Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Masochist's Assistant, by Auston Habershaw

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(High Fantasy; Saga of the Redeemed) Georges has to help his master torture himself as part of his plan to make himself immune to almost all forms of death. (8,086 words; Time: 26m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Amusing and Satisfying

"The Masochist's Assistant," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 07-08|17, published on by .

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

Pro: The biggest delight of this story comes when we realize that the spiritual torment Georges inflicts on himself through observing etiquette parallels the physical torment Hugarth suffers. As Hugarth says, “It’s hard to remember what kinds of poison each of us thrives upon.”

The author sets up the big confrontation very well. We know there has been peace for so long that the guards have no idea how to fight a real enemy. We also know that there is such a position as “Defender of the Realm,” even though Madame thinks it funny even to mention it.

It’s not clear at what point Georges figures out that the big fight is all a show. He certainly knew that a sword would do no more than inconvenience his master, but, somehow, during the fight, we believe he really is as brave as he appears to be. As Hugarth says, he’s got more courage in his left ankle than they have in their entire bodies.

It’s particularly satisfying that Georges wins a victory on his own terms. Rather than fleeing with his master, he remains inside the society he’s comfortable with. He’s picked his poison, and he’s faithful to his choice.

It’s also gratifying to see that Master Hugarth really is a sorcerer of considerable power.

Curiously, although the names and titles in the story are French, the setting is a secondary world, not an alternate France.

Con: The suspicion that Georges knew the whole thing was a ruse takes a bit of the shine away from his success. It’s not entirely clear that he really earned it. As Master Hugarth points out, Georges's fascination with getting approval from the local nobility is rather demeaning.

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