Reviewed by Michelle Ristuccia
Both stories in this issue feature female protagonists with fighting prowess, each with female lovers of varying importance to the story.
“Moreau’s Daughter” by Holly Messinger tells the story of Lily’s vigilante hunt of a serial killer. Her meeting with the killer and her recent reunion with a female lover are told in conjunction, with alternating scenes, so that we learn of Lily’s past at the same time as we are assured of the main action’s forward progression. Although Lily’s character is interesting, the story focuses more on a coming together of events set in motion by Lily’s past actions and resolutions, rather than any internal conflict or decision. Messinger intelligently lays out Lily’s narrative in such a way that references to The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells are clearly understood without necessitating an intimate familiarity with the 1896 classic.
“Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines” by Claire Humphrey follows Valma, the daughter of famous boxer Igo Topponen, as she assumes a male identity in order to compete in boxing, which the Provosts have declared male-only. Valma uses a charmed ring that physically alters her appearance from female to male, in the process breaking more of the Provosts’ rules. When the Provosts hang the charm-master who provided her the ring, Valma’s reaction threatens to destroy her life in Savaurac. Valma’s indifference to her gender and appearance color the story commendably and set up her sudden descent into panic when she comes up against society’s harsh demands. Her attempts to fit in so that she may pursue her passion for fighting provoke telling reactions from those around her, including the burlesque dancer she attempts to date, Amandine. This story is about acceptance and belonging on both a legal and emotional level, but it is as much about Valma’s acceptance of the strictures placed on her as it is about others’ acceptance of her in either her male or female persona.
Michelle Ristuccia enjoys slowing down time in the middle of the night to read and review speculative fiction, because sleeping offspring are the best inspiration and motivation. You can find out more about her other writing projects and geeky obsessions by visiting her blog.