REVIEW: “Cardinal Skin” by Bo Balder

Review of Bo Balder, “Cardinal Skin”, in Abandoned Places, edited by George R. Galuschak and Chris Cornell (Shohola Press, 2018): 5-17 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The opening story of Galuschak and Cornell’s anthology dumps us immediately into an empty plain of glass, across which Teio and her brother and father are skating to reach the mountains on the other side, the mountains on top of which

they hoped to find the sanctum where the Cardinal Skins were hidden. Many heroes had tried to acquire a Skin, trying to save the world from its ruined state after the Cataclysms.

Teio’s mother, Haio, had been such a hero, but she had failed. Now her family come, hoping both to succeed where she had not, and to find her body and bury it.

The story has all the elements of a classic quest tale, but it is more than that: It is a ghost story. It is a story of family bonds and family places. It is a story of learning that everything you knew is wrong, and a story of a place that is not quite as abandoned as everyone thought.

Balder’s writing was quick paced and precise. An unfortunate quirk of typesetting marred the story throughout, however. In a number of places, quoted material coming after another sentence lacks the space after the preceding period, meaning the quotation marks end up curled the wrong way.