Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.
Lone Star Stories has always been a short magazine but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Issue #29 is no different and all three short stories at the very least are competent. I'm not a trained critic and in fact fear poetry, much less speculative fiction poetry, but the ones included are accessible.
As far as the stories go, "The Toymaker's Grief" by Hal Duncan shines out the most. This deceptively simple and short narrative is emotionally wrenching and powerful, making subtle but effective use of the speculative fiction element. Duncan trades verbosity for accuracy and precision, a more than worthwhile exchange which is perhaps the hallmark of this piece. If you haven't read this story yet, go read it now.
Jaime Lee Moyer's "This is How We Remember" started out not packing enough punch as far as characterization goes but the payoff in the end justifies this lacking (and makes sense of the title). Moyer also features beautiful but not distracting prose as well as an emphasis on characterization.
"Needle and Thread" by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky was an enjoyable fairy tale that successfully maintains its tone throughout the entire narrative. The pair makes good use of the tropes of the medium all the while giving it a modern layer by fleshing out the protagonist. The epiphany at the end doesn't seem forced and this could easily have been part of the collection of the Brothers Grimm.
"Seven Steeds" by Elizabeth Bear has a consistent form and structure and makes good use of metaphor. Readers who shy away from poetry might want to give Sonya Taaffe's "Logos" a look as it's the most modern and follows a familiar structure as far as storytelling/poetry is concerned. My favorite of the three however is "What the Stars Tell" by Rusty Barnes which excels in creating vivid imagery and subversion of heroic optimism.
Overall a good issue with "The Toymaker's Grief" and "What the Stars Tell" standing out as far as I'm concerned. Lone Star Stories is consistent in delivering readable stories without compromising depth or gravity.