Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Weeping Czar Beholds the Fallen Moon

Novelette by Ken Scholes
Audio Version read by Mary Robinette Kowal
Note: Starship Sofa typo'd it into "A Weeping Caza Behold the Fallen Moon"

While wiping out a heretical religious cult for the unrelated death of his wife, the Czar's men uncover what amounts to a magic telephone. One day when he is sitting in his room crying, as is common for his family of emo-emperors, a girl asks him why he is so sad. We soon figure out that she is supposed to be his true love (and wife #n+1).

They have a romance that is well written, but a bit too long. After phone sex is finally invented for the fantasy kingdom, the plot develops something beyond the pure long-distance-romance when the Czar devotes too many resources to trying to locate his love and faces political ramifications just as he is discovering the incredibly non-shocking truth. Anyway, the problems magically go away and the non-romance plot is tied up with a bow, but the romance doesn't go at all as I'd suspect, and it is a pleasantly bittersweet surprise. The whole story is supposed to be history to the setting of a couple of novels, I believe, but that doesn't hurt it. It is a little long and the Weeping Czars strike me as a bit lame but the love story was sweet and well done, and the other plot serves as a nice distraction/complication despite the predictability. I'd have preferred either a less happy or more messy resolution to that, but whatever. I liked it, but I didn't like like it: 3 out of 5.

There is an odd note to this story about how the Czar and his people are skeptics, and they are repeatedly wrong and worse off for it. Wiping out the heretics who were right about going to the moon, not believing in magic or ghosts, etc. It doesn't really fit into the theme or the story much besides being a bit of flirting, but it was a bizarrely nonsense undertone.

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