"The Delusive Cartographer" by Rich Larson (9052 words)
This is a rather straightforward story of skullduggery and intrigue. And one that doesn’t suffer too much from being entirely populated by men. But most of the story makes sense in that regard, the action taking place as Crane has to infiltrate a prison to find a map to sunken silver. It’s a very “classic”-minded story, breaking in to prison being a neat trope and while not really complicated here it is executed well. Better done in my mind is the use of magic and drugs and a slow building mystery of people not telling the whole truth. Also a bit of rape, so trigger warning there. Really, the story seems to sets its aim on telling a tightly plotted and entertaining tale, and it does so. Crane is a rakish character, and putting him in the company of prison guards is a nice move, giving him a chance to take some punches away from the brawnier Gilchrest, who spends the story having to deal with a more emotionally draining experience. All in all it’s a fun little story, and it does make me wonder what some of the earlier adventures were of these characters, perhaps in settings that aren’t so male exclusive. I am told on good authority that the previous story in the series, "The Mermaid Caper," does indeed fit the bill. It can be found here. Indeed!
"Spider's Ink" by Jason S. Ridler (2436 words)
This is an interesting story, a story told around an absence, told using a collection of documents, a sort of history compiled from the various accounts and histories and journals and confessions. The story is about Heriz, a man who was an agent of a foreign power working within a colonized archipelago in order to fight against the colonizers, an empire in conflict with his own nation. As such the story paints a complex picture of Heriz, one contradictory and colored by the people doing the recording. He was many things, a healer and a spy, a leader and a destroyer. For in trying to insight rebellion he brought death to a great many people. But through that death he also brought a reason to fight back and expel the colonizers. It’s a strange story because Heriz is hero and devil to everyone. He worked for freedom but did so as an outsider and an agent, did it by saving lives but also by spending them far away from his home in order to bring the archipelago into a fight that wasn’t exactly its own, to make them pay the cost of blood that his homeland was unwilling to pay. But it doesn’t back away from the conflict inherent in Heriz, does face the various accounts, showing how histories are compiled and how they are slanted. How they all revolve around absences, the spaces left by the dead, left by those unable to answer. It’s a tricky thing, the past, and this story does a great job exploring that idea, not offering any easy answers but instead focusing on the impossibility of finding any one “truth” when looking back. Truth varies but the dead remain dead. A fine story.