REVIEW: “Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell” by Tim Pratt

Review of Tim Pratt, “Three Petitions to the Queen of Hell”, Apex Magazine 106 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

Apex is really out to make me question my own reading preferences with this issue. I generally do not care for love stories – they’re fine and all, but I bristle at the implication that sexual or romantic love is the most important aspect of our lives. And then a beautiful little love story about the queens of hell shows up, and I’m head over heels for it.

Marla and Zufi, the dual queens of hell (and married, naturally), have been fighting for eight years, and neither is feeling particularly motivated to apologize. One of them decides to alleviate her boredom by re-opening the paths by which mortals can petition them, thus kick-starting some change. Also, ice cream is an important plot element.

The tone is exactly the sort that I fall for, and hard. It’s poetic and sarcastic at the same time, maintaining just enough distance from the bickering queens to recognize that they are being ridiculous, without holding them in contempt (no matter how Marla and Zufi may feel at any given time). There’s also a contrast between moments of formal speech and casual phrases that pleased me. It’s funny, without being a humorous story.

This story also does a nice job of incorporating mythic themes without hewing to any one mythology. It probably draws most from the Greeks and Romans, what with the ties between the underworld and the seasons and the flavor of the guardians set to make it hard for petitioners to get to the land of the dead, but it is it’s own thing, and well executed.

Best of all, this is a queer love story with a happy ending, which is all too rare. Recommended for fans of romance and people who like their love stories with a touch of the macabre.

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