Savage Realms Monthly, Sept 2023
by Jack Myers, Brad Younie, and Morgan Kane
Savage Realms is notoriously hard to crack as a market, and the small number of stories means that the editor can choose the cream of their submissions. This new issue of the popular sword and sorcery magazine has three very strong stories, spattered with gore. Firstly, we have Morgan Kane’s Adventures in Exile: Volume 3. As the title suggests, this is the third installment in a longer story. It has two different plot strands, one featuring a warlord known as the Hawk, the other a woman warrior, presumably identical with the character on the cover. We begin with the Hawk—the Hero of Nurughan—riding through the night following rumours of a rebel commander and his elephant mounted horde. At the end of this sequence he learns that Nurughan has been sacked. The narrative shifts now to Velera, the woman warrior, alone in a ruined city, having escaped Rhongah and her warriors. Her struggle for survival in the spider haunted ruins takes up most of the story. Then we return to the Hawk, pondering what he knows about the rebel commander, who now turns out to be female. It ends with a ‘to be continued’.
I enjoyed what I understood the story, and there’s plenty of action in the mid-section, but it failed to hang together, presumably because it’s the third in a series. The link between the Hawk and Velera was unclear. Who was the rebel commander? Was it Velera? Or was it Rhongah, who Velera had escaped? It reminded me of randomly picking up Look and Learn in the doctor’s waiting room as a kid in the later 70s, and trying to make head or tail of the Trigan Empire. Entertaining and well written but I felt like I was missing something (probably the last two installments). Now I know how casual readers of Schlock feel trying to puzzle out a couple of chapters of The Lake Eerie Lights…
I found the second story more satisfying. Cat’s Claw, by Brad Younie, with its urban setting, forms a stark contrast with Adventures in Exile, although the central character, Sabia, is also female. But she can turn herself into a cat (due to convenient a curse) and prospers rather better than Velera. It begins with the heroine, in cat form, witnessing violence in the streets of the city before following a murderer back home. A cult is at large in the city, and it is while investigating them that Sabia encounters a serpent god, Sutekh… But I won’t spoil the ending.
Lastly, we have Jack Myers’ Wild Revenger. Again we have a change in scene and setting, to a snowy northern wilderness. Reading the first paragraph I thought the story had another heroine, but in fact it features Vonslar, a man who is driven by a desire to avenge the murder of his wife, Dimitra, who haunts the entire tale—quite literally. The descriptions of the snowy scenes I found particularly powerful, and Vonslar’s vengeance, achieved with the aid of a goddess, is equally chilling.
This is the second time I’ve reviewed Savage Realms, but it was a different experience for me this time because the first issue I reviewed I read on a Kindle app, while this one I read in paperback. The zine is a nice, size, a slim volume, with a good cover illustration. The interior gives the feel of a chapbook, or the kind of zine that prevailed in the days of desktop publishing. It’s well edited, and I only noticed a couple of mistakes (i.e. the capitalisation of the word ‘Blonde’). But I thought that more could be achieved with regards to layout. A more interesting font, perhaps. Also it would be interesting to see an anthology containing a selection of the best stories to appear in the issues.