Beneath Ceaseless Skies #84, December 15, 2011
“Heartless” by Peadar Ó Guilín
“The God Thieves” by Derek Künsken
Reviewed by Bob Leishman
In this issue both stories involve magic being used as tools both to give their wielders godlike powers but also to accomplish what modern society has achieved with technology.
“Heartless” by Peadar Ó Guilín describes a society in which each family must have its own household witch or suffer the consequences. Each witch, in turn, is under the control of the head of the household. Magical activity tends to reduce their shelf life which means another witch must eventually be procured.
Malvern is a young woman who can see where this is heading and how both her family and her society at large have been affected by it. The choices that she makes drives this story. It’s a good read with an interesting ending.
The setting for the next story is Italy during the period of the city states, but here magic is used as a weapon and as a device to gather intelligence. Mateo is an officer in Genoa’s intelligence service — a spy, in other words, who’s been returned to active status prematurely. Venice has a new device which is a threat to Genoa. Mateo must become a medieval James Bond and walk into enemy territory to fulfill his mission.
Derek Künsken has created a story where religion and magic have become branches of an applied science. Here, souls can be treated in much the same way that the body is treated by physicians and surgeons and human beings, and through magic can be augmented with portions of the gods themselves. The gods in question are from every religion, sect, or cult that the earth can provide. The people who wield this magic use it for military purposes or, as in Mateo’s case, espionage. But Mateo has a personal connection with one deity in particular — Jesus Christ, the God who will not fight.
“The God Thieves” gets into the questions of what choices a person must make in order to protect his country, his family, and his soul. I liked this story.