Reviewed by Charles Payseur
Slaves rebel against their vile masters, children against their fathers, in these two stories that examine the hereditary nature of monstrosity.
A nameless young boy seeks revenge on the necromancer enslaving him in Vylar Kaftan‘s dark fantasy “Ink of My Bones, Blood of My Hands.” Forced to assist Ghraik, the cruel and terrible tyrant of the island Surthenon, the boy patiently waits for his chance to free his home from the necromancer’s dark influence. His chance comes when Ghraik must defend against a foreign attack, and in doing so reveal the boy’s true heritage and purpose. With new power the boy manages to find a victory of sorts, but at a cost he never anticipated. Relying a bit more heavily than I would have liked on ugliness, blood, and death, I felt the story nevertheless succeeded in exploring the legacy of Ghraik, though overall it left something of a bad taste in my mouth.
A young woman faces captivity and gradual transmutation at the hands of a man claiming to be her farther in “Silver and Seaweed,” an underwater SF-fantasy by Greg Linklater. Forced to fetch treasure from the sea floor, the unnamed protagonist slowly comes to learn of her relationship with the thing claiming to be her father, a creature twisted by exposure to a strange pollution into a fish-person and desperate to reclaim his humanity. Unwilling to be the victim and sacrifice for his salvation, though, the young woman discovers that she was abducted from her home and made to serve, and manages to turn the tables on her oppressor, though even then she cannot quite free herself from the full implications of her true past. Well paced and strikingly original, the story managed to be both visceral and thoughtful, and perhaps the most striking twist for me came only after the blood had dissipated in the water.
Charles Payseur lives with his partner and their growing herd of pets in the icy reaches of Wisconsin, where companionship, books, and craft beer get him through the long winters. His fiction has appeared at Perihelion Science Fiction, Every Day Fiction, Dragon’s Roost Press, and is forthcoming from Wily Writers Audible Fiction.