“The Root Cellar” by Maria Haskins
Reviewed by Rebecca DeVendra
“The Root Cellar” by Maria Haskins is grim, brutal, and short. It is told from the viewpoint of a young girl, in the style of a confessional addressed to her missing brother. The reader is shown that something is awry when a ritual cutting is recollected by the protagonist: “He cut us, Jeremy, he carved his runes into our skin and fed our blood to the bones and shadows beneath the ground.” The gruesome ritual is a form of magic, the importance of which is revealed later. The ending is uncertain but not unsatisfying, exploring interfamilial strife while stressing the unbreakable bond of these young siblings.
“The Examination Cloth” by Jonathan Edelstein follows Ukeme as he’s led by proctors into a hut, where he is to complete a difficult test. He wishes to become a scholar who can accurately interpret the messages from the ancestors. He possesses knowledge of magic, and accidentally cheats. He must now decide if he is to complete the test and risk being caught, or give up his dream of being a scholar. His solution is self-reflective and interesting, but the story stops right before he’s judged.
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.