Beneath Ceaseless Skies #374, January 26, 2023
“A Sin for Freedom” by Eboni J. Dunbar
“What the Mountain Takes, What the Journey Offers” by Jae Steinbacher
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Two stories featuring narrators who undertake dangerous quests for the sake of their lovers appear in this issue.
“A Sin for Freedom” by Eboni J. Dunbar takes place in a society in which all persons are subject to the will of a single leader and love affairs are forbidden. The narrator is severely punished for such a relationship after her lover runs away. In an attempt to atone for her crime, she agrees to set out after two other renegades of particular importance to the ruler. The hunt leads to a change in her loyalty to the leader and a confrontation with the lost lover.
Until the end of the story, all the characters are female, implying that the narrator lives in a single-sex subculture. This is not of major importance to the plot, but seems worthy of note. In any case, this is a vivid, sometimes violent tale of adventure. One has to wonder why the despotic ruler was not overthrown long ago, given what happens at the climax.
The narrator of “What the Mountain Takes, What the Journey Offers” by Jae Steinbacher leaves a wife suffering from a fatal illness in order to obtain a cure from a mountain spring. The quest leads to meetings with the ghost of an ancestor, strange animals, and friendly people. The price the narrator must pay for the cure threatens the relationship with the dying woman.
This fairly long story is episodic and full of imaginative incidents. Some of what occurs seems arbitrary, such as repeated meetings with an odd but harmless creature. The fact that the narrator is nonbinary is not of great importance, but does have an influence on how other characters react.
Victoria Silverwolf is working three extra days in a row.