Beneath Ceaseless Skies #211, October 27, 2016

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #211, October 27, 2016

The Garden of Ending” by K .J. Kabza

Dearly Departed” by Kelly Stewart

Reviewed by Anne Crookshanks

K. J. Kabza’s “The Garden of Ending” is reminiscent of Joan Aiken’s collection of classic fantasy short stories, A Necklace of Raindrops, but this one is perhaps more suited to older readers. Yes, it’s allegorical as She-Who-Is-Everyone-Within-Herself (hereafter known as Everyone) is told each day which of the many emotionally themed gardens she should visit. There is a garden for times of war. That one’s harsh, but she’s to try to find the poetry in it. There’s another to celebrate births of nobles, and still others for more mundane reveries. It’s all prescribed ritual, and the system hinges on Everyone’s obedience to her morning routine of being told where to go as the servants craft an experience for her contemplation. But not all the gardens are carefully tended or attended, and sometimes rotted doors open of their own accord. What follows when Everyone accidentally enters an unprepared garden is observed by one of the gardeners. He, who is not allowed to speak to her, is horrified.

Dearly Departed,” by Kelly Stewart, is extremely flowery, even for a gothic, and it lacks the touches that would mark it as a true historical as the mannerisms do not quite fit the time period, which seems to be more or less Victorian. Two people meet in a graveyard. One has saved the other from a dire fate. They are immediately on a first-name basis, and there is little question who is the more experienced adventurer. Perdita is an ultra-capable young woman who looks after the family estate by milking goats and making jam—and by taking up the family pastime of hunting down things that haunt graveyards. On this day, she will also rescue an unusual young man whose path has unhappily crossed that of a vengeful goddess. While the magical underpinnings have a lot of promise, the character interaction is awkward and too fast-moving to match the time period or the pace at which a romance normally unfolds. If the pace were slowed down, the character interaction carefully developed, Perdita a bit more complex, and the words a bit more carefully chosen (trees like hirsute mourners?), this could be the basis of a nice novel. As it is, she makes a sharp 180 from the climactic scene where her strong feelings for home and her responsibilities there are crucial to her survival to making a plan to be off and exploring the world with her fascinating new friend. “Dearly Departed” tries to do a lot in a little space, and it might be better if more about the characters’ relationship were left to the imagination rather than working to wrap things up so quickly.

Anne Crookshanks is the nom de review of a librarian who studied anthropology at the college voted best choice for Hogwarts fans.