Grimdark Magazine #19 by Adrian Collins

Grimdark Magazine #19 by Adrian Collins

Series: Grimdark Magazine #19Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: July 1st 2019Genre: fantasy, grimdark, dark fantasy
Publisher: Grimdark MagazineAvailable: Amazon, GdM website, Patreon
Number of pages: 167Author’s website:


Quote of the Book

“Dead or alive the days pass you by and time changes everything.”

Death at the Pass by Michael R. Fletcher



Grimdark Magazine presents the darker, grittier side of fantasy and science fiction. Each quarterly issue features established and new authors to take you through their hard-bitten worlds alongside articles, reviews and interviews. Our stories are grim, our worlds are dark and our morally grey protagonists and anti-heroes light the way with bloody stories of war, betrayal and action.

The Fool Jobs by Joe Abercrombie
Eye of the Beholder by Trudi Canavan
Under Calliope’s Skin by Alan Baxter
Death at the Pass by Michael R. Fletcher
Lifeblood by Lee Murray

An Interview with Geoff Brown
Review: The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht
(Almost) Total Failure: Succeeding in the Short Story Market by T.R. Napper
Review: Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund
An Interview with Syama Pedersen

Personal notes

I’ve got a free review copy from Adrian Collins, chief editor of Grimdark Magazine because I’m cool and because… well, what other reason do you need? 😉 Joking aside, thanks for the opportunity Adrian!


Song of the Book

I thought it’ll be hard to pick a song. But once I started to think what would go well with Eye of the Beholder, this song came to mind instantly. It’s just perfect.


After a well deserved break – Adrian, chief editor of Grimdark Magazine (GDM) got married, congrats once again! – the Nineteenth issue was released with a strong line of contributors. You can read a short stories from Joe Abercrombie, Trudi Canavan, Alan Baxter, Michael R. Fletcher and Lee Murray, an interview with Geoff Brown and Syama Pedersen, two book reviews of The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht and Blood of an Exile by Brian Naslund, plus an article from T. R. Nepper.

My review will mostly reflect on the short stories, but I highly recommend checking out the interviews and the article too because they give great insight into writing and publishing.

Once again, GdM managed to gather a great variety of content. Whether you are into grimdark, sci-fi, epic fantasy, you have pretty much everything in here. Not every story is necessarily grimdark, but they aren’t happy ones that’s for sure.

The Fool Jobs by Joe Abercrombie – 3/5

I probably belong to the minority in the fantasy community, who haven’t read a single thing from Abercrombie yet. If I’m being honest, this short story didn’t really make me want to throw away everything and read those books. I’m not sure if the characters here have appeared in any of his books, or if this belongs to any of his worlds he created there. As I said, I came in blindly. The writing was solid, though nothing that would blow me away. The plot itself is quite the cliché – a band of merchenaries sign up for a job. Craw and his group has to get an artefact which is held in a village. The job of course doesn’t go as planned and all kinds of misadventure ensue. The whole thing is quite predictable. I’ve said it in one of my reviews before that I’m not fan of short stories with many characters as they hard to get to know or bond with. Neither Craw or any of the others are interesting enough to make it memorable. A shame, because it has interesting bits, personally if this story was about the villagers, and especially their religion, this could have been a pretty good one. Even though it was a disappointment for me, I’m pretty sure others will receive The Fool Jobs much better.


Eye of the Beholder by Trudi Canavan – 4.5/5

Although I’ve come across Trudi Canavan‘s name before thanks to my Aussie friends, I haven’t had the good fortune to read any of her writings. Which I’ll have to remedy soon enough. Out of the 5 short stories this was my favorite. Eye of the Beholder drew me in right at the beginning. This one is written in the first person and tells the story of a miniature artist woman and how she found herself in the middle of a quarrel of a couple. The reason I didn’t give this a 5 out of five is that I wish we could read more about the artist herself and the magic system connected to her art rather than the couple. On the other hand, I quite liked that not everything was revealed, some bits you have to puzzle out yourself which gives it a bit of a mysterious atmosphere. Well done!

A side note, this short story reminded me a bit of that movie Big Eyes, which was based on true events.


Under Calliope’s Skin by Alan Baxter – 4/5

Now, here is an author I know about! I’ve read and reviewed Baxter‘s latest novel, Devouring Dark almost a year ago. That was more dark urban fantasy, while this short story is more sci-fi. 8 soldier gets the mission to figure out what happened to 20 scientist who were supposed to run a lab and get the place ready for mining on a moon called Calliope. Once they arrive they get a nasty surprise. I wouldn’t go into details, lets just say Baxter doesn’t shy away from spilling some blood. Similarly to Abercrombie’s short this also has several characters, but they are more easy to distinguish as they are better developed. I’m generally not a fan of sci-fi, but I like Baxter’s writing so much, that I don’t even care about that. It has some pretty neat world building too and the twist at the end was well done as I didn’t see that coming.


Death at the Pass by Michael R. Fletcher – 4/5

Seriously, I started to love reading magazine’s like GdM, because I finally can read stuff from authors I always meant to read from, but just never got around to do it. Or discover authors I haven’t heard about before. Fletcher belongs to the first group, well, if we don’t count his short story in the Knee-Deep in Grit anthology.

As this was my first encounter with Fletcher’s writing, I don’t know if it’s connected to any of his previous stuff – whether they were written by Dyrk Ashton, Rob Hayes, Ben Galley, honestly, I can’t follow who writes what anymore – but the world seems a well built and one he played with for a while beforehand. Khraen, after being dead for a few thousand years gets resurrected to his surprise. He joins to the necromancer in her revenge, but has his own plans in store.

I enjoyed reading this one, Fletcher clearly likes to wreak some mayhem and I especially appreciated the twist at the end. Brilliant. Also, out of the 5 short stories, Khraen had the best character arc.


Lifeblood by Lee Murray – 3.5/5

Lee Muray is the only one in this bunch I didn’t hear anything about, so I went in with zero expectations. Days after finishing it, I still have no idea where to put Lifeblood. What I liked is that it was set in a different culture – the story took place in New Zealand – though the main character, Nikola was an Austrian man. Arriving in the hope of a better life, Nikola and several other man work on the fields, digging gum and trying to find anything valuable – mostly amber which they can sell and buy food for it. But life gets harder as they have to get a license in order to continue working, and on top of that they get portions of field where there is nothing left. Desperate times call for desperate measures so Nikola decides to act. But every act has consequences.

I liked the story itself, the message it conveys – you have to respect the culture, the nature and generally the laws of any kind. But even though we mostly follow Nikola, I just found it hard to connect with him on any level. It’s not that he wasn’t well developed, I just didn’t really like him.