Review #25: Perhaps this is Kushi’s Story by Swapna Kishore

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Aug 1, 2010 in Reviews

Author website: http://swapnawrites.com/
Published by: Fantasy Magazine, July 26th, 2010

Photo by Rosa y Dani Creative Commons

The Story:

Twin sisters, the eldest destined to marry the Headman’s son and lead their tribe and the younger resentful of that fact, listen to a story as told by their wise, old Tribemother. In the story, Kushi, a young healer apprentice finds herself caught between the will of her gods, the safety of her tribe, and her own morality.

The Craft: 20 Master Plots – Temptation

MAJOR SPOILERS

So of course my first 20 Master Plots story would have a frame narrative, but both stories are tales of temptation. I loved Younger Sister’s voice, how she kicked over her Elder Sister’s sandcastle without remorse, and then wanders off for awhile since it would take time for her sister to rebuild anything worth kicking again. Younger Sister gladly would have given into her temptation of crippling her sister if it hadn’t been for Tribemother stepping in and telling Kushi’s story.  But since the bulk of the story is about Kushi, I’ll analyze her temptation.

Kushi’s temptation comes in the form of gods whispering for her to kill her tribemate Bataar in order to protect her village. This is a tough decision for Kushi to make. People are dying because of Bataar’s ill-will, though Kushi is hard pressed to prove it. Kushi decides that she cannot kill because it would be immoral, even if it will protect Bataar from killing again. Her inaction results in the death of their Headman. Kushi directly accuses Bataar in front of her tribe and puts herself at risk. Her temptation had blinded her to better options for dealing with the situation, and as a result, she becomes exiled from her people.

Both tales are interesting with high stakes and good tension. I found myself wishing there was more to Younger Sister’s story though. Her character was so deliciously wicked that I wanted to experience her temptations directly. I was less engaged with Kushi, though I did like how each sister was given the opportunity to end the story. So who’s story is this? Perhaps this is Kushi’s story, but then again, perhaps not.

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Review #14: Bearing Fruit by Nikki Alfar

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Mar 13, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Fantasy Magazine, March 1, 2010

The Story:

In Bearing Fruit, a sixteen-year-old girl bathing in a river near her home finds herself smitten with a mango bobbing in the current. By the time it’s had its way with her, the poor girl finds herself suddenly with child. Of course no one believes her story, and she can barely believe it herself.  She doesn’t know much about how babies are made, but she’s pretty sure that fruit isn’t involved. Even though her closest cousins vouch for her chastity, the girl is still subtly shunned by her family and neighbors, so she sets forth on a journey upstream to find the father of her unborn child.

The Craft: Character Arcs

SPOILERS

If there’s one thing that will change a young woman, it’s getting knocked up by a frisky piece of fruit. Not only is her body going through a rapid change, but so are her relationships, her perceived value to her village, and her own self-esteem. At the beginning of the story, she’s innocent, virtuous, and carefree. Once the prettiest girl in the village, the pregnant girl finds that her prospects have dwindled, and the boy cousins who once safeguarded her virtue are now given more useful tasks, such as building a shelter for the family’s livestock.

It’s at this point that our young heroine departs from her initial character setup, no longer so innocent, virtuous, or carefree…at least in the eyes of her family. They’re relieved to be rid of her when she announces that she intends to set out on a perilous journey into the wild to find the father of her unborn child. With the company of her closest girl cousins, and armed only with sticks and their sharp tongues, they travel upstream not knowing what to expect. She’s quick to accuse the first soul they happen upon: a young boy attending a mango tree for an old widow. It turns out that he’s not the culprit, and though he does offer to escort one of the weary girl cousins home under suspicious pretenses, our heroine has learned she is no longer fit to judge other people’s choices.

Her physical changes quickly escalate after a brief encounter with a handsome thief using the trunk of a mango tree to stash his stolen goods. As our heroine makes her way further up the now tumultuous river, her pregnant belly weighs heavily upon her and she’s cursed with morning sickness as well. She comes upon an old man tending a mango tree, though our heroine is too disgusted with mankind to afford him any sort of respect. She discovers that indeed this man knows how her pregnancy came to be — that the mango was set forth on a journey to find his shy son a wife. Swept up in a lavish lifestyle, our again fair maiden has the opportunity to reclaim her respectability, though at the cost of her self-respect. The son never receives the tongue lashing she’d been saving for him, and though the life he offers her is not a bad one by any means, her thoughts circle back to that handsome thief and the life she might have had with him.

Bearing Fruit is a great, quirky tale with a bittersweet character arc. Going from innocence, to driven by fierce resentment, to settling for a life that isn”t her choice but is good enough. If she hadn’t found her drive, she would have remained at home, shunned. If she hadn’t decided to barter her self-respect for stability and comfort, she would have remained poor. But through her changes, she reaches an ending she can live with, even though it’s not her happily-ever-after that fair maidens are often promised.

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