REVIEW: “Phalium arium ssp. anam” by Victoria Sandbrook

Review of Victoria Sandbrook, “Phalium arium ssp. anam”, Luna Station Quarterly 35 (2018): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Nora Sullivan, “the strange one”, will take any justification she can to go see the sideshow, even if it means accompanying John Reidy (“a nice young man from a nice family”, for all that he seems uninterested in the company of the woman he invited to come with him). Much of what is at the show are disappointing fakes, but some…some of them were real, and magic, and crying out to Nora to be rescued.

This rather quick and quiet story reminded me of Mommy Fortuna’s Carnival in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. But here, things end hopefully, rather than in chaos.

REVIEW: “El Cantar de la Reina Bruja” by Victoria Sandbrook

Review of Victoria Sandbrook, “El Cantar de la Reina Bruja”, in Aidan Doyle, Rachael K. Jones, and E. Catherine Tobler, Sword and Sonnet (Ate Bit Bear, 2018) — 79-92. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Reina Alejandra chained her goddess soul in order to seduce a king. Now she is his captive, and the king is on crusade to woo a new queen, using Alejandra’s magic as his weapon. Submitting to his will is the only hope she has of one day freeing herself.

I found this story perplexing. It was beautifully written but it felt like certain pieces to the puzzle were missing. Alejandra clearly loved her king — or at least did once — not just lusted after him. But never are we shown why; there seemed nothing loveable in him. As a result, Alejandra seemed more to be pitied than to be sad for. I also missed a piece in the way in which she won her freedom; when Alejandra and her rival queen finally meet, it seems as if they must have met already, but we are not told how. Or perhaps it just is that Alejandra loves widely, and without reason.

REVIEW: “The Moon, The Sun, and the Truth” by Victoria Sandbrook

Review of Victoria Sandbrook’s, “The Moon, the Sun, and the Truth”, Shimmer 38: Read online. Reviewed by Sarah Grace Liu.

Truth riders in the West race through the desert and carry data chips on horseback—data that preserves what the Directorship would kill to eradicate: the last images of their hostile takeover.

Sandbrook’s tale is vivid, plausible, and engaging. She seamlessly blends a wild west atmosphere with nuggets of technological detail that take us beyond the here and now to a place where we are at once comfortable and disoriented.

If I were to lodge one minor complaint, it’s that the story doesn’t seem to be in complete control of psychic distance at points. It opens with a classic tale or fable narrative distance—with Andy’s perspective, yes, but at a far enough remove that the narrator has a distinct presence. Yet we sometimes get Andy’s immediate thoughts in a way that doesn’t jive with this narration. It’s an easy thing to overlook and doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it pulls me out of the story.

Sandbrook offers a perfect balance of details that gives us a sense of the larger world behind the story without bogging us down in lengthy passages of exposition. I enjoyed “The Moon, the Sun, and the Truth” thoroughly, and will keep an eye out for more of Victoria Sandbrook’s work.