Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, May 2017
“Souls of Dinosaurs” by Alexandra Balasa
Reviewed by Benjamin Wheeler
The quality of souls and the immutability of past natures take mainstage in “Souls of Dinosaurs” by Alexandra Balasa. Julian is a soul hunter searching for the reincarnation of the Emperor Vaduva of the Red Empire. He finds that soul in a little girl, and he wonders if, while the soul seems the same, is it the same person as a man who slew so many? Julian is quite the narrator for this story. We do not know what he looks like, only what he feels and the goal of his searches. Vaduva’s new vessel has much her own character as it is in contrast to the soul’s former life. It is quite well balanced in the narrator’s perspective. Both Julian’s constant comparison to the past and Vaduva’s vessel’s current actions are rendered believably, as well as the character’s own reality. While some laughs might be gained by the idea of the bloody-handed Red Emperor’s soul in a willful but innocent little girl, it is better to wonder what the qualities of souls are, and how those qualities are affected by only a slightly different upbringing as this story shows.
“The Undine and Pain’s Brother” by Lucia Iglesias seeks the far deeps of the city caves for an exquisite pain artist. Undine spends her life in boredom, now that every pain has been found and every torture performed. After her mother disappeared, she is lonely until she meets Pain’s Brother, a motley of stolen parts who asks one thing of her. Much effort was put into the visual aspect of this story, with nearly every line delivering some delicate description of color or liveliness. Pain’s Brother steals the show, but Undine’s reaction to his offered choice has no foreshadowing within the story. Undine might have affection for another, but there was nothing to stay her hand from her pain artistry. There was no hint, for example, that she hated a certain colour of agony blue, so that when she chose what she did in one scene, it struck as odd. That said, and following that lapse, her characterization came back on track, and the artist that the author had given us throughout the story rose to the surface properly again.