“In Case You’re the One to Devour a Star” by Tamara Jerée
“A Bird in the Window” by Kate Francia
Reviewed by Mike Bickerdike
“In Case You’re the One to Devour a Star” by Tamara Jerée is a short fantasy tale likely to split readers’ reactions. The protagonist, Olin, is a female ‘fire-keeper’, who resides at a mountain monastery where she and her fellow adherents live with off-world dragons, ceremoniously breathing in their fire to learn the secrets of their extra-terrestrial knowledge. The tale focusses on the introduction of Olin’s new wife to the monastery and explores how there is a need to accept balance in life as shown here, where significant sacrifices are necessary to gain knowledge and insight. In common parlance, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. The reason this may split readers is that, while it’s fine for what it is—a rather wistful, low-key tale that aims for emotional depth—the contemplative and measured approach reduces the sense of drama and there is little tension here. Moreover, the tale is written with close third party focus on Olin, such that it largely depends upon her character for success, and she is less interesting than the premise or the dragons. Ultimately, how much readers enjoy this will depend on their preferences in the genre.
“A Bird in the Window” by Kate Francia maintains a similar theme as the first story in this issue, by being another tale about a mediaeval nun in a monastery. In Francia’s tale, a worldly young woman of high social standing, Beatrix, comes to stay at a monastery to hide her illegitimate pregnancy. Against the Abbess’ decree not to speak with her, one young nun, Marguerite, makes friends and they secretly meet up. But Marguerite has another secret: she sees angels and the experience terrifies her. The story can be read as a religious message, as it describes the need for Marguerite to accept her experiences with an open mind or heart. However, publication in a fantasy magazine may suggest a more secular appreciation is valid and applying a religious meaning is not necessary to enjoy this story; it’s quite engaging, well written and all-in-all quite successful as a short story.
Mike Bickerdike’s reviews and thoughts on science-fiction can be found at https://starfarersf.nicepage.io/