Sherwood Smith – who has reviewed virtually every issue of Black Gate – offers her usual detailed and thorough critique, this time at the SF Site:
“The Face in the Sea” by John C Hocking
Hocking’s story begins like a fragment from the middle of a Norse saga. We are at sea with the narrator Brand, taking ship after having rescued Asdia, daughter of Thorgeir Broadshield. Hocking hints at sparks between Brand and Asdir with the same economy one finds in the sagas as the action swiftly rises to disaster in the form of Einar’s dragon-ship chasing by magical means, aided by the evil Skorri… a smashing action tale with strong evocation of northern myth.
The issue ends powerfully with Mark Sumner’s “The Naturalist, Part III: St. George and the Antriders.”
I believe a reader could catch up fairly rapidly, but to get the full impact, one really ought to read the earlier installments in Issues 10 and 11. This is a novel — complex, beautifully written in the idiom and cadence of the 1830s, but the horrifying battle against the alien antriders is so terrifying there is no danger of the reader finding the pace slow. Mr. Brown, a naturalist, is the narrator; the story is told in his journal as he follows Captain Valamont and his soldiers around, trying to investigate — and then escape — the invading antriders. Sumner brings the story to an elegiac close.. with an exquisite twist. This is a bravura story, well worth appearing in book form.
You can find the full review at www.sfsite.com/06b/bg298.htm.