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Tuesday , 04 November 2014 , 09 : 21 PM
  Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney Review by Cheresse Burke Riding the Unicorn sounds, from its title, about as far from grimdark as you can get. I mean, I’m pretty sure I wrote a short story called Riding the Unicorn for my mom when I was 6. But fans of the genre would be in error if they skipped this over in favor of a title that indicates more death and destruction. Riding the Unicorn is the story of John Willoby, a prison warden who can travel between this world and another. In our reality, he’s an overweight, abusive ex-soldier diagnosed with schizophrenia. In the alternate world, he’s the key to a rebellion in which a king’s bastard son seeks to replace his father on the throne.   A Common Theme Where the plot might lose a few people is in the initial story. It’s a classic deviation on the ‘transported to another land’ theme, and this perhaps dates the story (it was first published in 1994). However, we don’t ever entirely leave this world behind. Willoby goes back and forth, spending more time in the other world as the story goes on. His confusion, disgust with his illness, and ultimate desire to be the hero rather than the arsehole, all bring a nice emotional resonance to the story and makes it worth retreading the concept. The only (small) issue I had was that the story was never presented in a way that made schizophrenia a real possibility. Doctors were always stumped by clothes, items and injuries Willoby brought back, making it easy for me to believe. I’d have liked a little doubt, nagging at the back of my mind. Overall, however,this exemplifies that even overused ideas can still be employed successfully in today’s fantasy. And I’ll admit, I...