REVIEW: “Cold Iron Comfort” by Hayley Stone

Review of Hayley Stone, “Cold Iron Comfort”, Apex Magazine 117 (2019): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

Amadis believed their father when they said they could come home any time if things didn’t work out with their fairy lover, Kinnear. So when they start to recognize Kinnear’s manipulations for what they are, they find a portal and catch a bus back to their father’s junkyard. The abuse is slowly revealed through flashbacks, until another character in the present day finally calls it what it is. The author does an amazing job of using the trope of the fairy lover as a way to talk about abusive relationships.

It is worth noting that Amadis is not the main characters given name, but one which they select upon returning to the human world, after struggling with their gender identity for years. Though I lack first hand experience of the same, I thought that Amadis’ struggles with gender were well-described, and nicely integrated into the story. It also adds to the appeal of fairyland – the fae, of course, are much more fluid around gender than the average human.

There’s so much more that I could say about this story, from the pleasure of seeing a latinx narrator in a fairy story, to the way the plot incorporate and subverts common fairy tropes, to the wonderful relationship Amadis builds with the older woman who takes her in, but I’ll leave you to discover some of that for yourselves. Overall, “Cold Iron Comfort” is a lovely, thoughtful story about relationship, identity, and true family.

REVIEW: “A Subtle Fire Beneath the Skin” by Hayley Stone

Review of Hayley Stone, “A Subtle Fire Beneath the Skin”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 23-35. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Stone’s protagonist (I hesitate to call her the heroine), like Wise’s in the previous story, uses words as blunt instruments, instruments of death. One of the feared Bespoken, Gennesee has been chained inside the library without any visitor other than the archivist for years. Then the archivist dies and his daughter takes his place, and she offers Gennesee her freedom — freedom not only to leave the walls of her prison but to find and kill the ones that put her there in the first place.

A generous-sounding offer? Of course. The archivist’s daughter has her own agenda, and Gennesee, too long seeking revenge, falls easily into the trap. Not so easy is how she discovers her true freedom, even as she is returned to the library prison.