|Art by Tyler Edlin|
"The Deepest Notes of the Harp and Drum" by Marissa Lingen (3106 words)
No Spoilers: Jenny murdered her sister. Who, by Jenny's account at least, more than a little had it coming. Still, it's not something that she's really all that comfortable with, especially when a group of musicians shows up with instruments made from the bones of the forest boars Jenny fed her sister's body to. Instruments that can sing with the voices of those boars. The piece looks at guilt, and perhaps a bit more at what happens when the expected punishment for a crime...doesn't come. It looks at responsibility, and remorse, and something almost like forgiveness. And it's a bit of an unexpected piece, with an understated humor and an edge of romance and a rather wonderful combination of magic and beauty and ridiculousness to make for a memorable experience.
Keywords: Murder, Music, Siblings, Queer MC, Repentance
Review: I love the way that this piece takes a very unusual approach to the more fairy tale approach of talking musical instruments. How Jenny and her lover Molly both expect that when a talking instrument shows up it means that they are going to be exposed and punished for what they did. That there is some form of divine will that wants them to be found out. That, maybe, they want that as well, at least so they don't have to live with the worry and the guilt of it. Except...they aren't all that guilty. At least, they don't feel all that guilty about what they've done. They don't even necessarily regret it, though they both seem to regret that they were in circumstances where they did what they did. Where, for them, that was the right call. And I like that, because it recognizes that they see that what they did was "wrong," but also that they didn't have a great other option. And that, in the grand scheme of things, punishment is inevitable. It isn't required. It isn't even necessarily right, though they do feel bad about it all. But that, I feel, is the punishment they've earned. To carry the weight of what they've done. It's not something they cannot bear, after all, and I don't think that makes them terrible people. Rather, it leaves them having to find a way to be able to live with themselves, to try and make some kind of way forward, to face what they've done without necessarily throwing themselves on the "mercies" of the justice system. And I like where the story goes with that, aware of the burden they'll live with but also aware that they can live with it. That they can move forward without having to either be dramatically punished or having to kill more people to cover up what they've done. They act according to their own consciences, and I think that works for them. At the very least it makes for a neat read that's fun and complex all at once!
"La Orpheline" by Jordan Taylor (6263 words)
No Spoilers: La Orpheline is a young girl found by a theater troupe in a quasi-historical Paris. Mute, she cannot tell anyone where she came from or who she really is, but she is taken in all the same and becomes an assistant seamstress. Her past, however, isn't something she can leave far behind, and when it shows up in the form of a man in one of the theater boxes, she is thrown into a situation where she'll have to navigate betrayal and danger to reach for the hope of freedom. The piece is told almost as a play, but more as a story around a play, very aware of its nature, narrated from the outside looking in with a feel almost like a shadow play or silent film. It's a strange but also hauntingly beautiful piece about cages and skins, about magic and desire, and about the will to be free.
Keywords: Theater, Cats, Skins, Magic, Cages
Review: I like what this story does with cages, how in some ways it builds itself up as a cage, a story that encases this girl who is not really a girl. The way that it builds bar by bar and inch by inch the situation that is keeping her trapped, that has stolen her real freedom. And it echoes in the other women of the story as well, the Soprano and La Reine des Fées. And how each of them wants freedom of a sort. How each of them, and la Orpheline, have been twisted by the Magician, bent so that their desire for freedom, perhaps the largest part of their selves, has become the means by which they are ensnared. And he locks them in, revels in the power he has to imprison them. And yet through each other at least some of them are able to escape. Because as long as they can still laugh, can still hope, can still yearn for a true freedom, there is something about them that cannot be broken. And though they are hurt by the Magician in an attempt to break them, it doesn't work for all of them. For la Orpheline never forgets what it was like to move in her own skin, and she is patient, and he is a kind of arrogant that assumes that no one will be able to get out of his cages. And there is just a rush of joy and beauty in seeing those cages shattered, those doors opened. The piece has the feel of a story, and one that knows what the audience wants. For that, though, it is no less emotional or tense. Even though it tips its hand right away, it's the journey that really defines the experience, and it's a magical and wonderful journey full of hurt and sorrow, but never despair. It's resilient and freeing and a wonderful read!