'Sean McMullen’s “The Spiral Briar” is a nicely delineated historical fantasy, involving the fifteenth century and, as Rod Serling used to put it, “the boundary between science and superstition.”
'Because of what they did to his sister, Sir Gerald would be at war with the land of Faerie, if he could reach them, but the boundary between our world and theirs is too hard for mortals to cross, though elves, goblins and the like cross it at will to wreak their magic and mischief upon humankind.
'He is approached by Tordral, a master armourer also harmed by the denizens of Faerie, who knows that the way to cross worlds is by use of the nascent science, involving the harnessing of steam. Steam can be used to propel boats and to throw heavy objects, like rocks or cannonballs, but to explore these uses will cost money, which Sir Gerald has but Tordral doesn’t. They have a common enemy in Faerie, and Tordral gathers around him others who have been twisted and would like revenge as assistants in his experiments. Their common symbol is a briar rose in a pot, for reasons explained in the story.
'McMullen uses the familiar tropes of science and fantasy in an interesting meld; rather than using today’s scientific terms to explain the workings of Faerie, he uses what sound like authentic fifteenth-century terms in ways that would be consistent with both the science of the time and what in our world would be sheerest superstition but is nonetheless real in the story. And the people of the story act in ways consistent with the time as well.'
Source: Tangent (http://www.tangentonline.com/print–bi-monthly-reviewsmenu-260/221-fantasy-a-science-fiction/1219-steve-fahnestalk). (Sighted: 20/2/2014)