Review of T. Kingfisher “Origin Story”, Apex Magazine 104 (2018): Read Online. Reviewed by Joanna Z. Weston.
This is a remarkably beautiful story, for one so gruesome. But I think that is at least half the point – there is grace in the blood and the guts, as in everything else, and when you start a story that reads “[t]he last of the fairies worked in a charnel house,” then you have no right to expect something different.
Of course, the fairy doesn’t just do the work the foreman asks of her; she does her own work, as well. After the human employees go home, she uses the scraps of meat and bone and skin to make her own creatures. Mostly, they are small monsters, and are not the subject of this story. No, this story is about her greatest creation.
The fairy in question is explicitly not a good fairy, but I don’t think she is evil, either. Just dark. Different. Her creations are described as frightening, but not harmful. And in this story, she is motivated by a desire for justice. Her actions are not pretty, but they come from a sense of rightness and a desire to bring some justice to one who she perceives died unfairly.
Whether writing as T. Kingfisher or under her own name, Ursula Vernon has a way of combining the magic of fairy tales with an earthy practicality. It shouldn’t surprise me that she could take a story rife with death and fill it with life and the spice of good humor, but somehow, it does. Like fairy magic, her voice transforms what sound like a deeply disturbing tale into something dark but not at all heavy.