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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Cirsova #9, Fall 2018

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Cirsova #9, Fall 2018

The Faerie Pool” by Edward McDermott

Our Lords, the Swine” by N.A. Roberts
The Bejeweled Chest” by S.K. Inkslinger
All That Glitters” by Paul Lucas
The Orb of Xarkax” by Xavier Lastra
Jack’s Basement” by Michael Tierney
Antares” by PC Bushi
Cirque des Étoiles” by Bo Balder
Hot Water in Wormtown” by Robert Lang
Littermates” (Part 2 of 2) by J.D. Brink

Reviewed by Kevin P Hallett

The 9th issue of Cirsova contains ten original stories, including two novelettes and the second part of a novelette.

The Faerie Pool” by Edward McDermott

A dispute between men and faeries is the basis for this short fantasy. Believing his son was enchanted by fairies the King blocks off the faerie’s sacred and magical pool.

Kheelan, a travelling minstrel, becomes entrapped in the local dispute and decides to use his faerie connections to mediate and solve the dispute. But the King is bitterly entrenched, and things do not come easily to Kheelan, despite his romantic connection to the Princess.

At times the prose was deliberate and felt stilted. The plot, however, was interesting and had some unexpected twists.

Our Lords, the Swine” by N.A. Roberts

Sir Guyon takes refuge for the night at an old monastery in this short horror story. The monks living there seem strange and the knight dog-sleeps, staying alert to any strange sound.

When he hears the soft padding of bare feet, he prepares for a fight. Out-numbered, his skills are sorely pressed as he discovers the bizarre deity these monks have given over their lives too.

It was an easy to read story with a predictable plot that meandered at times.

The Bejeweled Chest” by S.K. Inkslinger

In this short fantasy, an archmagi battles against the Pale Meister who is trying to assassinate the archmagi’s last hope for peace. The Pale Meister uses a bejeweled chest to skip between worlds as it tries to find its target.

The archmagi diligently pursues it through different worlds that are either caught in epic battles or destroyed from such wars. Can the archmagi close the gap as they flit between the worlds?

The story’s commitment to telling rather than showing created slow and ponderous prose.

All That Glitters” by Paul Lucas

Lucas’ fantasy novelette tells the story of a thief, Nap, with two charmed knives. Each knife captures the soul of anyone it kills, and Nap can call on any captured soul to exploit its knowledge. The one drawback is that the knives are talkative and often risk undermining Nap’s plans.

One day, Nap is cheated by a fence when he tries to sell a stolen Basilisk Egg to them. Incensed, Nap seeks the rich and well-guarded purchaser of stolen goods to kill them. Will the charmed knives help or hinder Nap in his quest for revenge?

The author created an interesting plot. Overall an okay read.

The Orb of Xarkax” by Xavier Lastra

Panjandrum is hoping to find Xarkax’s orb in this fantasy novelette. Xarkax’s mountain tomb has recently been exposed allowing Panjandrum and Olokhos to enter it in search of treasure.

They must avoid many traps, and their distrust of each other only further hinders them. When they finally stumble upon the entrance to the old King’s burial chamber, things get decidedly worse.

The author wrote this novelette in a tongue-in-cheek style. At times it was amusing to read, at others it seemed slow.

Jack’s Basement” by Michael Tierney

Jack, a teenage boy, draws disturbing sketches in this horror short, and his mother hires a psychologist to determine why. After some investigation the psychologist believes the boy’s bedroom in the basement holds the key to her son’s behavior.

This was a piece of short flash fiction that did not have much of a story to tell.

Antares” by PC Bushi

In this SF short, Yhs and his mate are searching the abandoned city of Antares for any weapons they can use to help survive. The derelict city is occupied now by monstrous creatures who see the couple as food.

When they reach a building that was once important and well guarded, they search it for any advanced weapons. But this building is still guarded by a different kind of deadly creature.

The prose was okay and the plot simple. Overall it was an average story that did not introduce any new ideas for its genre.

Cirque des Étoiles” by Bo Balder

Fourth Continuity Girl works for a circus that is touring alien worlds in this SF short. The circus struggles to survive as the different aliens care little for the well-rehearsed antics of humans. Next port of call is the planet that is home to the mysterious Klaamath’s.

Fourth Continuity Girl discovers that the circus is almost out of oxygen and they all face death if they cannot entertain these Klaamath aliens. But she is fourth level. In this strict hierarchy, can she convince anyone how to solve the problem before honor demands they all commit seppuku.

This was an interestingly structured plot with an engaging style of writing. But, in the end it lacked enough originality to be very good.

Hot Water in Wormtown” by Robert Lang

In this short fantasy, Lady Alexia and Foskin, her composite, are trapped in a desert town. The townsfolk consider Foskin an abomination and want to give its human part a final burial.

Forced to seek refuge in the local church they scheme with the priest for a way to escape alive.

The story was interesting, the ending uncertain, and the prose engaging.

Littermates” (Part 2 of 2) by J.D. Brink

Captain Hawksblood is making a run to Tokyo GC in the second half of this SF novelette (the first half was in Cirsova #8). When his sometimes flame, Gabby, shows up, he knows he will be in for an adventure that isn’t of his own making.

Gabby convinces Hawksblood to transport her and her art collection to Tokyo for sale. Just minutes before leaving normal time and space, a more brutal pirate than Hawksblood shows up, making a claim on one of the art pieces. Giving up the artifact will only bring death quicker, yet his old ship is clearly out-gunned. Hawksblood and Gabby must find a way to preserve their lives.

This story is independent of the first part, allowing the reader to enjoy either or both. Though the plot was a little cliché, the prose style created a rollicking tale that was easy to read and enjoy.