“This is the Real Thing for S&S Fans”: Charles R. Rutledge on “Vestments of Pestilence”

Monday, November 25th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

river-thru-dark-277Novelist and columnist Charles R. Rutledge weighed in on John C. Hocking’s newest Archivist tale last month, saying:

Do you like sword and sorcery? The real stuff, I mean, where sorcery is something dark and dangerous and people get hurt when they fight with sharp edged weapons? Something that’s a little exotic and makes you think of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, but still is very much its own thing? Then boy have I got a story for you.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is a short story by John C. Hocking… There are some mystery elements, some humor, a lot of action, and considerable sorcery, all told in a smooth first person voice that has echoes of hard boiled heroes like Marlowe and Spade, but not the overblown snark that seems to be so popular in current urban fantasy…

The feel of the story is nice and dark but the story telling itself is very modern. I was aware as I read that the pace and the suspense were slowly being ratcheted up until I was racing through the last couple of scenes to see how things turned out. There’s also some marvelous characterization in the tale, and trust me, in a story of this length, that’s a hard thing to do… This is the real thing for S&S fans.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is the second Archivist tale we’ve published, following “A River Through Darkness and Light,” in Black Gate 15, which SF Site called “a strong blend of the old sword and sorcery action and mood, but with modern attention to character development.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by David C. Smith, David Evan Harris, Janet Morris and Chris Morris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Peadar Ó Guilín, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

“Vestments of Pestilence” was published here September 29. It is a complete 10,000-word novelette of sword & sorcery. Read the complete story here.

Read Charles’s complete review on his blog Singular Points. Art for “A River Through Darkness and Light” by Storn Cook.


“High Fantasy Adventure at its Best”: Tangent Online on “The Gentle Sleeper”

Sunday, October 20th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

"The Mudslinger” by David Evan Harris. Art by Mark Evans

“The Mudslinger” by David Evan Harris. Art by Mark Evans

Over at Tangent Online, reviewer Chuck Rothman shares his opinion of David Evan Harris’s adventure fantasy tale, “The Gentle Sleeper,” published here October 14:

Arland is “The Gentle Sleeper,” an assassin who has what seems to be a very weak power, but who wields it skillfully. He’d gone to the castle of the tyrant Baron Weller who has taken his lover Marraine in order to torture her to give up plans for an attack. Weller is a smart and very cruel villain and seems to remain several steps ahead of Arland. David Evan Harris has written a masterful adventure, which manages to work some science into the plot, something unusual in pure fantasy. This is high fantasy adventure at its best.

David Evan Harris is the author of the acclaimed stories “The Mudslinger” and “Seeker of Fortune,” both published in Black GateGrasping For the Wind praised “The Mudslinger” as “An epic fantasy… I look forward to more” and Tangent Online called “Seeker of Fortune” “Exceptional. A must read.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, John C. Hocking, Michael Shea, Peadar Ó Guilín, Vaughn Heppner, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

“The Gentle Sleeper” is a complete 5,000-word short story of adventure fantasy. Read the complete story here.


“An Absolute Joy to Read”: James Reasoner on “Vestments of Pestilence”

Saturday, October 12th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

river-thru-dark-277James Reasoner, author of Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West and The Civil War Battle Series, weighs in on John C. Hocking’s newest Archivist tale, published here September 29:

“Vestments of Pestilence” is a new sword-and-sorcery story by John C. Hocking, author of Conan and the Emerald Lotus, and what an absolute joy it is to read… The Archivist and Lucella have returned to civilization only to find themselves immediately drawn into a clash between two members of the royal family, a brother and sister who are bitter rivals and who have tried to kill each other in the recent past. The princess coerces The Archivist and Lucella into helping her get her hands on an artifact from the old Southron civilization that may contain sorcerous power.

