Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jewel of the Heart, by Matthew Hughes

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(Fantasy Adventure; Baldemar) Baldemar is just a young henchman for the mage Thelerion, but he’s the only one who can wear the Helm of Sagacity, and right at the moment, they’re doomed without its help. But that help comes at a price. (22,779 words; Time: 1h:15m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Great Sword & Sorcery Fun

Although this is one of a series of stories about Baldemar’s adventures, there’s no need to read the earlier ones before enjoying this one.

"Jewel of the Heart," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 01-02|18, published on by .

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

Pro: The main fun of this story is seeing Baldemar figure out the puzzles at each stage of the quest. That and the amusingly matter-of-fact way he approaches each challenge. E.g. given the task of “find the exit” he starts by pointing to the door he just came in.

We also admire Baldemar’s integrity. When the Helm offers to spirit him away from the impending destruction of Thelerion’s castle, Baldemar refuses because he feels an obligation to Thelerion and to his friends in the castle. The Helm recognizes this, and takes his word that he’ll do as it asks if it saves the castle first.

And there’s plenty of thrills and excitement.

The tasks themselves are interesting, and each one depends on Baldemar making an important realization. For the maze, he essentially reinvents the right-hand-rule, but he also realizes that the exit may appear to be a wall. The most important thing about the dream world is that he realizes that it is a dream, and that once he’s died three times (and been restored) any future deaths will be real. In the diner, he realizes the three men are honest citizens, not villains, and then he realizes the doll is his enemy, not his friend. In the last puzzle (inside the gem), he figures out that the well is the only place he can go, and by turning the key three times, he solves the puzzle—even if he’s not quite sure how it all worked.

Baldemar’s not always quick-witted, but he thinks things over; he’s not reckless, but he’s brave when he needs to be. He’s not unamibitious, but he’s practical: he realizes he wouldn’t enjoy being king. He deserves a reward, and, given his other traits, granting him good luck is probably the gift he needs the most.

Very satisfying!

Con: There’s not a lot of depth to the story. There’s no plot complexity: all characters except Baldemar are secondary to the story. There’s not much emotion either. I'm happy for Baldemar’s success, but for some reason it’s not particularly moving.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 01-02|18)
Matthew Hughes Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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