The second story in Cirsova 8, Brandy and Dye by Jim Breyfogle, is a delight to read. Two mercenaries get thrown into a tight economic battle between the providers of the eponymous Brandy and Dye. Let’s look at the things that elevate this story above the usual fare:
The Setting: Anyone who has read my novel Sudden Rescue knows that I’m a sucker for a strange terrain and ecology. Breyfogle sets the action at the peak of stone spires rising thousands of feet above what might as well be bottomless canyons. The few patch of land are connected by delicate rope bridges that present a host of opportunities for action and puzzle solving, and Breyfogle uses them all. The ecology of the area gives rise to the confrontation into which he thrusts our protagonists.
The Factions: Which brings us to our protagonists. Partners, the man and the woman, mercenaries thrust into this situation serve as excellent viewpoint characters as, by their introduction, we are also introduced to the zero-sum game that pits Team Brandy against Team Dye. Slowly, we realize that both sides have valid arguments even as both sides are guilty of a sort of strip-mining that will leave everyone in trouble unless a third path can be found among the needle-peaks.
The Characters: Evoking a strong sense of the wild west, we get characters that harken toward prospectors and those that feel like farmers. Vying for control of the berries that allow for either Brandy or Dye, but not both, they need a couple of touch hombres to slide into the picture, fight off the hot heads, and implement a “everybody not dead can win here” solution that works. Breyfogle also avoids the all-too-common-these-days pitfall of a female partner who drives EVERYTHING and thus sinks into Mary Suedom.
That’s a pretty good trifecta, even without the well done action and the perfect dash of humor thrown into the mix for good measure. Brandy and Dye is the reason I subscribe to Cirsova.