Review of R.B. Lemberg, “To Balance the Weight of Khalem”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 300 (March 26, 2020): read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
Belezal—the name the narrator bestows upon themselves in the course of the story—is a student refugee on the strange world of Khalem, “a carven globe of gold floating in the sky, tethered to the ground with ancient linked chains.” They and their family had been allowed to enter Khalem only because “the government needed more people to balance the weight of the city on its chains.” Balance with their bodies, in other words.
One evening, Belezal unwittingly discovers “a sidewise market” similar to Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, but more fantastic. There he is given a magic onion and begins a journey during which he encounters many strange places and people, including Nayra, the woman who cooks, and most importantly, The Maid of Murur. This is a lovely, poetic story of people adrift and largely unwelcome but who are nevertheless determined to find a place for themselves.