I picked this intro issue up just to see what it might be about, and the quality of the works chosen. This lower rating on this review isn’t necessarily fair because it is based on a faulty expectation on my part, but since I do these on Goodreads mainly as a reminder to ME of what I liked/disliked about the book/magazine/story, I have to give it anyway.
My biggest problem with it was not really the writing itself, but the sub-genre choices. I can’t say that anything in it stood out as a really great story, but they were all interesting in one way or another. The theme of the magazine is ‘Action & Adventure’, but I found that it leaned a bit heavily toward fantasy (magic) and the supernatural. That’s not bad, but it was not what I was expecting to read in it. They all fit the larger envelope, yes, but I want some sci-fi too. Robots or aliens or time travel, or maybe even dinosaurs would have helped. Thriller/spy stuff would have been a boost, too. Unfortunately, it’s just not in here.
Below are my reviews for the stories themselves:
“A Tiger in the Garden” by Alexandru Constantin (2 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A disgraced and exiled noble, stripped of his status, spends his days drinking and whoring in the exotic jungle colonies. When pressed to pay his debts he gets entangled in a deadly plot involving deceit, murder, and the dark magic of the deep jungle.
I didn’t care for this one much. It took an unexpected twist at the end that seemed sudden and basically changed the sub-genre from pirate adventure to paranormal.
“The Monster Without” by Julie Frost (2.5 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A werewolf private eye with serious save-the-damsel issues is on the hunt for the killer of a teenage girl. When a woman hires him to protect her from her abusive boyfriend, the cases collide in a way that may cost him his sanity-if not his life.
Urban fantasy/supernatural/noir combo that seemed like something I’ve read or seen before. Not bad, but I don’t like the supernatural stuff.
“Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya” by David Boop (3 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A Texan bounty hunter has chased a criminal through Mexico and into Guatemala. Can he survive when he and his quarry fall captive to a bloodthirsty, long-forgotten ancient civilization?
Entertaining, but the main is a bit of a Mary Sue.
“King of Spades” by David J. West (3 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: What happens when the dead come back to haunt us? General Joab has to find a way to free his king from the rising specter of a long thought dead Goliath.
I was very interested in this story from the start, as I have not seen many alternate takes on Biblical history like this. Unfortunately, once the source of the trouble was revealed, I was back to the ‘I really don’t like paranormal so much’ point again. I would have probably been able to suspend that, but the ending fell flat for me. I don’t see historic David reacting that way, so I just ended up thinking…’meh’.
“Desert Hunt” by Jon Mollison (4 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: The first steps in Karl Barber’s hunt for the leaders of a human trafficking ring land him in the ancient city of Cairo. His investigation takes an unexpected turn when the fate of a single girl compels him to strike before he’s ready.
Good, but too short. I wanted more. This is the type of story I was expecting in the magazine.
“The Chronicle of the Dark Nimbus” by Keith West (3 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A cursed prince, is living in exile with his squire until the curse can be broken. They have been sent by their royal sorcerer to protect a thaumaturgist from assassination.
This one was a good action story in the fantasy genre. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle of an overarching tale that you don’t get to know about though. It felt like a chapter in an adventure novel.
“Menagerie” by Steve Dubois (1 star)
Summary from Goodreads: In the Victorian era, a teenage countess and her motley band encounter a plot to restore the Confederate States of America.
The League of Extrodinary Goofballs outsmarts them dumb ole Rebels that just don’t know when to pick their own stinkin’ cotton. This one is clichéd as hell. It has a few funny moments, but not enough to save it from the awful plot.
“Daughter of Heaven” by Shannon Connor Winward (4.5 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A dealer of ancient artifacts flies to Mars to identify a particularly interesting piece. Can he survive when he triggers the fulfillment of a world-destroying prophecy?
Best story in the set just from sheer scope. Great imagery, and a very nice imagining of a universal scale calamity.
“Dead Last” by Jay Barnson (3.5 stars)
Summary from Goodreads: A junior-level agent for a modern-day magical cabal on embarks on his first field assignment. When a necromancer turns his contacts into gun-toting zombies, he must use every bit of his wits, talents, and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor to survive.
This is a better than average story due to some neat ‘tricks’ of the characters. Still, it is paranormal/magic kind of stuff which is not what I was wanting to read in this magazine.
So, maybe my expectations were off. Could it be that my mental taste buds were expecting savory and got sweet? Possibly. The stories were well written, just not my cup of tea. Unfortunately, the average comes out just under 3 stars. I’ll be generous and round up. Maybe the next issue will be better. I’d probably give it a shot. So, this one gets 3 stars and I call it a Variable Read.
If you want to give this one a try yourself, you can sign up for the newsletter and received a free copy at www.storyhack.com.