Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quick Sips - Shimmer #28 (November Stuff)

It's November, which means autumn is already in the decline here, and yet Shimmer is keeping the fall alive with two stories that take us into the woods where the wild things live. Where magic is possible, but only at a cost. The pair of stories offered this month are powerful and dark and focus on choice, on family, and on leaving people behind. Both feature characters who have to give something up in order to be faithful to themselves, in order to honor those they care about, even if it means they can't see those people in the same way again. They are stories full of the feel of dead leaves and long dusks, and it is my pleasure to review them today. 

Art by Sandro Castelli
"Even In This Skin" by A.C. Wise (5517 words)

This is a moving and somewhat surreal story, darkly beautiful and filled with issues of choice and identity. Mar is trying to figure herself out, caught between her desires and her past, her guilt and her needs. She is the child of a bad situation, and growing up she had only her brother to lean on, her brother who is now in prison for killing, or being an accessory to killing, someone. And Mar is stuck wanting to wait for him, wanting to be there for him because no one else is and she knows what a weight having no one can be. At the same time she fears moving on and not moving on, fears waiting too long to find herself, feels that whatever she does she either has to betray who she is or betray her brother. The story is also about being more than one thing. Being able to be more than one thing, about breaking down the binary. About the choice to either lose her heart or gain another. The story examines gender and fluidity in an interesting and nuanced way, looking at the ways a person can exist as more than only male or female, more than only traitor or faithful. Mar is offered whatever she desires, but it requires first to decide what that is, and with that choice comes a cost. And the story does not try to make it free, but it does show that some costs are worth paying, and capable of being paid. The story is sensual, complex, and intensely satisfying. A struggle for identity infused with magic. Yes to this story. More, please!

"In the Pines" by K.M. Carmien ( words)

This is another story about both family and the cost of choice. It's also a very fun urban fantasy, though perhaps here it's better called a rural fantasy? Or a verdant fantasy? Ah well, I suck at genre anyway, so I'll just say it's a contemporary fantasy with witches and monsters and a main character, Harry, who I want to be the main character of her own novel series. The story follows Harry, establishing her back story and showing her deal with a deadly problem in the woods. A problem in the form of a creature that is hunting things that should not die, woods-things that are vital to the health of the land. It's a rather dark story, filled with corpses and sadness, rescues that come a bit too late, prices that are a bit too high. But that makes the story powerful, resonant, and rather fun, which is strange to say given the dark tones the story is painted with. But it is fun, filled with action and characters that I wanted to know better, a distinct feel and mood that made me get to the end and only feel like I was at the beginning of something bigger. If this story is proof of concept for a novel, I will buy it, and if it's not then I will probably go back and reread and make up fanfiction in my head. What's here dips just enough into darkness and hope, power and choice. What Harry does is not without a steep cost to her, but she pays it willingly in order to be true to herself, in order to maintain who she is. A very nice story.

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