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Three Tales
"The Stonemother's Curse"
"At the Virgin's Doorstep"
"Sweetly Dreams the Dragon."

David Farland
Amazon Digital Services, 36/28/66 pages

Three Tales
Three Tales
Three Tales
David Farland
David Farland decided to become a fantasy writer over 20 years ago. He tried his hand at doing a few novels, then decided to learn how to write by studying textbooks and doing some classes. Several pieces of work were published in the mainstream but he wanted to get back to fantasy. He started by doing the legwork necessary to build the world, to add in the magic system and to develop a sense of how he wanted the imagery/artwork to appear. That work has led to the development of a number of spin-off products available at The Runelords website.

David Farland / Dave Wolverton Website
Runelords Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Best of David Farland: Volume 1 and 2
SF Site Review: The Runelords: The Sum of All Men

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Earlier this year, David Farland/Wolverton released three more stories in electronic form: "The Stonemother's Curse," "At the Virgin's Doorstep," "Sweetly Dreams the Dragon." Together, they might form a slender volume of tales at a reasonable price.

"Sweetly Dreams the Dragon" is the imaginative gem of the trio. In the distant future, an intercepted Cycor transmission says that their previous attempt to destroy all life on the planet Danai failed, leaving behind humans and skraal. The Cycor need to return, resupplied.

Meanwhile, humans have lost the technology and intelligence they once had that gained them the stars. On Danai, humans are at the bottom of a caste system of intelligent species, relegated to servants, errand boys, as well as mushroom hunters for Saramasia, the skraal queen. Tallori, a human girl, discovers the remains of a dragon which may aid the skraal's defense against Cycor if Tallori's greedy father doesn't destroy it first.

Anduval is the best of the mushroom hunters, whose finds and intuition for what the skraal queen needs exceeds all others, leading not only to her healing but to her chrysalis stage of life. This brings him to the queen's notice which sets in motion events that allows his intelligence to surpass all of those around him as he works against time to comb through the dragon's knowledge in order to defend themselves from the Cycor and their sun-destroying ships.

If you like fairy tales, "The Stonemother's Curse" will wing you away. The Queen of Pretty Weed has a daughter whose magically absorbent beauty is powerful enough to make gypsies steal the girl away (along with some chickens). So the queen curses her own daughter with ugliness that will only lift if someone is able to see beyond the deformations.

What separates this from other fairy tales is its opening: how it characterizes the stone-hard people of Pretty Weed, how the daughter gains her beauty from whatever she gazes upon, and how it sets the tone and theme so beautifully with the opening lines:

  "In the days when clouds were just learning how to fly, and therefore often wandered the earth on soggy feet, at the end of a dirt road near the cliff at the edge of the world was a town called Pretty Weed.... The inhabitants of this land kept their noses in the ground all day as they mined adamant from the petrified bones of gods."  

The author's first fantasy, "At the Virgin's Doorstep," is aimed at long-time Farland fans or readers who are fascinated by the male psyche. Written in the early 80s when unicorns were ubiquitous, this coming-of-age story relates how three young men set out to kill off the excess unicorns that come to the village and gather at the doorstep of local virgins.

The first virgin they stop at is Matthew's, the protagonist's, own aunt. Jepht, not the most sympathetic of characters, expresses his thoughts about what he'd like to do to the boy's aunt. Although Matthew does not reply, he is ashamed by similar feelings. However, after a false alarm kills Jepht's horse, the unicorns do not show which shames everyone although the eldest tells Matthew's aunt that they had seen many that morning. Nonetheless, she vociferously defends her virginity. As they move toward where the unicorns are, Jepht spews more thoughts about Matthew's aunt, the ensuing fight nearly kills the boy.

Within the genre, an ever-present impulse paints men comfortable with vulgarity in the vilest terms and nearly always delivers a comeuppance. While readers are never in doubt that they are not to sympathize with Jepht, he's not inhuman. This story may not be as thematically focused, but the painfully evoked characterizations make the narrative admirable and worth reading.

Farland is long past due for a collection, but at least a smorgasbord of stories is available to choose from in electronic form.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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