Tuesday, September 10, 2019

All In, by Rajan Khanna

[Lightspeed]
★★★★★ Shattering

(Old-West Fantasy) Two men seeking a better understanding of the decks of magic cards they carry find trouble instead. (9,961 words; Time: 33m)


"All In," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in issue 112, published on .

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

Review: 2019.511 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: These magic cards make for quite a plot element. Quentin and Hiram have come so far, it’s sad to see them fall out, but given they’ve lost their purpose anyway, maybe that’s not such a surprise.

As far as plot threads go, Quentin simply needs a new purpose. His idea of trying to do good with the cards isn’t a bad one, although, as Hiram observes, he could have done that any time.

Hiram is simply in love. He’s hurt that Quentin won’t make time for him to court this girl, but, given their quest is over anyway, he’s tired of travelling and not willing to walk away from her.

Legrand’s motive is very obvious: he wants those cards, and he doesn’t want to risk his own. His scheme is a little too complex, and it ends up costing him his daughter, his cards, and his life, but it almost works.

Quentin does learn how to take someone else’s cards (he takes Legrand’s), but he pays a very heavy price. He loses his friendship with Hiram, who’s sure to hate him now. He gives up his relationship with Rachael. And, most of all, he’s lost his belief in himself.

There’s plenty of tension and plenty of action. I particularly liked the twist where Legrand laughs that Quentin is out of cards, so Quentin just shoots him.

This seems very much set up for a sequel, but it’s complete as it stands.

Con: In context of the story, when Hiram had Quentin trussed up and then walked off leaving him with a few cards, it destroyed my suspension of disbelief because it made no sense for Hiram to do that. Later, when we learned that was really Betty, and that this was part of Legrand’s plan to get hold of Quentin and Hiram’s decks both, it made more sense, but it was still a rough read.

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