to be her reluctant second.  Lillian and Lord Benderskeith are very evenly matched.  The duel, which is supposed to last an hour, goes on for three days.  By then, both young women have found something unexpected. 

This is a light-hearted tale.  The ending becomes obvious far too early, but it’s amusing, with a coherent plot. 

Azrael does just what the title says, in “The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse” by Peter Darbyshire.  In need of whiskey, Azrael heads for the saloon.  It’s full of ghosts and skeletons, and has a near-zombie barkeep.  Azrael has finished his first drink, and paid for the rest of the bottle, when three demons meander in, looking for trouble.  Azrael tries to ignore the fight, but he can’t stay out of it.  Instead, he shows the townspeople how to kill demons, and he creates another angel in the barkeep, Beth.  The demons aren’t about to go down without a fight. 

I enjoyed this droll juxtaposition of a Western and a hell-spawned town.  Using the foundation of a traditional Western tale, it tosses in the usual creatures of horror, and then seasons with some Old Testament. 

In the past, I’ve gritted my teeth when assigned BCS.  With this issue, I’m ready to reassess, and am hoping the trend continues.  Both these tales are better than most of what I’ve reviewed lately.  I’m impressed.