Genre: Historic (with a touch of Fantasy)
Format: Short Story (28 pages)
Series: 7&7 Anthology
Publisher: DSP Publications (May 2016)
Bonus: Free on publisher’s site
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
DSP Publication’s anthology covers 7 virtues and 7 vices, and the theme of J. Tullos Henry’s story is the vice of pride.
In the shadows of a burnt stronghold in the Levant, the horseboy with a secret works his herd of horses away from the fighting and towards possible safety. The mounts respect the lad with the talent to soothe their kind, but lead him to an encounter with a wounded infidel, a Templar, his wounded warhorse, and his fallen knightly comrade. The situaton calls forth both magic and danger, with the local lad revealing secrets that usually bring death, while the Templar finds himself fearful and confused by the handful of foreign deception. The two pose almost as much danger to each other as the desert heat and the vultures.
A trip to the Crusades and the wariness between religious enemies is timely in itself, but the author weaves timeless issues of sexuality and gender into this historic setting. Add in a touch of supernatural folk tradition and the danger of being different in a society of strong moral norms, and the reader is treated to story that should work for LGBT-friendly hisotry and fantasy fans on many levels. While we see the current struggle for gay and transgender rights as particularly heightened at the moment, it’s good to remember folk have always struggled with being true to themselves in the face of intolerance throughout history.
My one critique would be the theme of pride was very understated to me (although both characters proudly but secretly lived their lives, and had to choose whether they would swallow some to survive their encounter in the harsh desert).