“A Princess of Jadh” by Gregory Bierly
Reviewed by Cyd Athens
So often in medieval tales, when a mother dies in childbirth, it is in the process of giving birth to an important, and sometimes only, son. In this dark fantasy, “A Princess of Jadh,” Gregory Bierly strays from that path by giving us a daughter of emperor Thaphsis Amryth X, the youngest of five. Naome is the first red-head born in the empire in a thousand years. In that, and many other ways, she is quite different from her sisters.
At the age of twenty, Naome undergoes the ritual of being presented to her people’s gods – gods in whom she steadfastly does not believe. Though she has a vision during the ritual, and a sensation of being painted, afterward she believes that she has not been changed in any way. It takes little to persuade her otherwise. On her belly, an incomplete but corrupted rune of power now resides. And both the power that began the rune and the one that perverted it are interested in Naome.
This feels like the first chapter of a longer work. While it is good to see a strong female protagonist and the story intrigues, it contains several jarring nits. “Moaned distantly” confused. As the Emperor’s wife and a female ruler of an empire, Rhen Magna would be an Empress, not a Queen. Though it may be correct usage, because it is such an uncommon word for this story, “thermocline” drew attention to itself. “Most permanent” suggests that there is such a thing as “least permanent.” Had every bit of passive voice been wrung from this tale, it would have been as vibrant as the sometimes vivid descriptions it contains.
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W.