One way in which short stories are trickier than longer media is that the author has very little time to catch the reader’s attention and get them involved in the characters. By the end of the fourth paragraph of “The Red Tree”, I am already involved. I do not know why Alder is hiding in a tree, I do not know why the man at the foot of the tree is crying, but Suri paints his anguish and fear so clearly and strongly that one cannot help but want to know the reason for it, and what one can do to comfort him.
But this story is the story of Alder, not of the boy. Alder’s name is, from the very start, a hint to her identity, and I hope it is not too much of a spoiler to say how much I enjoy a dryad story; for whatever reason, of all the well-known creatures in the ordinary human mythological repertoire, dryads (and naiads) feature very infrequently in fantasy and speculative stories. One benefit of this is that there are fewer preconceived notions of who they are and what their relationship to their trees, and thus authors have more freedom to play with these myths. Suri’s take is both poignant and beautifully written. It is a story of hope and vitality — and just a touch of revenge. I think I would’ve liked the story if it had ended up the note of hope, but I can see how the ending Suri wrote is fitting and meet.