REVIEW: “The Candle Queen” by ephiny gale

Review of ephiny gale, “The Candle Queen,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 295, January 16, 2020, Read Online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.

This is a good, if perhaps, flawed story. It posits a very strange world, one that selects at the age of eight 26 girls based solely on their capacity for self-control and stamina. At 17, the girl who most excels at these two qualities becomes her world’s “unflinching rod,” The Candle Queen. It is her duty into old age to wear upon her head a metal bowl on which three large candles sit upon a heavy plate. If she doesn’t–if for even a moment her concentration falters and she fails to keep her head upright—the candles might go out. And if they do, the world will end. Or so it is said.  

For the girl selected for this “honor,” it is not much of a life.  Fortunately, the Candle Queen has a handmaiden named Anne who considers it her duty, as well as her pleasure, to introduce her queen to the joys of intimacy and personal freedom. Which, of course, underscores the tension—in her world and ours—between duty and freedom. 

I have only one quibble regarding this story. As metaphor, it works wonderfully well. In the fantasy world Gale posits, however, it seems unlikely that even the most disciplined person could sit or stand bolt upright for years—let alone a lifetime.

REVIEW: “In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold” by Ephiny Gale

Review of Ephiny Gale, “In the Beginning, All Our Hands Are Cold”, Syntax and Salt #5, December 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal

By now, if you’ve been paying attention to my reviews, you know that I hate unanswered questions. I like knowing the whys and the wherefores, I like having an ending, even if it’s just a simple “and they lived happily ever after.” When a story leaves too many questions, it’s like drinking a glass of water and still being thirsty. Or an itch beneath the skin that you just can’t reach.

The only thing this story had, out of all that, was an ending.

We have no idea why kids are born without hands. We don’t know if this is something that only happens to kids in this village, or world wide. We don’t know why the children change to fit the hands, or how the magic that keeps them young works. We don’t know if the hands call to the people they would be the best fit, or if the person picks the hands and their personality changes to fit the hands.

There were just so many unanswered questions…and I loved it.

The questions In the Beginning leaves, are like a cold cup of fruit juice on a hot summer’s day. It tastes great going down, and it leaves you wanting more, but not in a “I have the Sahara in my mouth” kinda way. It has made its way into my (very) short list of favorite short stories, and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.