Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Quick Sips - PodCastle #614

One story rounds out the originals from PodCastle this month, and it’s a weird Western...or maybe closer to a kind of Yukon fantasy about a trio of sisters. The piece reveals a world that is strange and haunting, dominated by Light and Dark. Cycles of daylight and night that last weeks at a time. And people, both human and troll, who try to make their way through a harsh and often unforgiving landscape. It’s a story of burying the past, of grief and loss, and also of choice. The choice of how to handle the weight of legacy, and how to navigate a way forward through treacherous terrain. To the review!


“White Noon” by Aidan Doyle (4923 words)

No Spoilers: Elin is the oldest of three sisters, and far away the one least likely to venture out of her comfortable cabin on some fool’s errand. Except that when her younger sisters arrive with news of their mother’s death, there’s nothing for it but sledding out onto the snow and ice to retrieve the body and pay their last respects, and maybe settle a matter of inheritance. The piece is grim, a sort of Western but with snow instead of dirt, and power of Light and Dark making magical tracks through the land. Light and Dark, which don’t really have anything to do with good and evil.
Keywords: Dogs, Snow, Trains, Family, Dreams, Choices
Review: I really like the way the story establishes the three sisters, centering first and foremost Elin, who is the more stable one, the one uninterested in going out and spreading Justice. She’s happy in her cabin with her dogs, or at least content, and though her sisters don’t understand, it’s what she wants. Her sisters’ arrival puts a kink in the plans, though, and she has to leave, and go on an adventure, for the sake of her family. And for their sake, she is supposed to pick one of her sisters to inherit their mother’s guns and place as Warden. The world building here is interesting and I love the feel of the world, grim and dim but also full of strange magic and dreamstones that carry a powerful touch. There’s danger and there are decisions to be made, and the story builds the tension well, pacing things just right so that the story isn’t dominated by action, but has enough when it counts to stay exciting. Plus doggos. Bonus points for doggos! But yeah, I really do appreciate the way the story allows Elin to be her own person, with her own priorities, and doesn’t force her to live a life at odds with what she wants. Indeed, it’s who she is and what she wants that saves her and her sisters, that allows her to ultimately make the only choice that will save them all. Personally I would love to see more in the world, too, especially with the two sisters who are mostly secondary here. Elin’s journey for me is about appreciating who she is, recognizing that she knows what she wants and it’s not to spread Justice or live up to her mother’s name and reputation. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s awesome. Her sisters, though, seem to have harder journeys in front of them, because by the end what they thought they wanted turns out to not be possible the way the wanted. And despite their penchant for action, for adventure, for Doing Things Boldly, they seem like they have more to learn about who they are, and what’s truly important to them, now that the influence of their mother is gone. What’s here is solid and engaging, though, and very much worth checking out. A great read!


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