REVIEW: “My Heart is a Prayer” by Ryan Row

Review of Ryan Row, “My Heart is a Prayer”, Podcastle: 510 — Listen Online. Reviewed by Heather Rose Jones

There are stories where the poetic language grabs my ears and carries me through to the heart of the tale even when I’m not sure where it’s going. There are stories where the tale itself grabs me and the language becomes the unnoticed medium that conveys it. “My Heart is a Prayer” falls somewhere in the vast middle between those two. The words are full of lyrical imagery but I had to re-start my listening a couple of times because I couldn’t find a story to latch on to and my mind wandered off and lost track of what I was hearing.

To some extent, that listening experience matches the content of the story fairly well. A creature that is not human, that is only just coming into its understanding of itself, describes the experience of that becoming and understanding. Eventually we get the context of its experience: two alchemists, devastated (and possibly driven mad) by the death of their child, pour all their art into undoing that death and in the process capture an entity they hadn’t intended. The disaster their success could generate dangles by a thread–and is still dangling at the story’s end.

In structure, this falls in the type of story that I feel works better in audio than on the page, but in actual execution the elusive, unfocused nature of the first half came very close to losing me entirely.

(Previously published at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores which, alas, has a completely unreadable display interface and makes it impossible to determine what the original publication date was.)

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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: “My Heart is a Prayer” by Ryan Row

  1. Hi Heather. I happened to come across your review of “My Heart is a Prayer”, which we at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores first published. I’m wondering why you say we have a “completely unreadable display interface [that] makes it impossible to determine what the original publication date was”. We have never had anyone say this. If there is some problem we would of course like to correct it. Please let me know what it is you actually see when you go to the home page, and what type of device you are using to access. Thank you; I appreciate the chance to fix any problem that might be occurring.

    — Fran

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  2. The problem I had was the use of the semi-transparent scrolling overlay with the text, on top of a static textured/patterned background. In some cases the font colors had insufficient contrast with elements of the background. So on top of the font being difficult to distinguish, the interplay between the static patterned background and the scrolling text added to the unreadability. Looking at it today, the issue doesn’t appear to be as severe as I remember (perhaps the backgrounds have been changed?) but it’s still significant enough that I have difficulty reading. (For technical specs: I’m reading on a MacBook using Safari.)

    Font contrast is also a problem with the drop-down menus, which I see with a medium-gold font on top of a medium-gray ground. I literally cannot read the drop-down menu items unless I mouse-over them and highlight them. Those issues made me just give up on trying to find a publication date.

    Now that I look more closely, I wouldn’t have been able to find one in any case. The page with the story does not have a publication date given anywhere. The feed with the opening section of the stories (https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/fiction-all/fantasy/) does have dates, but “My Heart is a Prayer” doesn’t appear in the feed. (Maybe it isn’t categorized under fantasy, but I gave up searching.)

    One reason for including publication date tags on the reviews here is for easy reference if people are considering award eligibility. When the publication we’re reviewing is the first appearance, then identifying the date is easy. But for reprints, it can take some effort to track dates down.

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  3. The publication date is on the main page where the story is listed along with all our other stories in order of publication, with black text on a plain white background: https://cosmicrootsandeldritchshores.com/

    The drop-down menus have a white background. I don’t know why you would be seeing them as grey, unless it has something to do with using Safari. Sometimes also different computers translate text fonts and colors differently. I’ll talk to tech support and see if they have any suggestions.

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  4. P.S, — No, the backgrounds haven’t been changed. The scrolling format may possibly throw some readers off at first because it is different from the usual text with background formats and just not what they expect or are used to, but then it starts working for them. Also, we try to balance readability with visual effects; in some cases for some people it may not quite work. I’m sorry if it affected your enjoyment of Ryan Row’s lyric “My Heart is a Prayer”.

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