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.