Monday, April 02, 2007

Review by Ed Cox - A Time To...

A TIME TO… Volume 1 Edited by Carol Hightshoe
Reviewed by Edward Cox
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The Lorelei Signal is a fantasy webzine dedicated to strong female characters. With three issues now under her belt, editor Carol Hightshoe has commemorated the first year of publication with the release of A Time To… Volume 1. This anthology brings together the best short stories and poems of The Lorelei Signal 2006, and it stands as testament to what a success that inaugural year was.

The best of issue 1 kicks off with Lee Martindale’s Act of War. This piece of flash fiction uses stark descriptions to build a tense and creepy atmosphere, as a group of villagers take refuge inside a warehouse. Outside, soldiers are preparing for battle against something that approaches. The story is tidy and complete, and there’s a great twist at the end, but its briefness has the feel of a prologue, and that makes it perfect for the first story of the anthology.

Blood and Ashes by Michele Acker plumps us straight onto a blood-soaked battlefield during the height of a war. Our protagonist, Sorea, is a woman posing as a man in the army, and facing the complications that brings. And as the day on the battlefield grows long, she soon realises that it sometimes takes a woman to know a woman, and it’s a lesson learned too late. The sense that everything may not be as it seems is carried through this tale from start to finish. Acker packs a lot of character information into a relatively short piece, but it doesn’t detract from an otherwise enjoyable story.

Next up comes Kayelle Allen’s The Last Vhalgenn, which is also the longest story in the anthology. Raik is the king’s concubine, recalled to the kingdom from her duties with the army. The king’s wife is pregnant, and the unification of two lands depends on the birth. Here, with a clash of cultures, Raik is assigned a covert mission, where she walks a precarious line between the greater good and an act of treachery. Although Allen’s prose is easy to read, and the story is both engrossing and poignant, I felt that as a whole The Last Vhalgenn could’ve been developed a little further. The story is 10,000 words long, and with a few thousand more it could go from being a decent yarn to a great tale.

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