REVIEW: “Suzie Q” by Jacqueline Carey

Review of Jacqueline Carey, “Suzie Q”, Apex Magazine 109 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

Suzanne thought she’d escaped her painful past when she passed the summoning exam and was accepted into Holyfields, where she’d learn to summon angels. But when the story starts, she’s living on the streets of the neighboring city, dodging shadows that will eat her and bad people who will feed her to those shadows. Slowly, we learn how she got expelled from Holyfields and why she has a demon inside her. In the end, that demon proves itself to be a surprising strength.

This is a story that works as well as a metaphor as it does as a literal story, and I appreciate that. I can’t say that this is exactly an enjoyable read, dealing as it does with sexual trauma and coercion, followed by betrayal, but it is an absorbing one. The lingering effects of abuse and bullying are realistically portrayed in the character of Suzanne, and the world is tantalizingly sketched out. When she finally finds her power, I nearly cheered. She’s able to find the ways that suffering has made her stronger, and learns to use that for herself. The ending avoids the sin of romanticizing suffering, of making it seem that trauma and abuse were somehow worthwhile, by making it clear that her strength is born not just of the bad things that happened to her, but also her own choices.

This isn’t an easy story, but it is a powerful one, though it could be triggering to people who’ve experienced sexual trauma.

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