Monday, May 27, 2019

Abacus of Ether, by Stephen Case

★★★☆☆ Average

(High Fantasy) Madam Grey sells life insurance to the young men recruited by the Empire to fight in the Grass War. The war goes badly, but she has a chance to end it—at great cost. (9,150 words; Time: 30m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 278, published on .

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

Review: 2019.324 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The best part of the story is the description of the world as “seen” by Madam Grey, who is blind. The author never slips up and describes what things look like, but fills the pages with sounds and scents and touches.

I was impressed that Madame Grey had such integrity that she wanted to die if she lied about a prophecy.

I was amused by the exclusion for “troll-inflicted damages.” Maybe the only bit of humor in the whole story.

Con: I felt cheated that the story didn’t let us know how the battle came out. I’d have liked to know that Madame Grey’s sacrifice was worth something.

If people think these prophecies are unchangeable, I’m not sure what good it does to tell the king two of his sons will die; why would he change anything if he doesn’t think it can make a difference? Or that the change itself might cause them to die? Or why wouldn’t he take troops away from the third son (prophesied to live) and give them to the two older sons? (The opposite of what General Throde wants.)

Some of the numbers don’t seem to add up. Madam Grey is old, but she’s only been in business 13 years. Magdalena was a child when Madam Grey finished school, but she’s still young and beautiful enough to get an admiring comment from the young soldier.

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