Monday, September 7, 2015

The Lord of Ragnarök, by Albert E. Cowdrey

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2015; 16,843 words
Rating: 4: Recommended

A middle-aged knight in early 13th-Century France bringing his squire (and future master) to meet "The Master of the Tides," reflects on the things he's done, variously brave, cowardly, kind, and horrible, and those he's seen--including the terrifying supernatural thing they're about to visit.

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

The story reads extremely smoothly, and manages a good bit of suspense. The descriptions of Mont-Saint-Michel are excellent. This picture shows the dramatic tides that figure in the story.
Drangø arrives at Mont-Saint-Michel in 1187 or shortly after, given that we know he fought at the battle of Hattin at the end of the crusades. In this story, though, instead of being an abbey, it's the seat of a count.

The largest flaw in the story is Richard's transformation. Up to the point where Richard sets out to attack Grimoire's realm, he has our every sympathy, but as we see how poor the land has become and witness Grimoire's 16-year-old son desperately trying to defend his home, our sympathy for Richard cools. When he murders his young wife and marries Lady Mathilda, we don't recognize him anymore; he has turned into another person entirely.

The problem isn't that it's hard to believe--we have plenty of evidence of what a hard man he has become--but we're sad to see it, and it extinguishes the joy from the story.

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