Of course, with a street gang, an oily “astrographer,” a sinister tower, and a plague demon in the mix, things don’t really go all that smoothly…

The plot of this story is traditional sword-and-sorcery, but the prose is pure hardboiled action writing of the best sort, reminiscent of, yes, Robert E. Howard… Hocking is that good. There are touches of humor as well, and The Archivist and Lucella are very appealing characters… If you’re a fan of action-packed heroic fantasy, I guarantee you’ll be entertained.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is the second Archivist tale we’ve published, following “A River Through Darkness and Light,” in Black Gate 15, which SF Site called “a strong blend of the old sword and sorcery action and mood, but with modern attention to character development.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, Michael Shea, Ryan Harvey, Peadar Ó Guilín, Vaughn Heppner, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

“Vestments of Pestilence” is a complete 10,000-word novelette of sword & sorcery. Read the complete story here.

Read James’s complete review on his blog Rough Edges. Art for “A River Through Darkness and Light” by Storn Cook.


“A Fun Story That Reminded Me of Conan”: Tangent Online on “Stand at Dubun-Geb”

Saturday, September 21st, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Ryan Harvey-smallLouis West at Tangent Online reviews Ryan Harvey’s newest Ahn-Tarqa tale, published here on September 15th:

Ryan Harvey’s “Stand at Duben-Geb” tells of a fantasy world with ancient Shaper magic, domesticated hadrosaurs and a clan of Mongol-like nomadic peoples desperately trying to survive the genocidal attacks of a rival clan. Holed up in a cleft in the steep Duben-Geb mountains in the middle of drenching rains, what’s left of Clan Molghiz squabbles among themselves as their talahn leader lies dying…

A landslide uncovers an ancient colossus, a forty-foot soulless, dead metal giant. But Khasar’s years with a magic-wielder have given him a sensitivity to the Arts and the craft that could perhaps reawaken this creature… A fun story that reminded me a bit of the old Conan tales.

“Stand at Dubun-Geb” is the second Ahn-Tarqa tale published here, following “The Sorrowless Thief,” an exciting  science-fantasy tale packed with “magically tamed dinosaur beasts… [and] a lot of intrigue.” (Tangent Online).

Ryan Harvey won the Writers of the Future Contest in 2011 for his Ahn-Tarqa story, “An Acolyte of Black Spires.” Ahn-Tarqa is also the setting for his e-book novelette, “Farewell to Tyrn,” and his upcoming novel, Turn over the Moon.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Peadar Ó Guilín, Dave Gross, Mike Allen, Vaughn Heppner, Mark Rigney, Aaron Bradford Starr, Martha Wells, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, and many others, is here.

“Stand at Dubun-Geb” is a complete 5,500-word short story of heroic fantasy. Read the complete story here.


‘Masterfully Told’: Tangent Online on “The Keystone”

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

AppleMarkLouis West at Tangent Online reports on the final chapter in Mark Rigney’s The Tales of Gemen saga, published here on August 4th:

The quirky yet relentless Gemen finally completes his life-long mission to rebuild the portal through which his sister had disappeared so long ago. Except, once the portal is reconstructed, nothing goes as Gemen had planned. This masterfully told story closes out this trilogy yet opens possibilities for continued Gemen adventures since, as Gemen himself concludes, “the world is once more in play.”

The tension never stops, starting with nightmares, followed by chases across half the world, as two forces pursue Gemen and his party. The Corvaen seek justice for wrongs Gemen has visited upon them, and the Thornland Raiders, merciless reavers from a long-abandoned land, are zealously bent on destroying Gemen…

Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I highly recommend the complete trilogy.

“The Keystone” is the third and final installment of The Tales of Gemen, which opened with “The Trade,” which Tangent Online called a “Marvelous tale. Can’t wait for the next part” — and “The Find,” which Tangent called “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics. I can’t wait to see what fate awaits Gemen. A must read.”

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Vaughn Heppner, Mark Rigney, Aaron Bradford Starr, Jamie McEwan, Martha Wells, Mary Catelli, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here.

