Today I'm looking at the January releases for Shimmer #23. Once again, I encourage everyone to go out and get the whole issue, but I follow these as they are released, meaning that the other two stories out in this "January" issue will get reviewed here in February. But if you like the stories, please go ahead and support the magazine!
"The Half Dark Promise" by Malon Edwards (3423 words)
Well damn. That is one hell of a way to open up an issue. Visceral, violent, and tinged with loss, this story of a little girl facing down a monster with a skin condition and a machete is intense. Weaving in bits of language from the girl's background, from Haiti, it builds up the struggle between her and the Pogo, the struggle that is more than just her against a monster, that becomes about her against the world, against the harassment she suffers, the terror she faces. Tired of being tired. I liked that line, and liked even more the cool calm with which she wields Tonton Macoute. It's a fun read and yet a dark read, one that isn't particularly happy. Not when her best friend has been taken, not when her father has been taken and she must face such perils and hardship alone. But it is an uplifting story, one about a little girl not running, and her fighting through and winning something that she wasn't supposed to win. It's a great story.
"Of Blood and Brine" by Megan E. O'Keefe (3064 words)
Following a young and nameless child, this story starts mysterious when an equally nameless adult arrives in her shop to by a perfume. In a society where scents are linked to identity and every adult must buy a name and wrap or else die from exposure to a deadly moon, the story does a great job of world-building, and of setting up the main character's dilemma. She needs a name and yet her mentor is a drunk who won't help. When the nameless stranger offers enough money for her to buy her name, the child takes the chance, though it draws her into a mystery of murder and betrayal. That aspect of the story was nice, the build, and yet in a story this short the final confrontation seemed just a little truncated to me. I cheered to see the girl finally have enough to make her own way, but I felt it was a little bit of a disappointment not to see more with the woman and her sister. It by no means ruined the story for me, though, and this is strong with some solid mood and a setting I want to see more of.