Between a series of cluster headaches and my transition into my remote position this week, I have found it difficult to sit and read for any extended period. So I fell back on the old reliable remedy, novellas and short stories. Here are my condensed thoughts on two of the short stories I completed; Danse Macabre and Fire Above, Fire Below.
By Laura M. Hughes
Kindle Edition ASIN: B016FRZ7KE
Genre: Horror/Short Story
The moon is full.
The graveyard beckons.
The little girl wanders the night, drawn again and again to the resting place of her loved ones. It’s a lonely existence, but peaceful.
Until the night he appears . . .
I discovered this little hidden treasure thanks to Drew at The Tattooed Book Geek. You can read his review here. I admit that based on his thoughts, I went in with high expectations. I was not disappointed.
Danse Macabre is a chilling tale that unfolds through the eyes of young Blue. Having lost her family, she is haunted by what once was. Her days are consumed with her time spent hovering over their graves, alone and harrowed. Then he appears out of the shadows. A mysterious gentleman that arrives and informs Blue her loved ones are caught in purgatory. But Blue has a chance at to provide peace and final rest, as she strikes a bargain to save their souls. But there is a fine line between the truth, and she is caught in a world of uncertainty that will have her questioning even her own decisions.
“Blue never liked words much. She had met many people who had used words to trick, to hurt. To lie. But this one was different. This one didn’t just give her words. He gave her numbers too. And though Blue had never been skilled with either words or numbers, numbers had always seemed more honest to her. Numbers couldn’t lie.”
What unfolds is a dark and haunting novella that will have you examining what is truly evil. When does the line between faith and reality become blurred? Do the means justify the ends? Blue is tasked with meeting some very difficult demands that will result in an ultimate battle between her own conscience and her very heart.
The writing is superbly rich and elegant. The pace is smooth and consistent while the author cleverly inserts a small amount of symbolism seen in the form of a tiny snail and a dark crow that adequately play on the fact that this is the struggle of a child. The events that unfold are heinous and cruel. The constant reminder that Blue is still so young makes this story even more effective. It challenges our own perception of right and wrong in the most distressing yet beautiful manners. In just a mere 60 pages, Hughes has managed to provide a grisly yet thought provoking tale that continues to resonate long after the final page.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Fire Above, Fire Below
By Garth Nix
Publisher: Tor Books
Kindle Edition ASIN: B00BY5R0A8
Genre: Fantasy/Short Story
Fire Above, Fire Below is about the crisis that the dying of a dragon living below a major city causes, and the pact made many years earlier to deal with such a situation.
Fire Above, Fire Below is exactly as the synopsis has it. A major city is struggling after the loss of several buildings to a horrible fire that could have resulted in many deaths. The mayor soon learn through the chief of the fire department that the cause is a dying dragon trapped below. And danger is still imminent. For years city has kept a pact with a race know as the Dragonborn, a half-breed. In exchange for their protection, they assist the city when events such as this arise. Now the mayor and chief of the fire department must be willing to renew the Compact.
I have to be honest. I loved Sabriel by Garth Nix, so I went into this small story with high hopes that were immediately dashed. I found the premise to be a bit bland and lacking in any true originality. The writing, while solid, was not reminiscent of the poetic flair that I encountered previously with the author’s work.
The story was so straightforward that it left nothing to want or discover. There is no play on the imagination, which is almost unforgivable when it comes to fantasy and dragons. This felt more like a hectically made up story told to a restless child at night. There is so little back story on the Dragonborn and next to zero description or elaboration on the dragons. A true disappointment. I am thankful that I have encountered some of Nix’s other work to know he has more to offer than this.