REVIEW: “Rose Briar, Briar Rose” by Miranda Schmidt

Review of Miranda Schmidt, “Rose Briar, Briar Rose”, Luna Station Quarterly 29 (2017): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I love fairy tale retellings, especially when the retelling tells a part of the story that the traditional tale omits. The inspiration for Schmidt’s story is Sleeping Beauty, but it is the story of what happened in a period often glossed over — after she fell asleep and before she was awakened. How many princes came and kissed an unconsenting princess before one finally woke her up? Well, in this story, it wasn’t a prince at all that woke her, but woman who loves the princess for her thorns, and not in spite of them.

An unusual twist on a usual tale, I enjoyed Schmidt’s interpretation of Sleeping Beauty very much.

REVIEW: “Two Monsters Down in the Dark” by E. H. Mann

Review of E. H. Mann, “Two Monsters Down in the Dark”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Ellie and Benji are ransacking a dragon’s lair, hoping for gold and money that will “keep us for years, if we’re careful.” Clever, quick-witted, little Benji is convinced the dragon is dead and the lair is empty of everything except treasure there for the taking. But “trollblood” Ellie, “big and strong and slow of thought and speech”, for the first time in her life refuses her brother.

What follows is a tense, tough, awkward, horribly sad story of the highs and lows of sibling relationships and familial ties, of greed and betrayal, of the monsters that live in the dark, a story that brought me to tears.

REVIEW: “A Song for Hardy Connelly” by K. Noel Moore

Review of K. Noel Moore, “A Song for Hardy Connelly”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Moore’s “Song” is divided into three parts, telling the stories of Hardy, Saraid, and Moïra, all linked to each other through blood but separated by their experiences.

Hardy Connelly was born Deaf, and a childhood bout with Guillain-Barré Syndrome left her legs weak and in need of artificial support. Those who don’t know her pity her:

Poor thing, they said. Cursed she must be. That’s no worthwhile life she’s living.

But if Hardy is cursed, it’s not because of either her Deafness or her weak legs. It’s because she’s a Connelly, a descendent of the Ò Conghalaighs who

had meddled with something from the Other Place that wasn’t meant to be meddled with,

and as a result, both Hardy and her aunt, Moïra, have the same golden eyes that herald the second sight.

I found this story hard to follow and a bit disjointed. Saraid’s relationship with Hardy and Moïra is never made clear, and I didn’t understand how her central section related to the bookending sections of Hardy and Moïra. It was also not clear to me what the titular song was — whether it was a component of the stories, or whether the three rather prosaic sections were to be understood as being a song.

I liked the way the story engaged with Deafness, particularly the different communicative valences that came into play. I did find it a bit strange how the speech via sign language was depicted, though: Both Hardy’s (who is fluent in sign language) and Moïra’s (who is not) signed speech is rendered into written speech with an a-grammaticality and unexpected sentence structure. I wish I knew more about sign language to know if this is a mirroring of the syntax of sign language, or if Moore was trying to indicate something else with this technique.

REVIEW: “For Whatever We Lose” by Jennifer R. Donohue

Review of Jennifer R. Donohue, “For Whatever We Lose”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Ostensibly, this is a story of an astronaut orbiting one of Mars’s moons, who’s gotten into trouble and who knows how her ending will be. But, really, this is a story of reflection and contemplation, family bonds, and dreams, of courage in the face of impossibility, and how little moments — like a little lie, saying that Suzanne was eight when she was in fact only six — can shape and direct a person’s future profoundly.

Overall, I found this story well constructed and written with lovely language but I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, and would have liked to have seen more story, and less flashing back.

REVIEW: “The Mare of the Meuse” by Janna Layton

Review of Janna Layton, “The Mare of the Meuse”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

The first third of this story is straight-up historical fiction, tracing the lives of two young men caught up in the French Revolution, with little speculative about it (it is, however, gorgeously, shamelessly queer!). About a third of the way in, though, René and Armand pause in a field and encounter the titular mare, who is not at all what she seems.

The threads of René, Armand, and the mare weave together throughout the French countryside, as the two men seek to find a way to Armand’s mother’s village, and thence to Germany and safety and security away from the blood of revolution. No path can be straight or easy where the Mare of Meuse travels, but when Armand and René’s hopes are dashed, she is there to find a new way into the future for them.

This was a lovely and emotional story.

REVIEW: “Auger” by Sarah Pauling

Review of Sarah Pauling, “Auger”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

I hardly know where to begin with this story. It is full of familial love and strong friendships; it is full of wild beauty; it is laced with horror and sadness. I can’t summarise it without giving it away, and I can’t articulate how it touched me; I can only say that it did. Highly recommended.

REVIEW: “At Love’s Heart” by Amanda J. McGee

Review of Amanda J. McGee, “At Love’s Heart”, Luna Station Quarterly 37 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

There are certain tropes that creep up again and again in fantasy literature, one of which is the “virgin to the dragon” story, whether it be actual virgins to actual dragons or is more metaphorical, whether the sacrifice be compelled or voluntary. At the heart (hah!) of this story is the voluntary sacrifice of Bronne on behalf of her village, Reykjin — for “someone had to pay the cost of winter. The cost of the ice.” Reykjin is one of the northernmost villages, but that doesn’t make the trek north to the temple any easier.

McGee traces Bronne’s path north, accompanied by women of her village all singing songs and bearing witness, through each slow and delicate step. There is a ponderousness about the pace of the story that mimics the gradual slowing down of the body due to cold; but whereas such ponderousness could sometimes be heavy, in this story, it seems appropriate. It’s a beautiful story of the many different facets of love, each as sharp and brittle and beautiful as the facet of an ice crystal.