“The Keystone” is a complete 15,000-word tale of weird fantasy. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


‘This is the Real Deal’: Tangent Online on “The Highwater Harbor”

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Highwater Harbor-smallBob Blough at Tangent Online reports on Aaron Bradford Starr’s new novella of adventure fantasy, published here last month, comparing it to the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser:

“The Highwater Harbor” by Aaron Bradford Starr is a superior fantasy about a roguish band of three – Gloren, a Gallery Hunter, Yr Neh, a talking cat of noble birth, and their chronicler Aven Penworthy. This novella contains evil magics, pirates, mysteries, secret keys and a plethora of other fun stuff all written in delicious prose that at times is truly humorous…

Oh, and did I mention volcanoes? This is the fourth story in an ongoing series and is complete in itself. It put me in mind of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series of adventures. Each of their tales stood alone but left you wanting to see more. So did “The Highwater Harbor.” And I think that is the highest praise I can give the author. This is the real deal. Please enjoy it.

“The Highwater Harbor” is the fourth story featuring Gallery Hunters Gloren Avericci and Yr Neh. It follows “The Daughter’s Dowry,” in which the two seek a legendary treasure in a sunken tower, “The Tea-Maker’s Task,” which sees them accept a dangerous commission to investigate a deadly island, and “The Sealord’s Successor,” a mystery novella in which the two Gallery Hunters find themselves drawn into a deadly conspiracy involving a powerful kingdom, ancient secrets, and a very peculiar painting.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Mark Rigney, Jamie McEwan, Martha Wells, Vera Nazarian, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here.

“The Highwater Harbor” is a complete 35,000-word tale of adventure fantasy. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


‘A Strange Land Where Magic Works and the Seas are of Sand’: Tangent Online on “The Turtle in the Sea of Sand”

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

stone turtleDave Truesdale at Tangent Online reviews Mary Catelli’s adventure fantasy tale, published here on May 26:

Mary Catelli gives us a strange land where magic works and the seas are not of water but of sand. On the docks of a village next to such a sea comes young Kyre, a small dock-rat of a boy looking for work. A young nobleman — sailor and wizard — hails young Kyre and employs him to guard his small boat and the enchanted chest it holds while he departs for a short visit to the town. Despite his vigilance and best efforts Kyre is assailed by thieves cloaked in invisibility and the boat he has sworn to guard is stolen.

A lad of honor and practicality (he does not want his name besmirched), Kyle rents a boat and takes off after the thieves. Word of the theft has traveled quickly and ere long Kyle meets up with the nobleman-wizard as they both trail the thieves to a nearby island.

Mary Catelli started writing in her teens, when deprived of books to read. After a while, she started finishing the stories. Since then, her short stories have appeared in various Sword and Sorceress anthologies and Weird Tales. She is working on a novel. She lives in Connecticut, where she works as a computer programmer.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Martha Wells, Michael Penkas, Vera Nazarian, Ryan Harvey, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, E.E. Knight, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here. Read Dave’s complete review here.

“The Turtle in the Sea of Sand” is a complete 4,800-word adventure fantasy tale. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


Before the Onslaught of the Barbarians: Tangent Online on “Niola’s Last Stand”

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Vera NazarianDave Truesdale at Tangent Online reviews Vera Nazarian’s adventure fantasy tale, published here on May 12:

Niola, a young woman, and her grandmother have packed their meager belongings and are ready to leave their city of Menathis, for the evil army of the Varoh is nearly at the gates, and the entire city is emptying itself before the onslaught of the barbarians. At the last minute, however, Niola’s lame Gran decides she must seek the decaying temple of the goddess Rohatat and pray one last time to the goddess.

While Niola believes this a foolish waste of time, she nevertheless honors her promise to wait for her grandmother, not moving beyond the doorway of their cramped dwelling on one of the city streets. During the cold, lonely wait, a series of gods — wispy wraiths — appear one after the other to her, each presenting her with, in turn, a sword, a shield, and a spear, exhorting her to defend the city at all costs.

