|Art by grandfailure|
"In Her Bones" by Lindiwe Rooney (4958 words)
No Spoilers: Ayanda, a young woman from a family involved with crime, finds herself making very difficult, and rather violent, decisions when she's put in something of an impossible situation. As a result, she must face what's happened not just physically, but spiritually, and find a way forward. Tense with nice world building and sharp character work.
Keywords: CW-Rape, Revenge, Ancestors, Family, Choice
Review: This story focuses a lot on crime and punishment, following a family that is involved with organized crime, one that follows rather strict rules but not fair ones. Ayanda is fearless, but in some ways that makes her a target for men who desire power, who want domination, and for one man in particular who knows that he can get away with just about anything. And for me the story is very much about rules and about the idea of justice. Ayanda knows that the rules are not made for her, that even if she could get someone to believe her, the result would not be enough, that there would be no true justice. The tone of the story is dark, bleak, red with violence and shadowed by a power that Ayanda only sees in glimpses, but still there is hope, and possibility. I like that she's not shown as powerless, for all that she's chosen to go outside the rules. She might have closed one door, but another has opened, and the story does a great job in building up this moment that she's at, this crossroads. The world building is strong, the situation compelling and wrenching. It feels like the beginning of something, the end of one possible life but the beginning of a new path, and I like how it all comes together. For me, it's a story about choice, and about being in a situation where there is no good choice, but still choosing and still having a life to live afterwards. A great read!
"Her Brother and His Sister" by Bill Kte’pi (2310 words)
No Spoilers: A certain brother and sister escape a witch's house in the woods only to find themselves in a different sort of danger. Atmospheric, dark, and with an almost inevitable feel to it.
Keywords: Fairy Tale, Siblings, Forests, Hunger, Rivers
Review: The story begins where the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel kind-of ends, with the two characters leaving the witch's house and deciding where to go from there. In the story, the children are reunited with their parents, or at least one of them, who take them back in. Here, though, the story explores a darker version of their fate, where instead of being taken back in they have to try and find a safe way forward and away. In many ways I feel like the story is about how loaded this setting is for the kids, how it's designed to destroy them, to force them into a grim fate. The sister here knows that they have to get away, that they can't listen to the various temptations that are waiting all around for them. She sees the price that they'd have to pay, and so tries to keep them moving toward an escape. Only it's an escape that might never come, because in this setting, in these fairy tales, there's always a lesson. There's always something awful waiting. No matter how they try, their future is one filled with loss and tragedy. For me, the story is about the weight of these stories, about fairy tales, and how for some people, this is reality, moving from one bad situation to another, never being able to rest of believe the whispered promises because they're always lies, always poison. It's a difficult read but a luminous and moving one, that shows just how impossible it can be to make it out alive and whole when you find yourself by chance in this role, in this place. A fantastic story!