It’s weird setting up a review of a short story out of an entire anthology, but I thought it would be a good start to my going back and reviewing ARCs again. I suppose if I was going to start somewhere, epic fantasy was the way to go!
Note: This review is of “Six Hooves,” a short story from Hidden Magic, a fantasy anthology released by Magical Mayhem Press. This review does not reflect the rest of the anthology and only talks about one particular story!
by Stephen Wallace
Magical Mayhem Press, March 2020
Epic fantasy, adventure
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies
ARC provided by Reedsy Discovery
No matter the world, life can be dangerous. Be they wizards and shamans, assassins, or everyday people, Hidden Magic tells their stories about escape, consequences, and most of all, magic.
From Earth cities and fantastical new worlds comes twenty-six stories where heroes grapple with the seen and unseen in order to save themselves, their families, and often the world. This collection features:
Elderly antiques experts interacting with souls
Shamans growing outlawed magic
Baby chimeras battling for their lives
Children sprouting fluffy tails
A king’s boat thrown off-course
A perfect life coming at a not-so-perfect cost
Vikings defending a village against the unseen
A lone shifter atoning for his past mistakes
Trolls and pixies tumbling through the doorway to another world
It’s difficult for me to get into an epic fantasy without the backdrop of worldbuilding behind it. I think this is because many of the epic fantasy authors I’ve read in the past have over 100,000 words in their first book arsenal, so a short story of epic proportions had me suspect. Seriously, how do you fit so much of a world in one novella anyway?!
That being said, I think “Six Hooves” does its job surprisingly well, even for a short story epic fantasy.
The story is part of the Hidden Magic anthology, and works in a magic system based on religion and belief. It revolves around two interesting characters, Al’rashal (a centaur) and Urkjorman (a minotaur), a wife-and-husband monster duo out to protect a set of Wayfarers on a pilgrimage. It takes place in a land of desert sands, and honestly, the author paints well enough a picture that you could almost see the setting itself.
I liked the premise of the adventure. I liked that the two main characters (and Eihn, the third minor POV) were monsters and thus shunned from regular human society. Even the gnomes had their misgivings over hiring Al and Urk as bodyguards, but they found the necessity considering both are pretty much powerhouses. They were both pretty darn indestructible throughout the story, you almost wish there was a weakness to them. (I mean, there was…but I won’t get into that…)
My only caveat was the magic system itself. I know it was based on a sort of religion that was mentioned and returned to throughout the story (a marriage of powers between the monsters and the…gnomes? Or humans?), but it definitely had holes to the workings of the actual magic. Did the magic work on blind faith? Did the magic only work on gnomes and monsters? Then where did the spellcaster get his magic and why can’t he get his power off of the same source? What are the rules of this magic? Too many questions, I suppose, could have been answered in a longer epic.
All the same, “Six Hooves” was a good read, and not too taxing as far as the plot goes. It wasn’t the most riveting adventure I’ve come across, but worth reading for Al and Urk’s numerous quips to each other, if nothing else.
3 out of 5 cookies! The anthology Hidden Magic is released TODAY, so if magic and fantasy is your thing, definitely have a look-see.