Thursday, February 7, 2019

Twilight Echoes #1 Review by S.E.

S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Carnelian Press ‘s Twilight Echoes #1 Steve Dilks brings together three 2013 tales (by Charles Allen Gramlich, Davide Mana, Steve Lines) anchored by a relatively obscure Robert E. Howard adventure. It’s a sixty-seven page pamphlet nicely illustrated; the cover is drawn by veteran Jim Pitts, with interior illustrations by Regis Moulun, Kurt Brugel, Tony Gleeson, and Yanis Rubus Rubulias. Editor Steve Dilks pens the opening foreword. It is an interesting selection of authors who stand in contrast to the style of the father of Sword & Sorcery, Robert E Howard. They cover a variety of milieus: Nordic, Egyptian, Arabian, and African. All vary in writing style but are common in that they lean heavily toward poetic, weird pulp (like a blend of REH and Clark Ashton Smith).

1) “Whisper in Ashes” I interviewed Charles Gramlich on Black in 2018. This follows his warrior Krieg (war); this was published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #17 (2013), and I had read Unsheathed which is a disconnected episode for the mysterious warrior (having read that led me to this anthology). This time Krieg is in a Nordic milieu facing a lycanthrope in a remote castle with a jarl called Tovar; it is unique and wonderful, and it evoked a Kane story by KEW in has many parallels: “Reflections for the winter of my Soul.”

2) “Bride of the Swamp God”: Davide Mana published this as an eBook in 2013. Several converging parties find themselves near Alexandria Egypt: firstly, an Egyptian sorceress Amunet and Greek vizier go into the swamp to all upon the Ancient One for support (in part against her own family); secondly, Aculeo, the hero, follows his deserting, Romanesque “moronic soldiers who had wandered off for treasure; and lastly, there are locals who worship the Lovecraftian swamp god. No more spoilers, save what is said in the introduction: Amunet and Aculeo have more tales together.

3) “The Eyes of the Scorpion”: Steve Lines first published this in FUNGI #21 (2013). The beginning of this Arabian inspired tale is overly verbose and heavy on narrative, but the necromancer-saturated tale eventually takes off and is very satisfying. Shamal is a warrior serving protection over the Sultan’s necromancer. The later sends him on a mission to retrieve the titular “eyes.” The protagonist embarks into the den of the Lord of Ghuls and Scorpion God controlled by his master’s mind.

4) “The Vale of lost women” by the Robert E. Howard wrote this drug-inspired, African trip. The very white Livia (and very druggable) is saved by Conan twice; once from black warriors and once from brown women. As Steve Dilks mentions, this is racially charged and was not published in REH’s life (published posthumously in The Magazine of Horror #15, 1967). In fact, the racial aspect is cringe worthy by today’s sensibilities. However, the story is a splendid mix of weird horror and action.

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