The Heron's Call
by Isabo Kelly, fantasy (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-489-X


In Isabo Kelly's The Heron's Call, our heroine Rowena is an "sword sworn" of the "Aleanian Temple" who is traveling to the land belonging to Dorjan, a wizard that is currently holding the "Valen horse clan's oracle". Rowena is carrying out a mission given to her by the Temple to rescue this oracle. While she is fighting off a bunch of goons hired by Dorjan to halt her progress, our hero Kael Zyhn shows up to knock these goons out so that our heroine doesn't have to kill them, pull a Lady McBeth act, and start washing her hands every night. She knows the hero, by the way, even if she hasn't seen him in twelve years. Kael is a "Heron sword mage". He's a super sword mage because he's the first one in a long time to craft his own "mage sword". Next thing I know, he's calling Rowena his "raynia" or "soul twin" and I go, "No! Not the dreaded S word! Aaaah!"

I am touched by Kael's intense longing for his raynia.

Nothing would help until he was buried deep inside her, bonding her together.

Shall I get the spade, dear Kael?

It's hard not to be moved by Kael's desire and persistent stalking of Rowena. It takes a special twenty-year old man to recognize a fourteen year old girl as his raynia that he wants to bury himself deep, deep inside and hold on to that longing for the next twelve years. Most pedophiles will lose interest once the little girl in question turns, say, eighteen so Kael is really something special. That kiss he stole on a fourteen year old girl has only hardened his, er, zeal to make Rowena his. The only reason he didn't move in to act on his true love all this while is because he was too busy forging the mage sword (not an euphemism for self-love in case you're wondering). The best he can do is to enter Rowena's dreams for some naughty dreamshags in a plane where the cops cannot break down the door and charge him for statutory rape. Now, Kael can't wait to show his big mage sword to Rowena.

I understand that a mage sword is a sword with special properties - Rowena's mother has a mage sword that disrupts magical spells aimed at the bearer of the sword, for example - but I have no idea what is the Aleania, the Heron, and pretty much every other jargon in this story mean. On the bright side, the story is still coherent because while not everything is made clear in this story, the main concepts vital to the reader's comprehension of what is going on, such as the mage sword issue, are explained adequately to give me an idea of what is going on.

Nonetheless, the storyline of The Heron's Call is still a cheesy and formulaic barbarian love story with little variation to the whole destiny/soulmate/dreamshag theme. The characters seem more preoccupied with having sex rather than to save the poor oracle - she can't be too important, I guess. Kael is a standard hero in this kind of cheese-and-sorcery stories although he's much more politically correct compared to some of his Neanderthal counterparts. He is willing to make all kinds of concessions to accommodate her once they get married. Rowena on the other hand drops the F bomb often and behaves more like a typical lead female character in an urban fantasy story, so she often seems out of place in a cheese-and-sorcery story.

While better-written than most cheese-and-sorcery tales out there, The Heron's Call nonetheless doesn't strike me as particularly memorable. I have no problems reading this story and some of the unintentionally amusing aspects of the plot give me a good laugh, but the story just doesn't stand out for me.

Rating: 70


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