Beneath Ceaseless Skies #363, August 25, 2022

#363, August 25, 2022

“Imagine a Thief with Golden Fire in Their Voice” by Riley Neither

“The Death Artist” by Adam Breckenridge

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Two narrators dealing with matters of life and death appear in this issue.

The narrator of “Imagine a Thief with Golden Fire in Their Voice” by Riley Neither was never educated in magic, but developed some skill by trial and error. A woman of great magical power rescues the narrator from a life of petty crime, or so it seems. In fact, she enslaves and torments the narrator, while preventing her victim from uttering any word of protest. After the woman dies, the community expects the narrator to resurrect her, thinking her to be an entirely benign figure. The narrator has other plans.

The author powerfully conveys the narrator’s misery, particularly because of the inability to tell anyone about the woman’s abuse. As with quite a few stories I read nowadays, this tale has no names for its characters. (The closest thing to any form of nomenclature is the fact that the woman is known as the Lady.) This has an unfortunate distancing effect on what should be a deeply personal work with strong emotional appeal.

“The Death Artist” by Adam Breckenridge takes place in a fantasy world where some people are fully human, while others have some of the characteristics of animals. The narrator kills those chosen by the incarnation of Death. He can only do this while he is in contact with the ground. He must figure out a way to perform his duty by killing a bird-man who never leaves the sky.

The fantasy concepts in this story are unusual and imaginative, particularly the way in which the bird-man acquires the ability to remain aloft without landing. The presence of animal-people, although vital to the plot, seems a little out of place in a tale which otherwise avoids even a touch of whimsy.

Victoria Silverwolf is working an extra day today.