I was particularly happy to stumble across Old Moon Quarterly recently, as it helps fills a niche that could always use new outlets in the spec-fic magazine landscape. Old Moon Quarterly publishes “weird sword-and-sorcery fiction set in a historical paranormal setting or a secondary-world, with a focus on well-rounded characters driving strange action.” While I tore through both Issue 1 and 2 in an afternoon, in the time it has taken me to actually write this review, a third issue has been released (a fact I am pleased by, because the first two issues were fantastic). The first two issues of Old Mon Quarterly contain four stories, with Issue 2 also including two interviews and a review. I’ve reviewed two stories from Issue 1, and two again from Issue 2.

From Issue 1:

Stella Splendens by Graham Thomas Wilcox tells a tale of single combat and a father-son relationship. I really enjoyed the action and combat in this story; it felt accurate and was paced well, with blows and thrust and parries feeling heavy to the story while also being followable as physical actions. The juxtaposition between physical violence and emotional turmoil is expertly crafted. The final paragraph is truly haunting, achieving a dark poetic despair.

My personal favorite of the issue was The Questing Beast by Carys Crossen. The Questing Beast find themselves in a quandary, when their demon father asks for their assistance in corrupting Pellinore, a knight of the round table. The Questing Beast narrates the story, describing their relationship with their father and the kingdom of Camelot. The story had a lot of things I enjoy in fiction. A monster that is not quite a monster, to name just one theme, without giving away some of the others – there were several parts of the story where I was hoping the author would go in a certain direction and then was delighted when the story met that hope, and I don’t want to take that experience away from anyone else. However, beyond playing with themes I am already inclined to like, Crossen does a fantastic job playing with narration. The Questing Beast, a jumble of animals, is also a jumble of narrators, each with their own distinct typography, voice, and insight. The deer was a particular favorite, with its emotional intelligence and insightful, if sparse, commentary. The multiplicity of narrators is thrilling and makes the retelling even more unique. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and highly recommend it.

From Issue 2:

Jonathan Olfert’s The Last Line is wonderful and bleak character study of a story. A group of oathbreakers rally for a final battle against their undead liege. Olfert uses the undead threat perfectly – the undead are not the focus, but instead the wheel upon which the interpersonal drama of the trapped warriors turn. Two men, Ogonin and Voresk, vie for leadership, one seeking to die in glorious, but futile battle, and the other seeking to die in a way that keeps their bodies from undead clutches. The stakes are high, and the worldbuilding that surrounds the gruff, brutal men who aim to go to their death singing is sublime.

The Hoard by Matthew Castleman is a gripping tale, filled equally with wonder and dire stakes. A mercenary is hired to kill a dragon, and as he hunts his history of dragon slaying unfolds. I always love a good dragon story, and this tale does an excellent job playing with the boundaries of the genre. The dragons themselves are a delight of description, and create some surprises with the stereotypical taxonomies of dragons. The hardscrabble mercenary of the protagonist cuts a gritty figure against an ending that has an almost fable-like quality, which is a juxtaposition that really elevates the story, and keeps the ending shrouded in suspense.

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