‘Loran’s Smile’ by Jeff Grubb

Goodreads

Website (Read it for free here)

Genres: Fantasy, Magic the Gathering, High Fantasy, Franchise Fiction, Slice of Life, short story

Similar books:

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

Rating: Highly Recommended Magic the Gathering short story which anyone can read

Here’s the TL;DR for my review (SPOILERS!):

  • Pros
    • Bittersweet short story about a man coping with the death of his wife
    • Unable to live without her, he uses his magic to construct mechanical constructs to replace her, making this a sort-of inverted Pygmalion story.
    • This story very clearly demonstrates the Magic the Gathering magic system, so even a complete newbie to the setting will clearly understand what’s going on.
  • Mixed
    • This feels like it was written in the ’90’s (which it was). On one hand this added a delightful earnestness to the text, making the story feel heartfelt in an old-school, Golden Age of Fantasy sort of way. On the other hand this short story was old-fashioned with cliche.
  • Cons

 

Short stories are amazing. I’ve never read a long-form novel which can do half as good a job of capturing a bittersweet tone as a short story can.

Feldon is an artificer, a maker of artifacts. For years he worked side-by-side with his wife Loran, but as time passed her old wounds sustained during the Brother’s War eventually killed her. Feldon could not cope with the loss of his wife, so he set out to make an artificial copy of her.

He succeeds, but his artifice fails to satisfy. Left with only a robotic version of his wife, he can feel only cold and hollow. He’ll do anything to bring his wife back, even if it means consorting with the darkest of powers. So he leaves his mountain home, to learn from the sorcerers of forests, of water, of swamps, and of the plains, in order to restore his beloved Loran to life.

This is a story about the temporarily of life, despite love’s endurance. In the end Feldon realizes that what he really wanted wasn’t for her to return, but to say goodbye to her instead.

The magic system was well explained (even if the magic system is out of date by modern standards). If you want to know what the Magic the Gathering setting is about, check out this story.

I do have some qualms though; even though the prose was really well written considering it was penned in the ’90’s, (this baby made me break out a dictionary, which is always a pleasant surprise), it still used some relatively tired tropes and cliches by modern 2019 standards. I also would have liked it if the black magician Feldon spoke to was less evil, but that’s just me.

This is a first time read for me, and it is already one of my favorite Magic the Gathering short stories.

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