"Water, Fire, and Faith" by S. Evans
"Water, Fire, and Faith" by S. Evans starts in a sewer, and unfortunately, it should have stayed there. Absolutely awful in places, this story is not Strange Horizon‘s finest hour. The pairing of a pseudo-Naiad with an unbelievable Christian vigilante is painful at best, and their mission to "save" their city from a supernatural arsonist founders on a rocky sea of theological allegory.
It might have worked for C.S Lewis, but it doesn’t here. The protagonist’s groanworthy redemption is worse than ten Aslans being carved up on one hundred Stone Tables.
To Evans’s credit, she has sketched out the beginnings of an interesting heroine, and her "Queen" began to show great promise. The passage where she is powering through the sewers and then launches herself into the river is quite evocative and readable, and it is a shame that this story eventually dips its toes into the realm of Christian SF.
The backstory between the protagonist and her old lover is rushed and somewhat sloppy, and while it explains what they are doing to a point, most of this exposition could be dispensed with. Having said that, Evans presents some beautiful and concise imagery in a few places, and this is clearly one of her strengths.
Again, it is a shame that the seed of a good idea became buried in dross and allegory. A story with this protagonist could have soared in separate circumstances.