The Long Past and Other Stories
1858 –Warring mages open up a vast inland sea that splits the United States in two. With the floodwaters come creatures from a long distant past. What seems like the End Times forges a new era of heroes and heroines who challenge tradition, law, and even death as they transform the old west into a new world. --In the heart of dinosaur country a laconic trapper and a veteran mage risk treason to undertake a secret mission. --A brilliant magician and her beautiful assistant light up stages with the latest automaton, but the secrets both of them are hiding test their trust in each other and pit them against one of the most powerful men in the world. --At the wild edge of the Inland Sea, amidst crocodiles and triceratops, an impoverished young man and a Pinkerton Detective must join forces to outmaneuver a corrupt judge and his gunmen.
Dear Ginn Hale, your publicist sent an ARC copy of this book to DA which ended up in my email box as well, but I have not started reading till the book was out on Amazon and I purchased it.
Usually I have no will power when it comes to your books, but I think that I just could not bring myself to get too excited about the dinosaurs. I do not hate the creatures, but I was never inspired to learn more about them behind school history lessons.
I also have to warn the readers. There is a warning in the beginning of the book, but there is nothing on Amazon, so beware second and third story in this book were previously published in the different anthologies. The second one “The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus” was in “Magic & Mayhem” from GRNW Press 2016 and the third one “Get Lucky” in the “Once Upon a Time in the Weird West” anthology from Dreamspinner Press. I also know that “Get Lucky” was expanded but I am not sure how significantly because I have not reread its previous reincarnation before starting this book.
I did not think that I have read “The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus”, but now when I am finished I know that I have at least started it before, so I do have that anthology somewhere on my kindle. Sadly, my impression remains the same, I found the second story to be least impressive out of the three and I am pretty sure that I DNFed it the first time around.
Let’s go back to the beginning though. My indifference towards the dinosaurs notwithstanding the writer created a fascinating world in these stories. It reflected some dark events in the real American history, but it has magic (and the way Ginn Hale shows how magic works in her fictional worlds is one of my favorite ones in history) and it has dinosaurs of all kinds coming back from the long forgotten past due to stupidity or arrogance and carelessness of some of the mages.
The time frame of these stories is from 1858 to 1900.
The first story which gave the name to the anthology is called “The Long Past” and takes place in the Collorado territory in the year 1864. This was my favorite story in this book and the longest one. I do not think that I enjoyed it the most simply because it was the longest novella ( it occupies roughly half of the book ), but because it was the longest novella I suspect the writer had more pages to flesh out the characters and plot.
The three stories feature different characters but since they cover over forty years in the history of this world, the most significant events that changed the timeline of this world from ours were mentioned even briefly in all three stories. “The Long Past” starts in the beginning, or to be more precise six years from the beginning – when the mages opened the rifts, which caused various natural disasters, killed many people, split America in two and brought the dinosaurs back to this world.
The POV character in “The Long Past” is Grover, who is a trapper and who also happens to be a black man. In the very beginning of the story Grover is watching the airship landing in the place which he calls home.
"Theurgist professors, soldiers and maybe even a mage floated up there. All of them coming here to investigate the big blue sea that had flooded the states and territories from Kansas to the Gulf of Mexico. The High Plains had transformed into a seabed. The foothills of the Rocky Mountains had become a chain of islands dotting the blue water, while high peaks now stood like a vast, great levee. As the waters had spread, so had lush fern jungles and the strange, old creatures that inhabited both. Land and lives had been lost, and Fort Arvada had been inundated with refugees.
And yet after six years, this single airship was all the aid the federal government sent. Grover just hoped they’d brought plenty of powdered alchemic stone. The city’s fortifications had been uprooted and stretched thin as paper to enclose as much farmland as possible, but the spells were old and growing weaker with every season. Soon nothing would stand between the farmers of Fort Arvada and the old creatures.”
The mages that came on the airship are not very forthcoming with the local population about their plans, but shockingly enough one of the mages who came on the ship is Lawrence Wilder. Lawrence left the town eight years ago to join the war in China and six years ago the town received notice of his death.
Lawrence and Grover were also a couple for several years, before Lawrence lost his mind (I do not mean it literally), got himself briefly engaged to their mutual friend (who is now happily married to another wonderful man in town) and then went to fight a war in the country “half way across the globe” (I think this is a paraphrase). Grover mourned his lost love for a long time so of course now he is confused and conflicted.
