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Mythic 2 edited by Mike Allen
Posted byKeesa Renee DuPre
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"Homecoming" by SonyaTaaffe
"Visanna" by CharlesSaplak
"The Immigrant" by CheriePriest
"Temnaya and the House of Books" by CatherynneM.Valente
"The Tale of the Desert that Vanished Inside Her" by JoSelleVanderhooft
"Moonstone" by ErzebetYellowBoy
"A Pinch of Salt" by RichardParks
"Simargl and the Rowan Tree" by EkaterinaSedia "The Wind-Catching Wizard" by DannyAdams
“Homecoming” by Sonya Taaffe is written in a blend of poetry too much like prose and prose too much like poetry for my tastes. It loses itself in wordsmithery, until whatever thread of storyline it might have had is buried, drowned in words and imagery and prose—purple, purple prose, like the shadows in the ocean. The ocean is a recurring theme, if it can be called that, throughout, one of the few clear things in this dark and convoluted wordplay.
“Visanna” by Charles Saplak,on the other hand, is a stunningly beautiful reflection on identity, purpose, and life itself. Set in a world where the faces of one’s earlier years trail behind one “like the time-lapsed tail of a slow, strange comet.” Visanna will turn twenty-eight at midnight, and the story begins as she examines the face she won’t wear tomorrow. The looking-at-oneself in the mirror cliché turned me off for exactly one paragraph (the opening one, unfortunately, but you get over it) and then it was forgotten as the author led me deeper into this world where you have only to glance at others to see the people they have been, imprinted in a long line of faces, one for each year of their life.
The story is set just before, during, and after a party which the Duchess Harrian is giving. The Duchess has promised a surprise to her party guests, and Visanna is, indeed, surprised. I was deep enough into the story by this point to identify with her feelings completely, and the surprise led to a masterful revelation that spoke volumes about human nature. Highly recommended.
“The Immigrant” by Cherie Priest is about Ryder, an American soldier in the battle of Normandy who finds a dragon, of all things, hiding in the basement of a church that has been shattered by bombs. Pierre, the dragon, is charming and loveable and absolutely darling. His character is excellently written, and he had my heart from the beginning. Ryder, too, shows remarkable good sense throughout; he doesn’t try to hide the dragon from his wife, which showed much more intelligence than heroes in fantasy stories usually display. There are a few tense moments, when visitors appear, for example (bringing casseroles, a nice touch of Southern hospitality which brought the setting home better than anything the narrator tells us about the area where he lives), or when children or local farmers catch glimpses of the dragon or hear rumors about it. But the story is told, for the most part, without much tension, although with a gentle warmth and tenderness that made for a lovely read.
“Temnaya and the House of Books” by CatherynneM. Valente is a shallow fairy tale retelling, a combination of Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and others. I like fairy tale retellings, in general, but there was nothing original about this one. A few details are changed, different fairy tales are mashed together, and that’s all. In the end, the characters never rose above the fairy-tale tropes and pretty faces, like paper dolls on a paper stage. If I already know the fairy tale as well as I know Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and the other tales this story was based on, the retelling has to be something extra-special, something with sparkle or feeling or depth or, best of all, a combination of all three. “Temnaya and the House of Books” never managed to rise above a somewhat tedious retelling of the stories it tries to improve. Not worth reading, in my opinion.
JoSelleVanderhooft‘s "The Tale of the Desert that Vanished Inside of Her" is half story, half poem. As nearly as I can tell, it is about a girl dying in a desert, told from the point of view of the desert. The girl’s former life is told in harsh, violent wordstrokes, but we never really learn why, exactly, she’s lying in the middle of the desert, mangled beyond recognition. Even in the passages from the girl’s point of view—her dialogue, I suppose, although all the dialogue is told in poetry that runs together with the rest of the poetry—we learn more about the desert, a thing of relentless heat and yet of pity, of sympathy, than we ever do about the girl.
If you like harsh, cruel stories that blend poetry and prose to create a picture of suffering and death, you may enjoy this story, although I didn’t. The desert is the best part, with its strange blend of contrasts— merciless, yet pitying, cruel, yet ever so gentle. The desert kept this story from sinking completely.
I had to question why a queen as completely devoted to the care and safety of her infant children as the queen in Erzebet YellowBoy‘s "Moonstone" would leave a small, neglected, untended door in the corner of their playroom, but so she does. Predictably enough, a strange, hooded man creeps into the playroom through the door, in spite of, as a matter of course, the attendants (he puts them to sleep) and the runes and sigils (he counterspells them). Once the girl twin has been predictably stolen away, however, the story changes, becoming richer, deeper, and more beautiful. It’s still fairy tale all the way through, although not a retelling, but that simply enhances it. I do love a well-written fairy tale, which "Moonstone" is. It explores the heights and depths of a mother’s love, and uses literary devices like repetition and resonance to great effect.
"A Pinch of Salt" by Richard Parks is about a boy whose mother was a mermaid, and how he fell in love with a mermaid. On the surface, it seems to be another tired, old mermaid tale, but it isn’t. The characters and the narrative voice bring this heartwarming story alive. Makan only learns that his mother was a mermaid when she disappears, called back by her longing for the sea. When he finds Gaena, another mermaid, singing on a rock, he asks her if she’s seen his mother. But Gaena is surprised that he didn’t try to drown himself when he heard her singing; her song isn’t meant to drive men to their deaths, but it always does. Their conversation leads to friendship and love.
The only part I didn’t like was where Makan and Gaena are discussing beauty; it seemed too academic a conversation for the moment, and fell flat in a story that was otherwise characterized by the warmth of the relations. Every other conversation, every other response, is beautifully natural, and only that one seemed out of place.
"A Pinch of Salt" explores ideas of attraction: Why are we attracted to each other? Why are men attracted to mermaids? Why are mermaids attracted to the sea? The characters, for the most part, display good, old-fashioned common sense, which is a rare thing in a story about mermaids. In my opinion, that’s what lifts this story from "okay" to "really, really good." Definitely worth reading.
Who knew a story of the dead could be so lively? Those who kill themselves by fire become Simargl, the fiery dog who follows the sun god on his journey through the heavens. That is what has happened to the hero of Ekaterina Sedia‘s "Simargl and the Rowan Tree." The story is set in the world of Russian mythology, where the dead can die and that our hero has already accidentally killed himself in no way makes him immortal or invulnerable. The story’s danger lies in Simargl’s pity for Kupalnitsa, a girl who drowned and is therefore trapped in the middle realm. His pity prompts him to drop magic berries from the World Tree down to her, but when one of these accidentally rolls into the underworld, all Navi breaks loose. Now Simargl must capture a killer and restore the sun to its place in the heavens.
The worldbuilding in "Simargl and the Rowan Tree" is rich without being overpowering. The author never dumps the details of her world on us; everything unfolds smoothly over the course of the story. Simargl’s pity for Kupalnitsa is the highlight of the story. No matter how bad things get, or how frustrated or angry he is, he never lashes out at her. The story has plenty of tension, and Simargl has plenty of faults, but that isn’t one of them, and he remains a likeable character, one we can identify with throughout.
"The Wind-Catching Wizard" by DannyAdams is a rather confused and muddled story. The author gives a little bit of plot information, then rambles off to describe the castle, the hero, the wizard, or anything else that catches his fancy. But beneath the rambling, seemingly purposeless descriptions is a story of life and death, of wonder and power, buried within the verbosity of the story, like stories within the mind of a senile old man.
"The Wind-Catching Wizard" is a good story if you have a space of time with nothing better to do. It’s long and tedious and sometimes the tiniest bit boring. But by the end, it pays off if you keep reading.