Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #38, November 2018

E-mail Print

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #38, November 2018

Prerogative of the Gods” by Nathanael Green

Raft of Conquistadors” by Raphael Ordoñez
The Bells of Bel-Hazir” by Michelle Muenzler
The Vault of Sowdek” by Seth Skordowsky

Reviewed by Tara Grímravn

In this 38th issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, there are a total of four stories on offer.

Prerogative of the Gods” by Nathanael Green

A mortal is chosen by his favorite god, the Lord of Justice, to fight for him against his divine siblings and their followers. But gods are capricious things, and mortals are often just a means to an end. With his competition eliminated, will this god prove that he is truly just or merely as corrupt as his brethren? I really quite enjoyed this story. It was an interesting exploration of power games played amongst gods who have little care for the mortals beneath them, and what happens when they begin to kill each other off.

Raft of Conquistadors” by Raphael Ordoñez

An alien crashes to Earth eons ago. Later, during the Spanish conquest of the Americas, a rag-tag assemblage of conquistadors, a priest, a former slave, and an Aztec prince find themselves stranded on an island. There, they encounter the alien, which picks them off one by one and removes its victims’ brains. This tale is a hybrid of science fiction and horror. While the premise held quite a bit of promise, especially with the Lovecraftian influence that appeared to be present, the way it was executed was confusing.

The first issue I encountered was that the language in the opening paragraphs was incredibly difficult to read. Sprinkled pretty heavily with kennings (which normally wouldn’t bother me), this made it seem as though the author was trying a little too hard to make sure the audience understood that the alien, Zisz, was “other.” This odd style was not carried over to other areas where Zisz appeared, though. When we got to the conquistadors, so many characters were introduced in such a rapid succession it was hard to keep track of who was who. The alien’s purpose was also not entirely clear, nor in what way collecting specimens from Earth (including mythical beings) would help it launch itself back into space again. Perhaps it’s just me, but I really could not get into this story at all.

The Bells of Bel-Hazir” by Michelle Muenzler

In the city of Bel-Hazir, the Grey Empress lies dreaming. The townsfolk have constructed several bells, “each louder than the last,” to wake her but to no avail. And each night, she leaves the tower in a somnambulatory daze, surrounded by dark vapors of her dreams that leave any who encounter her in a vegetative state. Muenzler’s story is really quite short, but powerful nonetheless. The imagery of a town terrified of meeting their sleepwalking monarch but so desperate to wake her that they would risk death is both fascinating and frightening at the same time. The bleak and grim atmosphere really caught my attention.

The Vault of Sowdek” by Seth Skordowsky

Ahren, a thief, is sent by his superiors to collect an item from a secret vault in a heavily guarded tower. To do so, he poses as a masked doctor and makes a deal with the Dothren, Captain of the Guard—Ahren would provide a cure for Dothren’s disease if he will leave his medallion unattended for a brief period of time. When the thief’s entry into the tower sets off an alarm, he has to try to return the medallion and make his escape. Skordowsky’s story is a darker version of the usual sword-and-sorcery style fantasy, which made me love it, and the ending was a nice touch.