4 of 5 stars.
Rarely is magic made new and surprising. However, this curious story achieves just that. The doctor [aka wizard] that narrates the tale insists upon his lack of cleverness before melding his life with that of a snake. She is the source of his knowledge and conscience. But did she choose him because he had the gift, or did she give him the gift as she chose him?
The interactions between the doctor and his mystical snake are fascinating: they speak telepathically, and she resides in his head–coming and going through his mouth and ears. They act as each others’ souls, it’s said. And she sees much. She also allows him to see and communicate with all the dead and all wizards and doctors regardless of physical or temporal distance. That’s a mighty magic right there.
The doctor is hired for increasingly difficult cases, but many start to build on each other and weave into the doctor’s life. The kingdom is in a terrible state with 6 generations of rulers from one family killing each other off. Sons. Brothers. Fathers. 14 kings are dead of unnatural causes, only four making it to the age of thirty. Now it has come to light that the childless king’s slain brother had two bastard children. The girl has been dealt with, the boy is missing. The doctor must unravel generations of deception and backstabbing, while still aiming to do what is best for the kingdom.
One big reveal was not a surprise. Happily, the story does not play ignorant for too long. It’s too bad that a story with as much back-stabbing and murder as the Game of Thrones ended the paternity search in a blacksmith shop, as A Song Fire and Ice did the same. One particularly touching moment occurs when the doctor is visited by the spirit of the kingdom’s founder known as The Black One, Eater-Up-of-Elephants, and Heaven-That Thunders-the-Truth.
“Heaven Thunders the Truth” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, October 02, 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]