The cover to this issue is by Steven Assel,and features a woman warrior on horseback armed with a spear.
A rundown of this issue's nonfiction is as follows:
In adult books, Gahan Wilson reviews The Off Season by Jack Cady, The Shape-Changer's Wife by Sharon Shinn, Cthulu 2000, edited by Jim Turner, and Jeanne Cavlos reviews The Merlin Chronicles, edited by Mike Ashley, and newcomer Louisa Bourne reviews The Book of Goddesses, words and pictures by Kris Waldherr; in folkroots Terri Windling writes about Eastern European Magic: alchemy, witchery, and puppetry in Prague; in the movie/TV column, newcomer Dan Perez writes about the thirteen best fantasy films you've never heard of; in the art gallery, Jane Frank writes about the art in game and collector cards; and in the games column, Marc C. Sumner reviews the rpg, Everway, from Wizards of the Coast, and the dice game, Dragon Dice, from TSR. Obviously this review takes place in the days before Wizards of the Coast bought TSR.
On to the fiction ...
The fiction leads off with a rather familiar title to all fantasy fans, this being "The Return of the King." And while this funny fantasy does indeed draw upon elements from Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion (indirectly for both), it also draws heavily on Norse mythology (as do LOTR & the Silmarillion, of course), and, of all things, Elvis. Quite a mix. And with the story being written by Susan Wade & Don Webb, this also marks the first time that Realms published a co-written story. Art to this was provided by Annie Lunsford, which marks her second illustration in the magazine.
Next up was "Diana of the Hundred Breasts" by Robert Silverberg. According to the records I'm keeping as I go along, this marks the 50th work of fiction published by Realms of Fantasy. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first piece of fiction I've read by Robert Silverberg. I've known about him and respected his accomplishments/contributions to our genre for some years, have at least a few of his novels in my room, but somehow I've never read any of his works. After reading this piece, I understand why it was Long Listed for the Locus Award in 1997 for Best Novelette, and was also selected for inclusion in the 10th annual edition of Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. As to what the story is about, in the broadest sense of the word it falls into the realms of Greek mythology, but really it is a character piece, and an observation about how lack of faith can be a kind of faith itself, and having this shattered can be every bit as powerful as having one's faith shattered. Very powerful and I'm looking forward to reading more of Silverberg's works in the future. Art to this piece was provided by Web Bryant, which marks his fifth illustration in the magazine.
Third in the lineup was "Pacifica" by Julie Stevens. Art to this one is provided by Carol Heyer, which marks her fourth illustration in the magazine. Sort of a historical fantasy piece, it's set in the in the milieu of Hawaii before the white men reached its shores. The author does an excellent job of conveying the milieu, the simple but fascinating way of life, as she tells the story of one man who rises to be the greatest of prophets among his people, but where she takes the tale is full of sad, powerful, and unexpected ironies. Nicely done.
Jack McDevitt is generally known for his science fiction, but with "Duex Ex" he shows that he can write fantasy as well. This is a quirky tale about thieves pulling off a heist in a house containing a rather eclectic assortment of artifacts. Elaborating will simply give away the story, so I'll simply add that there's nice undercurrent of humor here and leave it at that. Art to this one was provided by Michael Dubisch, which mark his second illustration in the magazine.
The final story is "Doll Skulls: A New Tale of Paradis" by Tanith Lee, which marks her second appearance in Realms of Fantasy. I gave some thought as to how I would classify this story, before settling on literary fairy tale. In the city of Paradis, a poor and beleaguered woman buys her daughter a pair of beautiful dolls at an extreme discount. As is often the case in such stories, the dolls turn out to be more than she bargained for. But Lee excels at keeping the reader uncertain what will happen next, and coupled with skill at weaving hypnotic prose and lush milieus, you find yourself being drawn ever deeper into the story before it reaches a rather satisfying conclusion. Good stuff. Art to this one was provided by Mary O'Keefe Young, which marks her fifth illustration in the magazine.
And that's it for February 1996. I liked a number of tales in this issue, but my runaway favorite is "Diana of the Hundred Breasts" by Robert Silverberg. I have a feeling this is one of my favorite authors waiting to happen. Just need to read more of his stuff before I can make such a bold statement. And my favorite art this issue? Carol Heyer's piece to "Pacifica" by Julie Stevens. Next time around I'll discuss the April 1996 issue. Until then ...