REVIEW: “The Firefly Beast” by Tony Pi

Review of Tony Pi, “The Firefly Beast”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 115-122. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

The City God of Chengdu outsources his city’s security needs to demons “seeking atonement for past wrongs by defending the city” (p. 116). But what happens when the demon defending the city becomes the demon that the city must be defended from? Pi’s story pits the turncoat Firefly Beast against the White-Gold Guest, who defends the city with a flute rather than a sword.

For the White-Gold Guest, poetry is not a means of destruction; it’s not a weapon at all, but rather the first step on her path to atonement, and, later on in that path, a shield of protection for her adopted city.

I read this story on a night when I needed something good, something supportive, something that focuses on strength and hope and things like that. This story delivered that. I loved how the White-Gold Guest turned her power to battle against her own inner appetites, used it to seek to better herself, and later on another, rather than to destroy. And I was absolutely delighted to find out, reading Pi’s author’s note, that the White-Gold Guest’s poetess mentor, Xue Tao, is a real, historical poet. I look forward to reading more of her poems.