Review of Anya Ow, “Eight-Step Kōan”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 103-113. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
This was a beautiful story, of Shyenmu and her mother, who had driven away the dragon that poisoned the river with a seven-step quatrain; of Shyenmu and her own daughter, Mirren, died but a month gone from the water of another dragon-poisoned river; of Shyenmu and her granddaughter, Mirren’s daughter, Kaeyen, and how the two of them set off to see if they can do what Shyenmu’s mother, Kaeyen’s great-grandmother, died: to find the words of power that will shame the dragon and make him leave. It is a story of love and sacrifice, of selfishness and regret.
There were so many layers to the story, getting deeper and deeper as I read, full of myth and detail and great feeling — and the author’s note at the end provides added background. Highly recommended.