“Mara growled. ‘Life is not a fucking bard’s tale. Other people are not merely actors in your personal power fantasy.'” – Hatred for Heroes by Cameron Johnston
A free copy of Grimdark Magazine #18 was sent to me by Adrian at GDM in exchange for an honest review.
The Eighteenth issue of Grimdark Magazine (GDM) features a nice selection of authors with stories or various articles. You features short stories from Peter McLean, Cameron Johnston and Andy Remic, an interview with Devin Madson and Cameron Jonhston, two book reviews about The Ingenious by Darius Hinks, plus two articles from Alan Baxter about his experience with publishing, and Mike Myers giving some useful tips.
My review will mostly reflect on the short stories, but I highly recommend checking out the interviews and articles too because they give great insight into writing and publishing, and will let you get a peek into the masterminds behind some great books that hit the shelves last year.
Hunger and the Lady by Peter McLean – 5/5
I’ve heard quite a lot of praises for Peter McLean’s latest book, Priest of Bones, but I haven’t read anything from him yet. However, I was pretty much looking forward to reading his GdM short story thanks to the hype. Now, I’m usually wary with hypes because I usually find myself disagreeing with the public. I still only have a short story to make my judgment on, but this time I might just have to bow my head before my fellow book bloggers.
As I understand it, Hunger and the Lady takes places before the events in Priest of Bones, and we indeed meet Tomas Piety. A city, Messia is in ruins thanks to a siege and people are dying either because of the war or hunger or diseases. The eleven-year-old Billy tries to keep his remaining family – his ma and little sister – alive by hunting for rats. The gods have left Messia to its fate. Or have they?
McLean paints a cold and brutal world where priests rule over the city, people demean themselves to survive no matter the price, kids have to grow up too soon and have to shoulder responsibilities that are often too much for them. His writing style is simple but effective, though in some cases he repeats stuff unnecessarily in my opinion to drive the point home. Otherwise, it totally sucked me in from the first sentence, and at some time I’ll probably give up sleeping just to be able to squeeze Priest of Bones into my schedule.
Hatred for Heroes by Cameron Johnston – 4/5
As with Peter McLean, this was my first meeting with Cameron Johnston’s work. I’m not sure if Hatred for Heroes has any connection to his previous book, The Traitor God (sorry). The main characters of this story are Mara, a maid in the palace, and King Cypher, the hero who brought peace to the kingdom by defeating the Dread Lord. But does the end justify the means? I like the moral message of this story and that it puts heroism into a different light. Also, it makes you ask the question: what makes a hero? Can you name yourself a hero when in real life you are a righteous asshole basking in your own glory?
It’s quite a short story so it was hard to connect with any of the characters, especially since one is a torturer – even if she has her own reasons – and the other one is a hero whose image is not really flattering if we see him from a different angle. Every story has two sides to it, who is to decide which side is right?
I liked the writing of this, the pictures were very… vivid in my mind’s eye. It probably wasn’t the best idea to read it during my lunch hour. The personalities of the characters were very well portrayed given the space and the timeframe of the story.
Scene and Summary: An Indispensable Internal Structure of Showing and Telling by Mike Myers
Okay, so, this is not a short story, but I felt like I needed to mention it, because it’s awesome. Mike Myers gives some useful tips to authors how to structurize their books, how to use scenes and summaries, what the difference between showing and telling. And also has good humour. Pro tip: never try to kill an editor [😉]
Rage Wolf by Andy Remic – 3/5
I owe you another confession: I’ve never come across Andy Remic’s name before (read more then, Timy! :) - Editor) so I’m not familiar with his works. And based only on this short story I’m not sure if I’m interested to take a further look. The plot revolves around a character who might be known to those who are more familiar with Remic’s works. An ex-soldier, a hero about whom legends are told, who is alone but for the ghosts of his past. He is not exactly a friendly, outgoing person, and prefers to drink by himself and wish he could just go to sleep permanently. Until his past storms through the door surrounded by the snow and pleads for his help, knowing the only thing that can make him care. The story lives no illusions that they like or trust each other based on, well, the fact Dek deflected more than one assassination. It’s a well-built story, the tension is there and the twist at the ending is quite surprising. It also has some cool ideas like the Vampire-like creatures who have clockwork machines inside them. Again, based on the added info, these elements can be found in previous books: Kell’s Legend, Soul Stealers, Vampire Warlords, The Iron Wolves, The White Towers, The Dragon Engine and Twilight of the Dragons.
While the story was fine, the writing just didn’t work for me. I think the poem was completely unnecessary, the sentences sometimes were too long, there were some repetitions and he just used too many adjectives, overexplaining everything. The less sometimes is more. I could have liked this story, but the way it was written, I was slightly bored, wishing instead of long description I could learn more about Dek and Sharala, the hate and tension between them, their history. We only get some hints, and we are told they hate each other, but no explanation why. It’s a shame because this short story otherwise had some potential.
Review by Timy Takacs
8/10 from 1 reviews
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