Tag Archives: mind control

Review: “The Untold Tale” by J.M. Frey

Title: The Untold Tale
Author: J.M. Frey
Series: The Accidental Turn #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: 2015, REUTS Publishing LLC.

There is very little Forsyth Turn doesn’t know. As Shadow Hand, the king’s spymaster, he wages in secret the war his famous older brother carries out in songs and tales told in every tavern throughout the three kingdoms. Kintyre is everything an epic fantasy hero is made of—strong, brave, and oblivious to what’s going on around him. While Kintyre is off gallivanting about the world with his loyal sidekick and magic sword, slaying first and asking questions later if at all, Forsyth quietly manages the family’s holdings and keeps up with the mountains of paperwork generated by his legion of spies. Through this legion, Forsyth knows nearly everything there is to know about the world he lives in…which is what makes the girl so fascinating. Rescued from the clutches of the evil Viceroy by Forsyth’s men, Lucy Piper (Pip to her friends) is brought to Turn Hall to recover from the tender attentions of the Viceroy’s sidekick and torturer Bootknife, attentions that have left an intricate lattice of artistic scrolling vines carved into the flesh of her back. For anyone to have resisted Bootknife long enough for the carvings to become so intricate is alone enough to earn Forsyth’s attention and respect, but Pip also represents a complete mystery. In a world where Forsyth can usually match a face to its family heritage at a glance, Pip’s bronzed skin and the shape of her eyes are like nothing he’s ever seen. Then too there are the things she cannot know but does—such as the fact that mild-mannered minor nobleman Forsyth Turn, Kintyre’s worthless younger brother, so shy and graceless, is really the Shadow Hand of the king. Could it be true? Could the Viceroy really have managed to call down one of the legendary Readers, one of those all-powerful beings who watch all that happens from on high? But surely not. Readers, the Great Writer, the world being born from the nib of a pen, that’s all just mythology and nonsense…isn’t it?

“Yeah, yeah,” you say. “It’s a metafictional world, the girl is trapped inside her favorite book, we’ve seen that before.” Well, yes. I suppose you may have. It does bring Inkheart to mind, though that was sort of the polar opposite to what’s happening here. Such a metafictional narrative is itself a fantasy trope, if not a widely used one. But that just strengthens my point. J.M. Frey is a master of the fantasy trope, both the good and the bad. The central conceit here is that The Adventures Of Kintyre Turn were written by a stodgy (and frankly, downright lecherous) old man who ripped off, er, faithfully followed every single convention of his genre when creating the world his characters inhabit. Women exist solely to be damsels in distress, fainting at danger and then falling into the arms of the Conquering Hero. Minorities and non-humans are scattered through for flavor, but only in background roles or to be the Exotic Other. Quests all follow a certain formula. These tropes are so ingrained in the fabric of the world that they remain true even when the author isn’t writing. By dropping in an outside observer, Frey is able to really examine each and every one of these tropes even as she makes use of them herself. The result is truly incredible, a novel that is by turns hilarious and heartrending, at times a love letter to the entire genre, at others a biting indictment of its more appalling conventions. Beyond its agenda, though, the fact remains that this is simply a stellar book. The characters, while initially suggested to be little more than the stereotypes they inhabit, are all real living breathing people, and whatever you think you know about what’s going on is just waiting to be upturned. I would recommend this book to anyone with a healthy love of the fantasy genre, or just a love of good stories. I do offer fair warning, though, there’s quite a bit of sexual content in the back half of the book. It’s necessary to what Frey is trying to do here, but does render the book unsuitable for certain audiences.

CONTENT: Intermittent R-rated profanity. Strong violence, occasionally gruesome. Moderately explicit sexual content, scattered throughout the back half of the book.

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 3

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at more of those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

Also, go check out part one of this review series. There’s a giveaway!

  • A Member Of The Wedding Of Heaven And Hell, by Richard Bowes (****)
    This one almost made my favorites list. I’m still not sure why it didn’t. According to Mr. Bowes, the hosts of Heaven and Hell never leave their respective realms anymore. Instead, they recruit humans who show certain predispositions, imbue them with a measure of their power, and employ them as proxies in their endless cold war. Now both Heaven and Hell are in an uproar, as a wedding between two of their agents prepare to wed…. CONTENT: Brief sexual innuendo, non-explicit. The implication that one character may have been molested as a child. Mild violence. Mild language.
  • Copper, Iron, Blood And Love, by Mari Ness (***)
    This is a tale of the raven’s daughter, one of seven children born to a woman in the village of Sandel and the only one to survive their mother’s madness. This is also a tale of the blacksmith’s daughter, who loved the raven’s daughter for saving her life. There is also a poet, a singer, or a prince, depending on who you talk to. First off, I didn’t really like this one that much. I didn’t “get it” when I was reading it. On reflection, however, it is growing on me. The vagueness that annoyed me at first glance now looks more like Ms. Ness taking on the tradition of folk tales and how they are a little different every place you find them. It’s an exploration of how stories evolve, and maybe a comment about never really knowing which one is true. I’m still not a fan, but I can at least appreciate the craft and technique here. CONTENT: No language. Implied violence. Possible implication of a character having been molested.
  • Love Is A Parasite Meme, by Lavie Tidhar (***)
    (Ostensibly) the last two people on an Earth devastated by unexplained disaster set out to forget certain words they deem useless. I didn’t really get pulled into this one, whether it was the never-explained fate of the rest of the world or the fact that I was put off by the titular declaration concerning love. I did like the ending, but not enough to redeem the experience. CONTENT: Harsh, R-rated language throughout. No violence. Non-explicit sexual content.
  • Tomorrow’s Dictator, by Rahul Kanakia (****)
    Science has cracked the secret of mind control and brainwashing. Visit the right therapist (or whatever they call themselves where you’re from,) one little adjustment and voila! That smoking habit that’s stubbornly refused to be beaten? Gone forever. That job you despise? Now you love it. Perfect, right? And just perfect for that cult you’re trying to start that is having trouble keeping your converts committed…. CONTENT: Mild sexual innuendo. No language. No violence.
  • Winter Scheming, by Brit Mandelo (****)
    Harvey is disturbed, haunted by a relationship gone wrong. To tell you more would be to invite spoilers, and I really don’t want to do that. Instead, I’ll simply say that this strange story involves reincarnation, a taciturn bird lady, a golden owl, and an act of nearly divine retribution. Shutting up now…. CONTENT: Strong lesbian sexual content. Violence, evocatively described. Harsh R-rated language. Reincarnation counts as occult content, right?
  • In The Dark, by Ian Nichols (****)
    There is a darkness that lives deep in the Earth, hungry for the dark and dreary dreams of humanity. The miners know this, and so they sing songs bright and cheerful to keep the darkness at bay. But not all who travel through their lands are familiar with this timeless enemy, and there are those who love nothing more than songs of heartache and pain…. There was a beauty to the prose of this story that I’m sure I can’t do justice to in description. I really enjoyed it, and it narrowly missed making my best-of list. CONTENT: Implied sexual innuendo, but nothing explicit. No language. No real violence, though there are some frightening elements that I’ll not elaborate on because spoilers.

This is the third post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
-Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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