Yes, it’s that time again when I’ve been binge-listening to the Podcastle audio fantasy fiction on my podcast feed and have decided to catch up with several months worth of reviews. As previously, my ability to remember what I thought of a story (or even what the story was about) fades the longer ago I listened to it.
422: Golden Chaos by M.K. Hutchins - A vaguely Nordic secondary-world village sits at the edge of a zone of chaos that has been known to provide treasure but also destroys randomly. The protagonist’s expectations of a profitable season and thus the ability to marry his betrothed are destroyed by his brother’s distractability. But in the chaos zone, his brother’s talent for deep focus may be an advantage. Detailed worldbuilding and a subtle and sympathetic portrayal of a non-neurotypical character, though I’m becoming a little uncomfortable with the growing popularity of a sort of “magical neuro-atypicality” trope.
423: The Gold Silkworm by Tony Pi - A tale or sorcerers and magical healers in a fantasy realm woven from Chinese threads. There was a lot of worldbuilding to integrate before the plot started to fall into place.
424: Betty And The Squelchy Saurus by Caroline M. Yoachim - What happens when the truce between children and the monsters under their beds is broken? The story might have been just the product of an overactive imagination...until we get the viewpoint of the monsters. A little bit on the precious side, but with enough threat of horror to cut that a bit. Not really my taste, though.
PodCastle 425: Flash Fiction Extravaganza! Transformations - A trio of short shorts around a theme
“Girl in Blue Dress (1881)” by Sunil Patel - An artist’s model raises questions of identity and individuality.
“Mirabilis” by Shannon Peavey - Alas, I don’t remember this one.
“Portrait of My Wife as a Boat” by Samantha Murray - Uh...I think this one was about a woman who turns into a boat?
426: Sweeter Than Lead by Benjamin C. Kinney - Prophecies keep the empire safe, but the seers pay a deep price, not least that they can never explain themselves. How much of the rules they follow is necessary, and how much tradition? And what are the temptations for one who grows addicted to seeing the future? The story left me a bit meh--plots about true prophecy have a limited number of places they can go.
427: Squalor And Sympathy by Matt Dovey - Part of a growing sub-sub-genre sitting at the intersection of steampunk and the supernatural. How will it warp an industrial society if machines can be run literally on the misery of the workers? I really liked the way the premise was developed without being over-explained. Some of the wrap-up of the plot felt clunky, though.
428: Madame Félidé Elopes by K. A. Teryna translated by Anatoly Belilovsky - I don’t remember this one at all. I may have accidentally marked it read.
429: Wolfy Things by Erin Roberts - A slow inexhorable reveal of the true nature of a wolf hunt. One of those lovely unreliable narrators where the reader/listener stays half a step ahead of the protagonist, though you’re never entirely certain exactly what is going on. If you don’t mind a bit of violence, this makes an excellent listen.
430: Thundergod In Therapy by Effie Seiberg - Another one I don’t remember at all.
PodCastle Miniature 89: Lapis Lazuli by Tania Fordwalker - The knight facing the dragon to rescue the princess learns a lesson about tall poppy syndrome. Well, he would have if he’d survived. Fortunatly, our protagonist is his lowly squire... A bit predictable in the plot, but the nature of the monster (and thus how to defeat it) is a clever twist.
431: La Héron by Charlotte Ashley - A delightfuly twisty tale of forbidden duels and dangerous wagers. A woman arrives in town for the Black Bouts of Caen and picks up a pugnacious nun as her second. But a host of swordsmen from Faerie have arrived for the sport as well and no one is quite what they seem. This started out intriguing, slowed down a bit for the blow-by-blow, then took a sharp turn sideways at the end. Overall I enjoyed it quite a bit.
432: The Beautiful Bird Sits No Longer Singing In The Nest by Kate Lechler - What did the story of Jane Eyre look like from the point of view of the mad woman in the attic? It’s hard to classify this entirely as fantasy unless one takes her hallucinations of witches and transformations as literal. But an incisive picture of what madness looks like from the other side.
PodCastle Miniature 90: How To Survive In Room 105 by T. Jane Berry - Yet one more entry in the category of “humorous hijinks in a grade school classroom full of kids with super powers.” This genre just isn’t for me, I’m afraid. The joke always gets stretched too thin.
433: Telling Stories by Sandra M. Odell - A rather surreal Western involving the courtship of a saguaro cactus and a gila monster, mediated by an older woman with stories to tell and hidden regrets. The moral message of “love is love” felt overly telegraphed, but the details of the world and the creatures in it is well drawn and delightful.
434: The Ghost Years by Nghi Vo - Set amidst a war between China and Viet Nam in some alternate and lightly fantastic timeline, the story is primarily about memory and storytelling and how people exist only so far as we create them in our stories. Atmospheric and melancholy.