Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 7, 2010 in Reviews
Author Website: http://www.eilisoneal.com
Published by: Fantasy Magazine, January 4, 2010
The Wing Collection is a delightfully creepy story about Emily and her cousin Jeffery, who has recently come to live with Emily and her parents. Jeffery is a bookworm, and Emily is decidedly not, but they put their differences aside after school one day when they come across a magnificent storefront that houses an impressive display of disembodied wings. The wings vary in size and type, coming from birds and bats and insects, including some suspicious specimens that belong to endangered species.
The wings become Jeffery’s obsession, though Emily tags along on their frequent trips to the shop, not sure what to make of her cousin and his odd behavior. She takes it easy on Jeffery though, since he’s dealing with recent abandonment issues, but when his reading habits shifts suddenly to the occult, Emily decides she can no longer let Jeffrey keep his secrets to himself.
Reading this story is like opening up a series decorated gift boxes, each one bigger and more mysterious. Its characters are both approachable, and I enjoyed seeing Jeffery through Emily’s eyes and I shared in her interest to find out what made her strange cousin tick. The stakes rise constantly in this story, starting off with the odd store and its even odder owner. Then when Jeffrey gets the idea to start dabbling in magic, suddenly the sky is the limit, and the anticipation of what’s to come really builds.
The importance of physical objects stood out to me in this piece: the postcards, the feather, the books. Each packed a lot of emotion to be such small things, and it’s obvious how important they are to the characters. I think this physicality came into play in the absence of emotional relationships between the characters. Emily was on the verge of connecting to Jeffery as a real person with her almost accepting him as family, but I got the sense that Jeffery was too focused on finding his mother to reciprocate that feeling.
I think the ending worked for me, as ambiguous as it was. It disappointed me some as I read, but after pondering it for a day, it’s starting to grow on me. The image of the postcards is effectively repeated here, and the story’s focus shifts to Emily and her interpretations of what she meant to Jeffrey. She’s living in the aftermath of his disappearance, which has a direct impact on her own life, and still she keeps his secrets. It’s sort of sweet, sentimental, and deep in a way that encourages the reader to think through the story again.
If there’s one thing to learn from this piece (and there’s a lot more than one, but I’m just saying…) it’s how the author structures the scenes, building up suspense and mystery, then ending the scene on a tease. She shows us the pretty box, then lets us shake it, maybe take a peek, but you’ve got to keep reading to find out what exactly is inside.
Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jan 7, 2010 in Reviews
Author Website: http://thebeardedlady.wordpress.com
Published by: Strange Horizons, December 21st, 2009
A Rose is Rose is a colorful, sensual tale that intertwines the stories of a body paint artist named Sashi and storybook illustrator named Sarah. Both artists struggle with their needs to express their creativity as well as their sexuality in what creates an interesting pair of love triangles, both tender and twisted at the same time.
Sashi finds herself in very intimate quarters with the King, fending off his advances as she paints his body in preparation for his upcoming nuptials, which are to be carried out in a grand style befitting India’s royalty despite the war and famine that has swept the land. The King and his bride will ride atop two adorned elephants through the streets in a wedding procession, and Sashi is tasked with painting the elephants as well. It becomes her obsession — these elephants being an emotional tether to the only memory she has of her mother.
Sarah is caught in a love triangle of her own, and it’s wreaking havoc with her creativity. She’s embarrassingly behind on the storybook illustrations for Ravi, her not quite friend/not quite lover, and in her compulsive delusions, Sarah has snaked her way into a metaphysical threesome involving sketches of Ravi’s wife.
The interplay between first person (Sarah) and third person omniscient points of view worked well, sort of a sling-shot of momentum propelling the story along. The characters were instantly distinctive, and though there wasn’t much physical description, after finishing the story I felt as if I’d be able to pick them out of a lineup. The images the author painted in my head were incredibly clear. I could see the elephants parading through the streets, the intricacy of the postcards painted on Sashi’s nails, and the haunting, resonant image of the bloodied meat parcel.
The story is subtly otherwordly, with the characters from the two different worlds encroaching on each other until the clever twist at the end. I enjoyed how delicate this story was, though I found myself wishing the reveal about the elephants being eaten hadn’t been quite so harsh of a statement. I would have preferred to see Sashi discovering the elephants’ fates herself, or figuring it out on my own as a reader. Also, I had a hard time placing the setting of the story — the where and the when seemed somewhat generic. I think my mind settled on a near-future post-war India for Sashi’s story and a present-day India for Sarah’s story, though it’s quite likely that I missed some cues.
A Rose is Rose serves as an example of great character development, as each character has his/her own goals, fears, and desires — all of which inevitably clash with the other characters, making tension mount through the entire story. The characters have interesting backstories and histories that affect their actions, which are well-placed in the story and add depth without slowing the story down. The characters are both cruel and loving, which makes them realistic and easy to identify with and feel for.
Overall, this story is an easy, enjoyable read, and although subtly is its strong suit, it doesn’t leave you digging aimlessly for meaning and answers.