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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #193, February 18, 2016

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #193, February 18, 2016

And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them” by Dean Wells

Salt Circles” by Andrew F. Sullivan

Reviewed by Kat Day

Issue 193 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies serves up two rather grim and gruesome tales. In “And the Blessing of the Angels Came Upon Them” by Dean Wells, we start with Peavey, a grandfather looking after his crippled grandson. They live in an alternate world, which Peavey travelled to via a ‘Great Mirror’ decades before. The mirror was destroyed, leaving no way to return home, and the new world turned out to be hostile with little to sustain its accidental settlers. The story weaves between the present, describing the events unfolding around Peavey and his grandson, and the past, where we learn how they’ve reached their current circumstances, and why the angel motif is so significant. It’s a grim tale, but cleverly done. Peavey’s character develops interestingly as we gradually fill in the gaps from then to now, and towards the end there’s a well-constructed piece of action. The very end will probably leave you thinking, wait, did I just read that?

In “Salt Circles” by Andrew F. Sullivan we follow the travels of what appear to be a group of Inquisitors, dealing with incidents of witchcraft. The story is told by Dennis who, we learn, has been cursed with boils on his arms. He and his companions, Heath and Mitchell, are camped in one of the eponymous salt circles in an effort to protect them from further dark forces, but Dennis is nevertheless troubled by dark dreams. We learn of two earlier visits to accursed villages, and the events that unfolded there. The story then moves back to the present time, with the group about to visit the third village. Personally, I found this story somewhat unsatisfying. There’s plenty of gore, but I was left with lots of questions. Were we supposed to feel sympathy for the inquisitors? Historically such a group would be viewed in a negative light – persecuting innocent women for no good reason – but here the evil seems to be very real. Which left me with the question why? Why had these evil acts been visited upon these places? We never learn the reasons, and even what has really happened – I wondered whether Dennis was meant to be an unreliable narrator – and without this context it was difficult to work out whether our protagonist and the rest of his group had acted cruelly or not. All in all an interesting idea, but somewhat unsatisfying.