REVIEW: “Snow Queen” by T.R. North

Review of T.R. North, “Snow Queen”, Metaphorosis: The Complete Stories 2017, edited by B. Morris Allen (Metaphorosis Books, 2018): 15—19. Purchase Here. Originally published at Metaphorosis Magazine on 6 January 2017. Read Here. Reviewed by Rob Francis

A dreamy story about enchantment and desire. When the snow queen comes to town, she takes away with her an adolescent boy that the protagonist has a crush on. After a long journey to find him, the girl is changed, and so is he. But then the snow queen sees her, and falls in love with her and her independent spirit.

It is gorgeously written and falls firmly on the literary side of fantasy. I enjoyed the story, though I suspect I would have enjoyed it even more if I was more familiar with the ‘snow queen’ fairy tale and films, as I felt some of the meaning and symbolism passed me by. I was also unsure why the journey of five years and a day to reach the queen is presented as it is. A poetic story and anyone who appreciates the blending of fairy tales and literary fantasy should check it out.

REVIEW: “The Starry Crown” by Marc E. Fitch

Review of Marc E. Fitch, “The Starry Crown”, The Best Horror of the Year Volume Ten, edited by Ellen Datlow (Night Shade Books, 2018): 345—359. Purchase Here. Originally published in Horror Library Volume 6, edited by Eric G. Guignard (Cutting Block Books, 2017). Purchase Here.  Reviewed by Rob Francis

A research student travels to the Deep South of the USA to look for the mysterious origins of the hymn/folk song ‘Down to the Valley’ or ‘The Good Old Way’ (usually referred to as ‘Down to the River to Pray’ in popular culture, I believe). He ends up in ‘Evanstown’, South Carolina, once home of one Llewellyn Cobb who may have originally written the song. He’s told to seek out the oldest Baptist church in the town and in doing so comes across a religion involving the sacrifice of young black boys by the (respectable) white community to appease something old and eldritch that lives in the river valley.

It’s a gripping story involving some sleuthing, and deftly explores elements of racial tension in the South and the systematic and unequal valuation of life. At the end, the narrator notes that if this tale were published as research it would be laughed off as fiction, and so he has presented it as such….

This piece is thought-provoking and entertaining and I was very impressed with it. There was one odd bit referring to ‘Walker’s house’, which I think should be ‘Cobb’s house’ so I’m guessing the Cobb character was called Walker at one point in the story’s history, unless I’ve missed something. A nice slice of Southern Gothic.