A Risk of Malice by Devin Madson
A Risk of Malice is a story set in an Asian milieu. I really like this about Devin Madson: she is great about writing non-Western fantasy, something very dear to my heart. The story is about two sons of a noble Lord. The elder son, greatly favored by the father, is mortally injured in battle and taken to an infirmary where, coincidentally, the younger—and rejected—brother works as a healer. The father finds himself resorting to a very unscrupulous character, Malice, for the mere hope that the warrior-son will pull through. This leads to a very unexpected development at the end.
I really enjoyed this story. Devin Madson’s prose is fluid and easy to read. I was quickly drawn into the story because I found the protagonist Arata a relatable character, and I thought Malice was a delightful antagonist. I also enjoyed the twist at the end of the story, which left me wanting to read more. My one complaint is that I would have liked to have explored the motivations behind the character Malice. He was left vaguely drawn (purposefully), but I would have liked some depth here. 4/5
Child of the Emptyness by Amanda J. Spedding
Child of the Emptyness was the story I had the hardest time with—not due to any fault in the story itself, but rather because of my own grimdark biases. I generally prefer my grimdark protagonists to be antiheroes. This was not the case here. The story begins by introducing a very dark character, Nyrra, who pursues what seems a good cause: save the world. Unfortunately, Nyrra’s methods include sacrificing some very sympathetic characters in order to accomplish this. I became very fond of the scholar, Ardin. But not fond enough to override my distaste for Nyrra.
It was a good story. The plot was well-done, the world well-imagined, and the characters well-drawn. There was some fantastic imagery. There is even a great plot twist at the end. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t my own personal cup of tea. The story probably deserves 4.25 stars. But because I found it less to my taste than the other two offerings, I give it a 4/5.
Writing Relatable Anti-Heroes by Anna Stephens
I liked this piece. I’ve never done extensive reading into what makes a great antihero tick. Anna Stephens really breaks that down into a few characteristics that most antiheroes possess and how to infuse these characteristics into characters to make them pop off the page. I don’t typically like how-to pieces. But this one was definitely worth the read.
A Place of Peace and Joy and Rest by Brian Staveley
This story was my favorite of the collection, and not just because it was written by Brian Staveley. Okay maybe because it was (lol).
I liked it because the protagonist was a very relatable character that I could instantly sympathize with. It was easy to get emotionally invested in Kasem. I was fascinated by the doorway, a plot device that worked very effectively to boost my intrigue. I wanted to know what was on the other side of the doorway, just as much as the protagonist. Because this story tickled my imagination as well as capturing my emotions, I think it deserves a solid 4.5/5