“Pavel Petrovich” by Daniel Hood
“Undine” by Catherine Krahe
“Sister of the Hedge” by Jim C. Hines
“A Better Place” by Josh Rountree
“Schwarze Madonna and the Sandlewood Knight” by Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake
“Ice” by Patrice E. Sarath
I just met my future wife on the cover of this issue. Now, if only she were real…
Oh well, adolescent dreaming over. Time to get serious:
In “Robin of the Green” by A.C. Wise, Sir Guy is about to wed Marion. Unfortunately, she and Robin, Guy’s fey friend, fall in love. What at first appears to be a typical love triangle instead becomes a story about the strained friendship between the two heroes and the power of true love. Well worth a read.
“Pavel Petrovich” by Daniel Hood is about a Russian wilderness man sent to a labor camp. He possesses a superstitious belief that tattoos are magic that can change you, make you less human. But is it just superstition? Definitely not your typical prison story. Hood brings life to the character of Pavel, and shows the animal nature in Man.
“Undine” by Catherine Krahe is about two young women. One had her life stolen by a water spirit, and the other had her Olympic dreams taken from her by an auto accident. It is a moving, character-based story that will leave you with conflicting emotions. Krahe’s writing style is fluid, almost poetic, and she manages to shift POV without leaving the reader confused.
In “Sister of the Hedge” by Jim C. Hines, Talia, fleeing from her past, finds refuge at the Church of the Iron Cross, a convent surrounded by the Accursed Hedge that is believed to have been created by evil faeries or the Devil. But can it be possible that the hedge was actually a gift from God? Hines explores the nature of faith, and the ability of dogma to cloud intelligence, in a character-driven fantasy of mystery and internal exploration. His writing is clear and flows smoothly, and his tale is the most enjoyable one so far in this issue.
“A Better Place” by Josh Rountree is the shortest story in this issue. A stranger arrives in a sandstorm and offers to take John Clayton and his friend, Russ, to a heavenly utopia. Russ goes and John stays, but which of the two is truly at a “better” place? A thoughtful tale with a message about life in general, “A Better Place” is worth taking the 10-15 minutes of your time to read.
“Schwarze Madonna and the Sandlewood Knight” by Ruth Nestvold and Jay Lake is a tale of love, loss, and justice. A farmer falls in love with the Black Madonna who is killed before his eyes by the Rose Knight. With an oath to avenge her death, he takes up her sword, names himself Robert the Brown, and begins his quest to hunt down her killer. As he pursues his oath, he attracts a motley group of ghosts, fey, farm boys, and wounded soldiers who call him the Sandalwood Knight. Like the fairy tales of old, this story delivers a powerful moral message about love, chivalry, and understanding the difference between justice and revenge. I couldn’t put this one down until I reached the end, so make sure you eat (or anything else you may need to do) before you start.
“Ice” by Patrice E. Sarath is a contemporary fantasy tale. A permanent winter has settled over a distant city, and only a few of the occupants that fled have returned. Delacour is a hockey player who recently injured his shoulder. After encountering a strange woman named Giselle, his best friend, Albrecht, dies of a heart attack. Delacour is then invited to a ballet in which Giselle is performing. And that’s when things start to get really strange. The story has a solid plot, good characterization, and a somewhat surprising twist. But the beginning dragged a bit. At least the ending didn’t leave me cold.