On The Dragonroad by Timandra Whitecastle, Grimdark Magazine #16, 2018

On The Dragonroad is a fantastical retelling of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic vision The Road.

In Whitecastle’s vision, a single mother and her young daughter are caught in the midst of a horrible plague that makes them fear everyone that meet due to its contagious nature. The Dragonroad itself is a road that leads up a mountain to the hopes of safety, though why is never quite made clear.

16-monster-1-300x400Similar to The Road by McCarthy, neither the woman or the girl have names. They are just referred to as “the woman,” and “the girl.” The few people they interact with are either dying of plague or starving and have resorted to eating other people–again, a similarity with The Road.

The piece is interspersed with musings on why God would have done this, or even if there is a God. The girl constantly wants to help people who are ill, and the woman is constantly protecting her from the dangers of her own goodness.

This piece is a dark look at a world that has taken a severe turn for the worse. It’s well written with simple and concise sentences, similar to McCarthy’s style. I liked the twist and I like how Timandra Whitecastle made the idea her own. (B-)

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The Satyr of Brandenburg by Charlotte Ashley, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018

This story was great! I loved the world that Ashley sets up, and even though I hadn’t ever read anything by her before and even though this is a story that fits into a chronological serialization that includes these characters, I still felt right at home.

The main character is a grand warrior and has been invited to complete in a touney to compete against three other of the worlds greatest warriors. In some prior episode, La Heron, for that is her name, aquired another woman’s soul in battle. This woman, Alex, is of noble stock and one of La Heron’s reasons for attending this tourney, which is held in Sardinia, is to have her married off and be free, instead of attached to La Heron by some strange magic.

The other warriors that are to participate in the tourney are an Ogre, Donshead Doomsbellow, the oldest man alive, (can’t recall his name), and The Satyr of Brandenburg.

But La Heron has met the Satyr before. He is a liar and a theif, and he will trick and steal and bewitch people without ever taking a step into the area.

That’s the setup, and the story doesn’t dissapoint for the most part. I’d love to read a whole novel or even a whole trilogy that took place in this would, and I can think of no higher praise than that. In terms of this story, however, the ending was pretty expected and I feel as though I could have used a good twist at the end. (B)