Reviewed by Terry Grimwood

Call me old fashioned but on-line magazines are a difficulty to me as a reader. Okay, I've published in/on a few, but as a reader, I still need a piece of paper to be comfortable with the task. Having said that, I found Niteblade #2 to be a well presented, beautifully illustrated e-publication and the repository of some very interesting fiction and poetry. It is also carefully laid out to make navigation simple and soothe away all my e-reader worries.

Like so many independent press publications there is an accessible, labour-of-love warmth about the journal, as well as an imaginative, original edge that is often lacking in the mainstream. There is also variety, from the high fantasy elements of Ursula Warnecke's Brothers of Sword and Star to the fable-style warning of The Seventh Day by Patrick Hurley. Both these stories are engaging and feature that vital ingredient, unpredictability. The former is intense and tragic, with the disgraced protagonist faced with a gladiatorial style fight to the death, the latter a novel view of a Hell where the damned can actually enjoy themselves...for six days every week.

Straight-ish horror is provided by Peter Tennant who contributes a piece of foggy nastiness with his characteristically sharp and darkly witty Lost and Found. Fantasy features heavily in Niteblade, but much of it with an original twist. Servant of the Gods by A J Kenning is a striking take on the Prometheus myth that leads us into a world where demons live in the flesh and engage in wars that are little more than personal power games. The writing is powerful and effective. Red Engine by Bret Tallman is a hot-engined motorcycle fantasy, well-written and vivid yet somehow, didn't quite work for me. Wayne Summers' Carousel was another that, although well-written, couldn't take me with it to its fantastical and imaginative destination.

Favourite tale? Reunion by Kurt Reichenbaugh, an odd, dark comeuppance fable about a swimming race which, like all our bad dreams, starts “normally” enough, but slowly turns surreal and heavy with menace. This to me is a highly original variation on a well-worn theme, again, well written, highly entertaining and redolent with unease and awful revelation.

The poetry is all of a very high quality, intense and rich with imagery, exploring themes both grand and deeply personal. One Last Kiss by Stephanie Bonvissuto is a dark and aching lament to found, and lost, love. Brutally vivid, Tragedy by N.C. Whitehead shows us the dark mysteries of a post mortem, from the corpse's point of view. Richard Pitaniello's Spiders in the Sky is excellent; metaphor, web-like interconnection, all used to astonishing effect in this highly literate examination of loss and fate.

There is enough loss and wistfulness, darkness and mystery as well as good writing in Niteblade to make it a very worthwhile investment (in time only if you choose the web-version, a nominal fee if you go for PDF). There is also a clean, neat edge to its presentation that made it pleasurable to look at and delve into. Originality, that's the best word to sum up Niteblade, readable, accessible fiction that deceives and twists and seldom gives any hint as to its final destination.

There has been another issue since this one and I look forward to dipping in to sample another batch of original, well-crafted yarns.

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