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

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242, January 4, 2018

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #242, January 4, 2018

"Suite for Accompanied Cello" by Tamara Vardomskaya

"An Aria for the Bloodlords" by Hannah Strom-Martin

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

The latest issue of this magazine features two stories about music, both taking place in settings that resemble fantastic versions of Europe one or two centuries ago.

The narrator of "Suite for Accompanied Cello" by Tamara Vardomskaya is a woman who was a piano prodigy as a child. She gave up her career for marriage and children. A former enemy offers her a large amount of money if she will accompany his daughter, a gifted cellist, during an important music contest. The girl turns out to be something other than expected, and the woman must take it upon herself to free her from an unhappy situation. The fantasy elements are minimal, but they are vital to the plot. The author introduces them in a clear and believable fashion. The story is elegantly written and reaches a satisfying conclusion.

"An Aria for the Bloodlords" by Hannah Strom-Martin has much greater fantastic content. Long before the story begins, demons were confined to a dark forest by supernatural beings, conjured up by those who now rule the land as royalty. They control their inferiors with magical music. They also use the entities that defeated the demons to punish those who disobey. The plot starts when a young soprano replaces an ailing diva. The composer of the opera she will perform is shocked when she improvises her singing, which is strictly forbidden. He discovers her motivation for defying the rulers, and learns the truth about the oppressive society in which he lives. This story has a complex background and is full of dramatic incidents, but never quite comes together as a whole.

Victoria Silverwolf has no musical talents.