Vera Nazarian is a two-time Nebula Award Finalist and a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She made her novelist debut with the critically acclaimed Dreams of the Compass Rose (set in the same ancient world universe as “Niola’s Last Stand”) in 2002, followed by epic fantasy Lords of Rainbow in 2003. Her recent work includes the 2008 Nebula Finalist novella, The Duke in His Castle, and Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret.

Read Dave’s complete review here. The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Robert Rhodes, Jason E. Thummel, Ryan Harvey, Steven H Silver, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Emily Mah, C.S.E. Cooney, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and many others, is here.

“Niola’s Last Stand” is a complete 7,000-word adventure fantasy tale. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


Intrigue and Dinosaur Beasts: Tangent Online on “The Sorrowless Thief”

Friday, April 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Ryan Harvey-smallJohn Sulyok at Tangent Online reviews Ryan Harvey’s sword & sorcery tale, published here on April 7:

The narrator, a beggar nearly given up on life, spends what little money he has in dream-smoke-filled drug dens, indulging in the illusions brought on by the smoke of the mokkah flower. What wanders in one night is no illusion, it is the thief Dyzan Ludd. He seems immune from the smoke, and immune from what has brought so many into the den: the Sorrow. These facts stir the narrator. He and Dyzan find themselves in conversation about Dyzan’s upcoming plan to rob a caravan coming from the north. It is a fool’s errand, but Dyzan doesn’t listen to reason…

Ryan Harvey’s “The Sorrowless Thief” exists as part of a larger science-fantasy series. The world of Dyzan includes few guns and many (magically) tamed dinosaur beasts… These surrounding details thicken the setting and the plot, adding a lot of intrigue to the events herein…

Ryan Harvey won the Writers of the Future Contest in 2011 for his story, “An Acolyte of Black Spires,” part of the science-fantasy series on the continent of Ahn-Tarqa, which is also the setting for “The Sorrowless Thief,” his ebook novelette “Farewell to Tyrn,” and upcoming novel Turn over the Moon. He writes a regular weekly column at Black Gate. Read John’s complete review here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by Steven H Silver, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Emily Mah, David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Aaron Bradford Starr, C.S.E. Cooney, Vaughn Heppner, E.E. Knight, Howard Andrew Jones, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

“The Sorrowless Thief” is a complete 7,000-word sword-and-sorcery tale. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


“A Pleasure to Read. Strongly recommended” — Tangent Online on “Disciple”

Saturday, April 6th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Emily MahLouis West at Tangent Online reviews Emily Mah’s adventure fantasy short story, published here on Sunday, March 30:

Emily Mah’s “Disciple” is a wonderfully complicated tale about a mage hunter who is herself a mage. The world hates mages, but only the Disciples who had ruled for centuries before being overthrown. Now the king and the people hunt them, executing all they find. Yet free mages, although ignored by the authorities, are uncontrolled and potentially destructive. Disciples hunt and destroy free mages to protect the world and to protect their own craft…

Dina runs the tavern for a small fisherman’s town, and she’s a Disciple. But she’s tortured by her lack of conscience, unable to feel remorse for the thousands of free mages she’s destroyed over the decades. She’s tasked with killing, or converting, Lana, a local young woman who has begun to show a strong aptitude for magic…

Emily Mah’s first sale to us was “The River People” in Black Gate 15. You can read Louis’s complete review here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by David C. Smith and Joe Bonadonna, Aaron Bradford Starr, Mark Rigney, C.S.E. Cooney, Vaughn Heppner, E.E. Knight, Jason E. Thummel, Judith Berman, Howard Andrew Jones, Dave Gross, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

“Disciple” is a complete 6,000-word short story of adventure fantasy. It is offered at no cost. Read the complete story here.


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