REVIEW: “Jewel of the Vashwa” by Jordan Kurella

Review of Jordan Kurella, “Jewel of the Vashwa”, Apex Magazine 111 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.

The women of the Vashwa have always warred with the Scorpion Men of the Ratch, and always mated with them, leaving sons with their fathers and bringing their daughters home, to grow and fight and lie with either Scorpion Men or softer mean from softer places. Awanshe was at the final battle between these two tribes, but the stories she tells about it are lies. This one is the truth.

This story has it all – battles and lust and betrayal, plus an examination of what it takes to live with lies. I loved the structure of this story, where a version of the truth is followed by a confession, then followed by another attempt at the truth. It mirrors the way that real people can come to believe their own lies, and have trouble finding the original truth again. It also serves to keep tension high, because I was always wondering when the narrative might stop and correct itself again.

It’s always nice to see a fantasy setting where who someone loves is a non-issue. Not only can the women of the Vashwa choose to reproduce with either soft or chitinous men, when Awanshe comes home and a takes a female lover after failing to get pregnant by a Scorpion Man, it is a non-issue.

This is another strong addition to Apex’s Zodiac issue. I feel like I’m saying that after every review this month, but this double issue really is great!