“Every Black Tree” by Natalia Theodoriou
Reviewed by Rebecca DeVendra
“Every Black Tree” by Natalia Theodoriou is a macabre tale about a man who can’t die, so he keeps trying to hang himself. He befriends a woman impregnated by her shade husband. The unborn child refuses to be born, a cruel irony due to the fact that the woman used to be a midwife. Theodoriou’s prose is vivid and enticing, but sometimes trades clarity for euphony. I don’t know, for instance, what “a voice like old wounds and lavender” should sound like, because nobody does. There’s a dubious explanation for that baffling descriptor provided at the end of the story. If it’s a deep and relevant analogy, it’s over my head. The ending is sweet, but not hopeful, as these two cursed people find solace in one another.
“And the Village Breathes” by Emily B. Cataneo is about Magda Fishbone, described as a Sleeper with healing powers who has the respect of her village. She’s summoned to investigate a body made of mud left in a coracle after her three-moon long sleep. The mud, she suspects, encases a real body. That’s when things get interesting. This is a dark fantasy mystery with expert pacing, the tension escalating as the true nature of the Sleeper magic is revealed. Monsters turn up in the streets, memories are suspiciously altered, and mobs gather in fear of the unknown. The ending is satisfying, but the reader is still left with a sense of foreboding.
Rebecca DeVendra is a figure artist and speculative fiction writer living in Boston. Her fiction can be found at Starship Sofa. She’s also a mom to three cacophonous, early-rising children. She’s probably in her pajamas, but she has an emergency collar shirt for video calls. Check out her blog.