Review of Rachel Hailey, “Freedom in Briers”, in David G. Clark, Callum Colback, Joe Butler, and Alex Hareland, eds., Beneath Strange Stars, (TL;DR Press, 2020): 275-290 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)
Thorn, Caleb, and Theresa are each one of the Magic-Touched — people who have special abilities (or “banes”) that set them apart from the rest of humanity. Though it’s not clear to me how or why, their status as magic-touched puts them under the power or control of the non-magic-touched; e.g., Thorn has a keeper named Jasper who dictates her actions. Together, Thorn and the other magic-touched people are all part of an eerie circus, one that is constantly recruiting from amongst their audiences.
It’s clear from the start of the story that there is something complex going on — what isn’t clear, unfortunately, is what that something is. I was never quite sure, even at the end.