REVIEW: “As Tender Feet of Cretan Girls Once Danced Around An Altar of Love” by Julian Jarboe

Review of Julian Jarboe, “As Tender Feet of Cretan Girls Once Danced Around An Altar of Love”, Strange Horizons 16 Oct. 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.

The title is a mouthful and more than a little pretentious-sounding, but this captivating short story based on Minoan civilization is well worth the read. Organized as a series of letters from the protagonist, a snake woman, to Ariadne (yes, that Ariadne), the story focuses on the snake woman as she prepares for her next reincarnation and laments the loss of her world and her love.

Jarboe’s prose is lush with description, painting breathtaking pictures of the scenery and rendering the protagonist’s loss with heart-breaking details. Occasionally, the sentences run a little too verbose, causing confusion until the reader takes the time to go back and re-read, but these small offenses are forgivable for the beauty of the words.

Beyond just superb prose, Jarboe tells a story that delves into deep themes, ranging from the weariness of eternal life to cultural appropriation. There’s so much to unpack in each “letter,” and readers will find new layers of meaning with each new read-through. This story is a rich, thoughtful meditation on all the shades of lost love, and I would highly recommend it.

REVIEW: “Oshun, Inc.” by Jordan Ifueko

Review of Jordan Ifueko’s “Oshun, Inc.”, Strange Horizons 18 Sept. 2017: Read online. Reviewed by Danielle Maurer.

This story reminded me vividly of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, if the gods in question worked in a customer service center. It has the same old-world-meets-new-world, coming-to-America feel, but with an emphasis here on a specific African pantheon and goddess. As someone unfamiliar with the goddess in question, I appreciated the choice as an opportunity to learn.

Moreover, Ifueko paints beautiful pictures with her words. Her descriptions appeal not just to the eyes, but also the ears, the nose, the tongue and even the fingers–leaving no sense neglected. She possesses the specificity of great writers, using precise analogies and examples to drive home the deeper points and nuances of her story.

The story also displays Ifueko’s talent for worldbuilding. “Oshun, Inc.” touches on the barest edge of what feels like a much larger, more detailed world filled with immortal gods and helpers. Ifueko walks a fine line between explaining terms the reader might not understand and letting the reader discover those meanings for herself, and she walks that line confidently.

I found the first half of the story to be more engaging than the second half, in part because the second half doesn’t actually resolve the problem introduced at the beginning of the story (finding a date for Bola’s problematic dentist). The ending is by no means bad, but I wish all the threads of the plot had found a resolution.

Setting that minor quibble aside, Ifueko is a promising new voice in speculative fiction, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.