Edited by Mark Lord
I should start this review with a disclaimer that until recently I disliked short fiction, so I haven't read many collections or magazines. I'm slowly changing that, having read some SF stories, but it makes it harder to know if the stories in this magazine are comparable to what else is on the market for fantasy or if they're unique. I will say that the first few stories certainly felt different and fresh in comparison to the novels I've been reading lately.
For the most part, I found this an excellent collection. Two of the stories really stood out for me, "The Dying Elf" and "The Pivot". One story however, "Demon Stone", surprised me by its inclusion as it didn't seem up to the skill level of the other stories. There were a few typos, but those are easily overlooked.
About the magazine:
Fantasy Short Stories is a new publication established with the aim of publishing the best short stories in Heroic, Epic, and High Fantasy, and with plenty of Swords and Sorcery thrown in. Although many of our authors may be unknown to you, we aim to set high standards for publication, and to discover some great new talent in the world of fantasy fiction.
Learn more about it on it's website.
It's available for US$ 4.99 at Smashwords and Amazon US
And £3.08 at Amazon UK
"The Dying Elf" by Mike Pielaet-Strayer
The ironically named Oberon fights for the first King of Men against the creatures of magic who destroyed his home. At this, the aftermath of the final battle, Oberon wonders if what he's done was worth it.
This story was absolutely brilliant. The writing was sharp, evocative and touching. The best of the issue, I highly recommend it.
"The Empty Dark" by C. L. Holland
A traveller from another world wakes to find his companion missing and a tale of locals vanishing in the night. Using magic, he scrys his partner's location and sets off to rescue him.
Not quite as good as the first story, this one was still entertaining and showed magic with definite limits.
"Demon Stone" by Jake Scholl
King Dagr Brightsword is surprised in his halls one night by a mysterious sorcerer. In order to save his wife, the king must return with a magical stone.
Given how good the previous stories were, I was surprised and dismayed by how bad this one was. The story made little sense. Several important things were left unexplained (like where the king's guards were, why the king trusted this sorcerer enough to leave him in his keep, etc.). The king had a magical sword and yet he only used it as a torch. He never tried to fight the sorcerer.
Content issues aside, the story was also riddled with cliched phrases and grammatical errors. Take this sentence as an example. "Erion screamed a scream no other human should ever go through, ..." I know what the author was trying to say, but the thing about writing is that people expect you to use words correctly. And too often in this story the author didn't. He also repeated himself in unnecessary ways. "His face was filled with shock, his face turned pale as fresh snow." Putting aside the fact that the author joined two sentences with a comma, they both say the same thing, that the man's shock showed on his face.
"The Pivot" by Noeleen Kavanagh
The 'Peasant King' thinks of the turning point in his life that brought him from the farm where he grew up to a position of prominence in the king's household.
The story was well written, at par with "The Dying Elf", though without quite the same emotional punch that story had. The fantastical element was minor, but interesting.
"Sparrows Falling" by Gretchen Tessmer
An enchantress must come to terms with her benefactor, and teacher's, unpalatable decision.
This story was well written, lyrical almost. It had a lot of details with regards to dress, hair, etc. but not as many details regarding the decision the benefactor made. As such, I didn't like it as well as some of the other stories in the issue, but did enjoy the author's style.