Black Gate Online, November 10, 2013

Black Gate Online, November 10, 2013

Reviewed in this issue is:

“Draugr Stonemaker” by Vaughn Heppner

For those new to reading in the fantasy genre, Vaughn Heppner’s “Draugr Stonemaker” is a story of adventure. Lod and his friend Herrek encounter the skeleton of a giant. Hidden within it is a silver box. Herrek finds it first and when he becomes unresponsive, Lod investigates and realizes that a force in the box has possessed his friend. Things start to go wrong here, with the not-quite-himself Herrek suddenly demanding that he and Lod immediately go in search of a treasure that Herrek is certain the serpent’s eye in the box showed them. Lod, who didn’t stare at the mind-controlling serpent’s eye long enough to become enthralled, realizes the danger for what it is. He and Herrek fight and Herrek, after trying to kill Lod, leaves with the chariot and horses. Intent on saving his friend, Lod follows Herrek “north into Giant Land.” When Lod catches up with his still-ensorcelled friend, and after a short dungeon crawl, the pair reaches the treasure room, complete with monsters that have to be destroyed before the treasure can be claimed. To say what happens next would spoil the story.

Those who pay attention to wordsmithing issues will find questions here. For example, is the term, “unerring accuracy” redundant? Since Lod conjectures that the lack of food may cause the horses to “starve badly,” is there some way to “starve well?” Did the adventurers take some measuring device with them into the dungeon that would allow them to know the giant’s height as “near to seventeen feet?”

Long-time fantasy readers will see that this story could just as easily have been titled, “Of Course,” and written by many a genre author. Of course, the POV character and his friend come across something that sends them on an adventure. Of course that something changes one of them in some negative way. Of course they fight and the one who is left behind goes on to find, and hopefully rescue, his friend. Of course they meet again and come to an uneasy truce. Of course, they encounter monsters. There is little new here—just another treatment of familiar territory.

A version of this review appears on the Tangent Online website.

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