My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Although I found these two stories somewhat opaque (especially the second one), they feature strong writing, memorable characters, and vivid world building. I was left after reading both wanting to know much more about their worlds.
In “Mortal Eyes” by Ann Chatham, the protagonist is the only one awake when a company of fantastic creatures arrives to claim a debt. There is more to her story than just the pages in this issue, and I’m especially wish I knew how she ended up in the position she is in at the beginning of the story. There are lots of allusions to events that led the characters to the story’s present, but there isn’t much detail provided except for the current action leading to an ending that also seems a setup for further stories. I wonder as I read more BCS if this is a specific element of craft: hinting at the larger world and other stories that surround the story given, but leaving it for the reader to imagine. Although I might be a little frustrated by this, there is no question that it lends a sense of depth and space that drew me in. I just wish for more.
My difficulty with “The Nature of Ghosts and the Fate of Shadows” by Luke Nolby is not the lack of detail but understanding the motives of the main character. He is, for me, mostly a cypher, except at the end when he seems to become a voice for philosophical observations about the nature of war and violence. On one level, this is the result of the writer’s mastery of craft: he weaves together the present with multiple parallel pasts. Because of one of these pasts, it is clear that the protagonist has changed substantially, but in other parallels he seemed to be repeating the same actions with the same unclear motives over and over again. Perhaps that is the point of the story. On a different level, I just couldn’t quite visualize the protagonist nor comprehend the mechanics of him, including what was going on with what he called his ghost. Despite my difficulty, I cannot stop thinking about him and the world in which he dwells. And I’m in awe of Nobly’s craft; so much to learn about writing flashbacks woven together with the present.
I love how this issue challenged me. BCS continues to open up fantasy for me, to see that it is not limited to Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons, and the subgenre or two of fantasy I read growing up.