Reviewed by Cyd Athens
“The Sorrow of Rain” by Richard Parks
Lord Yamada and his traveling companion, a priest, Kenji, are contracted to see if they can get a town’s torrential rain to stop before it ruins the rice crops. While at a shrine, they notice a rain spirit. Yamada converses with her and learns that she is waiting for someone. This leads Yamada and Kenji to further investigate who contacted them and why. An easy read that nicely synergizes the themes of relationships, life, death, and the consequences of the choices people make.
“Heaven Thunders the Truth” by K.J. Parker
When a young wizard is called upon to unbewitch an old man’s daughter, what the wizard learns through his snake sets him on a life-altering path that leads him to being summoned by no less than the king. At each turn, the wizard comes into new information that, when he finally puts it together, does not bode well for him if anyone else learns of it. What he decides to do about what he learns is the meat of this tale. The wizard’s self-effacing and forthright personality makes the story an interesting journey to a somewhat surprising—though not unpleasantly so—destination.
“The Moon Over Red Trees” by Aliette de Bodard
A woman makes a bargain with the spirits and becomes Clarisse, a noblewoman who seduces Raoul, in order to get back scrolls that are of value to her family. This is a fast read that approaches the theme of revenge from a nonviolent perspective.
“Butterfly House” by Gwendolyn Clare
Yinghua, a butterfly keeper, is commanded by the Empress to gather corpsewing butterflies for the butterfly house. This particular butterfly feasts on corpses. Therefore, Yinghua travels with a group of corpsetakers, those responsible for digging mass graves on the battlefield and burying victims of war. Once she has collected some of the butterfly pupae and is on her way back to the Empress, Yinghua has a dream of the corpsewings telling her that she must free them so that they can ferry the souls of the dead back to the Sky-Without-Stars. When the dream recurs, Yinghua must decide whether or not it was truly and only a dream. Here, the theme is about personal responsibility and the risks that sometimes accompany choices.
Cyd Athens indulges a speculative fiction addiction from 45ø 29 30.65 N, 122ø 35 30.91 W. Comments on Cyd’s reviews are welcome at www.cydathens.net.