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

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #35, February 2018

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Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #35, February 2018

"White Rainbow and Brown Devil, by Raphael Ordonez

"That Sleep of Death" by Mary-Jean Harris
"Things of Shreds and Patches" by Norman Doege

Reviewed by Jason McGregor

This issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly includes three novelettes which take us to the New World, the Old World, and a Secondary World, with more or less bloodthirsty demons and more or less unlikely heroes and more or less of a sense of olden days in all of them. All have good points, though none entirely worked for me.

"White Rainbow and Brown Devil, by Raphael Ordonez

Carvajal (the Brown Devil) is a sort of mixed-race Puerto Rican wanderer and would-be conquistador who's drunk from the fountain of youth. When he finagles a meeting with a village's wise woman (White Rainbow) only to find she's been captured by the coyote-people and a demon of sorts, he gets caught up in the adventure of a band of folks going out to try to rescue her.

The first fifth of the story has Carvajal meet the native and wise-woman's grandson, Ketekui, and they walk and talk... and walk and talk... This is the fantasy version of the "tour of the steam-grommet factory." The rest of the story may have symbolic meaning but the literal plot is a wandering picaresque bit of happenstance which details the fates of the small band whose members are all lightly characterized—too much in the case of the spear-carriers and not enough for the main ones so that, while the demon-fights and whatnot have some vague interest, my emotions were never really engaged. Reads quickly considering its 10K length, though.

"That Sleep of Death" by Mary-Jean Harris

In Victorian England, Edwin and Louis, two members of the Order for Investigations into Curious Metaphysical Phenomena, accept a Lady's assignment to rescue her son from the blasphemous Theosophists, or at least look into it. This entails attending one of their meetings and, to Edwin's mild surprise, it's held on one of the astral planes. There, he learns of some difficulties with a demon and of his own special astral aptitude.

There were a few odd word choices (for example, a group's "credulity" is in question when their "credibility" should be and, on one occasion, there were a lot of people, most of "which" were talking) but those were a minor distraction. More serious was the oddity of a secret society having an initiation, yet allowing uninitiated people learn and do virtually everything a member might. Worse still, these trusting people allow a stranger (Louis) to observe them as they render their physical bodies unconscious and helpless. That aside, I was enjoying the story on some level, as the astral plane milieu and the briefly introduced characters both seemed reasonably imaginative and appealing. However, I had a feeling that this could be part of a larger work and, indeed, it seems to be something like a prequel to a novel and doesn't ultimately form much of a stand-alone story.

"Things of Shreds and Patches" by Norman Doege

Scori, son of the previous Lord's fool, is on a quest to bring the barbarian Kervan back to aid the "Lord-Apparent" who seems mad and fears plots all around him, including from his uncle, the current Lord. Finding him as a "guardian of women" at a brothel, he succeeds in bringing him back and Kervan relives his childhood where he was a barbarian hostage being tutored in "civilized" ways. Together, the three experience some very odd things and figure out what's going on and attempt to correct the situation.

Unlike the fantasticated New World and Victorian England in the other stories, this gives us our first unequivocal secondary world and, unlike the fairly clean style of those, this is a bit more cluttered, perhaps trying to portray the dandified court generally, with elements of the barbarian North coming through in some Anglo-Saxon terminology. This plot of usurpation and court intrigue is pretty conventional (and it bugs me that the old Lord is so easy to get rid of but the Lord-Apparent isn't handled similarly). The characters aren't especially interesting beyond Kervan, with his social conflicts, though even he doesn't become fully fleshed. The creepy weird stuff that occurs when they all get together is pretty interesting, though, and there are some good fight scenes.


More of Jason McGregor's reviews can be found at Featured Futures.