Realms of Fantasy - June 2006


Jun 11, 2006


The Bottom Line A very strong issue, with only one iffy story in it.

Realms of Fantasy - June 2006

The Stories
"Robin of the Green" - by A.C. Wise
"Pavel Petrovich" - by Daniel Hood
"Undine" - by Catherine Krabe
"Sister of the Hedge" - by Jim C. Hines
"A Better Place" - by Josh Roundtree
"Schwarze Madonna and the Sandalwood Knight" - by Ruth Nestvold & Jay Lake
"Ice" - by Patrice E. Sarath

Wow! A Realms of Fantasy issue without Richard Parks! I didn't think that was possible. The June issue is quite strong, with only "A Better Place" seeming out of place. There seems to be a theme of wilderness in this issue, with many of the stories involving nature or its spirits, which dovetails with the "Folkroots" column on werewolves. This issue is definitely worth a read.

"Robin of the Green" - by A.C. Wise
In this latest Robin Hood story, Robin is more like a fairy than anything else, almost Puckish in attitude and ability. Sir Guy of Gisborne is his boyhood friend who he has grown distant from. Guy announces to Robin that he is now betrothed to Lady Marion and that he is requesting that Robin behave himself. Robin promises, but then stumbles unknowingly upon Marion paying homage to the ancient gods. They form a relationship, and Guy feels betrayed. But Guy must come to his friend to save his betrothed from a horrible fate, and a lifelong rivalry is born. This is a pretty good story, though I'm getting a bit sick of seeing at least one fairy story in each issue. It is an interesting take on the whole Robin Hood legend, however, and Wise's prose is pretty good ("There were storms gathered on the horizon and they shadowed Guy's brow as he sat at the window with his chin resting in his fist, gazing out into the gloom.") The story becomes more about the strained friendship between these two men, with Marion as a catalyst, then a love triangle story, and it's all the better for it.

"Pavel Petrovich" - by Daniel Hood
In a Siberian gulag, a wild man named Pavel Petrovich joins the prisoners there. He's from "the far, far beyond," and he strikes the narrator as very strange. He refuses to join any of the prison gangs and wear their tattoos, for he feels he cannot just join another tribe, and tattoos have a magic all their own. This would normally get somebody killed, but he is tough enough to withstand everything that goes up against him. But disease is one thing that even the toughest succumb to after a while, and he takes an unusual way out, requiring his own tattoo and a strong magic. This is a wonderful story, with Hood capturing the oppressive nature of the gulag perfectly. The characterization of the narrator is great, and the narrator captures Pavel perfectly. The atmosphere is strange and foreboding, and what ultimately happens is kind of surprising, though it feels just right.

"Undine" - by Catherine Krabe
Nadine is a swimmer who lost the use of one of her legs in an auto accident. The other girl had her life stolen by a water spirit when she was just a child. Nadine continues to believe that she will never be the swimmer she used to be, no matter how much rehab she does, and she grows depressed at the way her life has changed. While her mother is sympathetic, she can't undo what's been done. The two lives will interact, and one will give a gift to the other that will last a lifetime. This is really sedate story about dreams and giving the gift of a dream when you can no longer fulfill yours. It has a bit of a tragic ending, but yet it is filled with hope for the future as well. Krabe writes well, and Nadine's frustration leaps off the page, as does the kindness of the Undine who feels drawn to her.

"Sister of the Hedge" - by Jim C. Hines
Talia is running from her past, and the two children currently growing inside her by her incestuous king-father. She arrives outside the Accursed Hedge, the one that grew outside Sleeping Beauty's castle, and joins the Church of the Iron Cross, which was established to care for the imprisoned princes who have come to rescue the princess in the past. Was the hedge created by the fairies that put the princess to sleep, or is it from God? Talia is determined to find out, especially when news arrives that her father is looking for her. This is a vivid tale, but it's a bit heavy-handed with dogma and the difference between good and evil. Hines defines his characters well, however, and the interaction between Talia and the overly devout Lilly is quite vivid. The ending isn't that surprising, but the journey to get there is quite effective.

"A Better Place" - by Josh Roundtree
This is a very short story about the attraction of paradise and the resistance of it. Clayton, a farmer in Texas, thinks back to the time where a stranger came onto the farm, offering the boys a life outside the dusty monotony of the family farm. Anything you could want, you could get, if they just come with him. Clayton's brother Russ succumbs to the lure and disappears, never to be seen again. Clayton is now an old man, with a son and a grandson himself, working the land. His son has the wanderlust of his brother, but he's proud of the way his grandson has been drawn to the farming life. He thinks back, and he wonders what his choice would be if it was offered to him again. There really isn't much of a fantasy element to the story and I'm not sure why it's here. It's a very quiet story, with not much going on. Just vivid descriptions of what sounds like the Dustbowl (though a time isn't given, I can't imagine another time where dust storms would be as constant as they are described). It's an ok story, but didn't really draw me in.

"Schwarze Madonna and the Sandalwood Knight" - by Ruth Nestvold & Jay Lake
The Black Madonna was a scourge of all men, having killed hundreds. But one day, as she is traveling, she hears a song. Intrigued, she comes upon a farmer who is singing out in his fields. Entranced, she doesn't notice the Red Knight bearing down on her until her head is already separated from her body. The farmer buries her headless body, the head having been taken by Prospero, the knight. The farmer has grown to love the Madonna, and he sets out on a quest to retrieve her head. This story is actually pretty good, with the farmer, Robert, being a vivid character determined in his quest. He attracts an entourage as he journeys, and the story takes on even more of its knightly roots. An enjoyable tale of the difference between justice and revenge, neatly told.

"Ice" - by Patrice E. Sarath
Delacour is a hockey player in a town where it starts snowing and never stops. He has dislocated his shoulder again in tonight's game, and he's a bit despondent over the brief affair his wife has had with the rookie goaltender. On the way to the bar after the game, he is passed by a carriage where a woman stares at him hauntingly as they pass. The group of people in the carriage, part of a ballet troop performing Giselle, stuck in town because of the snow, are also at the bar. The woman comes over to the hockey players, and Delacour finds himself in a web of mystery and fantasy as the Albrecht (the goaltender) is entranced by the woman, but later winds up dead. And Delacour may be the next victim of this fairy tale gone bad. This is a dreamy story in tone and a bit of a small horror tale in execution. The characterization of Delacour is wonderful, and the snowy imagery is masterfully done. It feels like almost anything can happen, and when Delacour finds himself wrapped up in a representation of Giselle, it all makes sense. An excellent way to round out the issue.

Other features of this issue
"Television"
An article about the upcoming TNT miniseries of one-hour movies adapting stories from Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes (and a couple of other stories from other books). This sounds like a fascinating series, and if it's available up in Canada, I may check it out.

"Folkroots" - by Kit Whitfield
The werewolf in literature and history. Especially interesting as the werewolf doesn't seem to have become as iconic as the vampire and Frankenstein's monster, and Whitfield explains why she thinks that is.

"Books" - reviews of upcoming and just published books
"Gallery" - by Karen Haber
the art of Rob Alexander

"Games" - Reviews of upcoming and just published RPGs and video games


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