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Author: Nik Hawkins

Sentient Crows, Weavermen, and the Mughal Empire: A Review of Outposts of Beyond, July 2015

Sentient Crows, Weavermen, and the Mughal Empire: A Review of Outposts of Beyond, July 2015

Outposts of Beyond July 2015-smallOutposts of Beyond has a name that connotes intergalactic travel, parallel dimensions, and the dark, far-flung regions of the universe — all trappings of science fiction. So it comes as no surprise that, even though the magazine contains fiction and poetry in the SF and fantasy genres, it leans a little more toward the former, at least in the case of the July 2015 issue. But this is Black Gate, so I’ll stick with the fantasy content.

“Drakoni,” by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz, is a real-world-meets-fairyland story that might have a certain amount of charm for the pre-teen and early-teen crowds. Ultimately, though, it didn’t strike me as very original and didn’t develop the protagonist effectively. And there’s a hint at her otherworldly nature at the beginning of the tale that never really gets resolved or explained, leaving a troubling loose end. I think the ending is supposed to be happy, but it only left me feeling sorry for the heroine, who seemed to be retreating from a lonely reality.

“Of Feather and Claw,” by Jason Lairamore, is a story of two lost children trying to return to their parents, but they’re stuck serving as pawns in a war between a pack of giant coyotes and a murder of sentient crows led by an over-sized corvid king. Their efforts fail, but help arrives in unexpected forms.

This tale had a delightful weirdness to it, but even weirdness can do with some basic realism in which to ground it. In some cases this was lacking, like when a child shows no reaction after suffering a horrific injury. This sense of detachment lent the story a folkloric or mythological feel, which may have been the point, but for me it was a bit jarring. Lairamore rounds the tale out nicely, though. Worth reading.

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