Cozy Review: “The Inn of the Seven Stars”

So, full disclosure: author Kevin Beckett submitted “The Inn of the Seven Stars” to Wyngraf last summer. We didn’t have room for it in our second issue and offered to contract it for Wyngraf #3, but Kevin decided to accept an offer from Water Dragon Publishing instead.

That should give you some idea of my opinion of this story.

“The Inn of the Seven Stars” features Cal, an aging bard who travels the world, scratching out a living with his fiddle and learning all the new songs he can. One night he stops at the titular inn, where his music awakens an ancient spirit and stirs conflict with a local religious group. Only Cal and his songs can set both to rest.

One suspects there’s a lot of the author himself in Cal. Beckett has had a long career in music as a radio host, DJ, and promoter, and this experience shines through as Cal wins over skeptical tavern owners and audiences. The story is laden with song titles and descriptions of music, as well—rich description is another of Beckett’s strengths as a writer. He also weaves worldbuilding in through a musician’s eyes; every far-off land is identified through one song or another, and even matters of politics and war are shown by how they impact Cal, who’s sick of playing the crowd-pleasing “March Towards Paradise.”

Fittingly, it’s Cal’s music that instigates, explores, and resolves the conflict of the story. To say how would be giving away too much—it’s only a short story, after all—but Beckett is mindful of the theme of his tale and doesn’t stray from it.

If I have a complaint, I would have liked some tighter editing from Water Dragon. Granted I’m approaching this edition of the story as a could-have-been editor, and it’s tough not to spot choices I would have made differently, but there are a few typos in the pre-layout manuscript I read that don’t do justice to a fine tale. I hope they’ll be polished out in the final version.

“The Inn of the Seven Stars” by Kevin Beckett releases this month from Water Dragon Publishing. It’s part of their Dragon Gems series, which publishes short stories longer than 5,000 words as standalone ebooks, as well as anthologies of stories with lower word counts. I always approve of publishers experimenting with new formats, and Dragon Gems is worth keeping an eye on.

Watch for the story to release here.

— Nathaniel Webb

Disclosure: I was sent a manuscript copy of the story in return for an honest review.

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