The story that kicks off this latest edition left me cold, which is ironic given that it revolves around the a city surrounded by fire and lava. Wall Wardens, by Lynn Rushlau, tells one chapter of the tale of the last city in the world, and one of the wizards charged with maintaining the massive magic barricade that keeps the fire and the drakes outside, looking in. The setting is fantastically creative – a literal safe bubble in a sea of fire, and I could see many a role-playing game revolving around the politics of the city and foiling the numerous attempts by apocalyptic cults to bring down the magic barricade. In this short story, however, the villain’s motivation didn’t make enough sense, and I didn’t have enough reason to root for the protagonist to give this story a solid recommendation. It’s not a bad story, but it doesn’t stand out among the usual Cirsova affair.
The second story starts as a standard King Aurthur as a young boy story, and then takes an unexpected twist into a Lovecraftian nightmare. That this twist surprised me actually surprised me given that it’s right there on the cover. The Lady of the Amorous City, by Edward M. Erdelac, uabashedly mashes up heroic knights with damsels in distress, tentacled monsters, and bottomless lakes housing things best left undisturbed. Thought it starts slow, when the action ramps up, the story doesn’t relent until the end. Even with everything I’ve said already, this story still contains a few surprises for readers. All in all, this winds up a tight little read with a little bit of everything mixed in.