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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #286, September 12, 2019

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #286, September 12, 2019

The Silent Flowers of the Magician's Garden” by Eleanna Castroianni

Witch's Road” by Christian K. Martinez

Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia

In “The Silent Flowers of the Magician's Garden” by Eleanna Castroianni, a young man's budding fascination with a wizened healer leads him to question the war-driven culture that compels his father to drill him on swordsmanship every morning. Yet in a country where each citizen plants singing flowers magically intertwined with their own life force, where a jarring note can indicate impending death, the healer's flowers are the only ones who do not sing. This mystery provides a lynch pin for our narrator's transcendence from the naivety of childhood to the terrifying complexity of adulthood, presented to the reader like the opening of a flower as delicate as human life. Castroianni's elegant first-person narrative questions readers' expectations of mentorship and easy answers, and is also available in audio through Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Witch's Road” by Christian K. Martinez follows Catalina down an enchanted trail and through her determined request to have her death painted away, a trial which will transform her regardless of whether she succeeds or fails in becoming a witch. Martinez thwarts the deal-with-the-devil trope by creating a young protagonist who understands the far-reaching consequences of her chosen path. Descriptions of the bizarre witch and her lair show both the cost of becoming other, while Catalina's motivations and reasoning delve into the appeal.


Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog and Facebook page.