I really like when novella with a romantic relationship in it portrays an established couple, for me it makes the happy ending more believable, because when novella tries to cram into the short amount of page space their whole love story, it feels rushed to me. I did buy that these two men were still in love with each other, even if they of course had to clear out a lot of air between them. I absolutely believed in their happy ending, especially because they earned it in such a dangerous adventure. Since the blurb does mention it, I will talk a little more about it.
Lawrence came back because he wanted to see Grover and his loved ones and friends, but his most urgent goal was indeed to close the rifts. As it turned out he was part of the reason why the rifts opened in the first place (not because he wanted it, but basically because he was a soldier). Lawrence also eventually asked Grover to help him, after it was clear that Grover actually wanted anything to do with Lawrence. I will not tell you the details of their journey to close the rifts, I will only reiterate that I enjoyed it very much, but I wanted to share with you some comic relief of this novella, especially since this seemed to be the only comic relief ( understandable giving what was going on in their world).
Grover is this world equivalent of the cowboy, only his “horse” is a riding bird called Betty. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I am indifferent to the dinosaurs, but she won me over and on the way to the place where the rift was opened Betty acquired a suitor. Grover initially was reluctant to allow the courtship since he was very protective of Betty but true love won.
"Lawrence’s expression turned to confusion. “Is that thing yours?” He didn’t drop his hand but nodded in Betty’s direction. “Betty? Sure. She carries me all around. She’s quicker than any horse and don’t need shoeing.”
As he spoke Grover realized why Lawrence had appeared so shocked. Though now his expression melted into something more like amusement. “You domesticated an avemosaur?” The hint of an English accent lent Lawrence a disconcertingly foreign tone. He dropped his left hand to his side and peered at Betty, who paid him little mind as she pecked a plump spider from the trunk of an apple tree."
"In response Lawrence shed enough of his self-consciousness to allow Grover to see him without his shirt in the morning sunlight. Grover suspected they might have laid in late and indulged in some fun if it hadn’t been for Romeo attempting to sneak into their camp and causing a wild commotion when he stepped on a hot coal in the fire"
"That evening, Grover hiked a little distance to refill their canteens from a fresh water spring. He nearly jumped out of his skin when a form burst through the underbrush. Grover whipped up his rifle only to find Romeo gawking at him with disappointment. Clearly he’d picked up Betty’s scent off of Grover’s leathers and gotten his plumage all glossy and proud for their assignation. “I’m already spoken for,” Grover muttered. Romeo quickly scuttled away, and Grover won a good laugh out of Lawrence when he related the story over dinner that night."
“The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus”
In this novella which takes place almost thirty years later after the first story we meet two remarkable women who have a lot of secrets lurking in their past, but who eventually deal with the secrets heads on and hopefully they would be able to live together in a safer future after helping to save somebody else from a terrible danger.
The blurb does not really mention any important plot points and as I said before I was the least impressed by this story – not because of the setting but also because of the romance. I think it needed to be fleshed out way more than it was. After I finished I thought that I still was not sure why Geula and Abril fell in love with each other. I honestly believe it was mostly because this was the shortest story in the anthology (roughly twenty percent of the book).
I think the moment in this story that hit me the hardest was the simple recitation by Abril of something that happened in this world that office of Theurgists now made free registered mages to wear the color. I think because the first story gave me hope that horrors of the real American history could eventually be dealt with in a better way in this world and this was a sharp reminder that nothing is easy in this world either.
The story starts in Riverain Country, Illinois in the year 1896.
Dalfon Ellias is pursuing an outlaw who recently murdered another person and on his way to arresting the guy meets a young man named Lucky and falls in love.
Few pages after the beginning of the story it moves up in time three years later – 1899. I am not sure if this choice worked for me, because the attempt is made once again to show the established couple and I just did not buy Lucky and Dafton as established couple. Once again not enough time was spent to show them falling in love and contrary to the first story where Grover’s longing and remembering his time together with Lawrence convinced me that they were already in love, here I just did not buy it.
We only see their first meeting and then three years later we meet Lucky again, who is still pissed off that his lover left him after several months ( I think several months passed, but I am not hundred percent sure).
And Dalfon is indeed back under very dramatic circumstances and he and Lucky pretty much have to run for their lives and neutralize some bad people in the process.
The good thing was that contrary to the second story I did see the couple in love, only for me their second meeting was as if they were falling in love for the first time, while I do not think that this was the author’s intention, I think it is better than me not feeling their chemistry at all. Once again I enjoyed the plot, enjoyed the adventure and appreciated that some positive societal changes did happen after all in the world of the book.