Friday, March 29, 2019

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #274

Art by Vicky J. Bawangun

It’s been a while since I could say I made a little less work for myself, but I’m only reviewing half of the latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Why? Well, the other half happens to be written by me, and it’s my policy to not review my own work. If you want to go read it, awesome (you can listen to the amazing podcast, too). But I will be focusing on the other story, a novelette that reveals a very grim world and a character who has faced violation and pain and now stands on the precipice of something else—power. It’s a difficult read but a powerful one, full of damage and hope and destruction, and I’ll get right to my review!


“I am Destiny” by Emily McIntyre (8917 words)

No Spoilers: Jane is a young servant of a Duke and Duchess, who might have gone through her entire life rather plainly but for an accident that left her with a great deal of magic. Magic that has brought with it a number of burdens, and has led her to a place where she is pregnant, unsure of the father, and with dwindling options for moving forward. Except a woman arrives at the castle wearing her face and full of action and power, and a new option opens for her, though not a simple one, or necessarily a pleasant one. The piece is heavy with the ways that Jane’s life has been shaped to this point, defined by her lack of power, her vulnerability to being taken advantage of and hurt. It’s dark, but even as it features pain and fear and doubt, the story feels to me most about determination, and resilience, and never giving up.
Keywords: Magic, Servants, Conquest, Bargains, CW- Pregnancy, CW- Rape
Review: This story really gets into Jane and her life, the ways that she’s been denied choices time and time and time again. The way that she’s been hurt and had her autonomy taken from her. The ways that she’s been violated, from the magic that was forced on her to the rape she survived. It’s a brutal story and in many ways a brutal world that she lives in, and one that has shaped her. Not by making her cruel exactly, but by getting her ready so that when the time comes that she gets a choice that isn’t lose-lose, she takes it. And I do appreciate how the story handles her pregnancy, the conflict of it and the bargain she ends up making. One that historically would push her into the category of Bad Mother and be promptly punished by the narrative. But here it’s a more complex situation and I like that, like the way that Jane considers the child her own, and how even the conqueror views it as Jane’s own even as she seeks to buy it from her. And it’s something that often would be framed as Jane being greedy or bad or corrupt for doing what she does, and maybe in some ways there’s a reading here that says that Jane gives into the impulse to hit back just as she’s been hit. That she’s treating things like it’s an eye for an eye. A violation for a violation. But I don’t really see it that way, in part because she cannot hurt without also feeling that hurt. What she’s doing doesn’t exactly feel like revenge, but rather a justice that had been denied too long because Jane had no power. And in taking power, in grasping it rather than turning away from it, normally she’d be judged as evil. But here the truth is messy and her morality isn’t black and white. It’s hopeful, and it’s reaching for something that she’s never had, that she knows she can’t expect, but that she wants to make possible. Safety and security. Freedom. And I can’t see her as wrong or bad for taking the route she does, even as it hurts her, too. But it gives her some legs to stand on, and a chance maybe of getting to be fair and help maybe to build a better system. So yeah, it’s a messy, dark, wrenching story that I advise people approach with some caution because of the content, but it’s also a rather great read!


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