Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Maiden Thief, by Melissa Marr cover image
(Dark Fantasy) Verena wants to stop the killer who takes one local girl every year. And she's just barely old enough to be a target herself. (9.650 words)

Rating: 3, Good, ordinary, story

"The Maiden Thief," by (edited by Ellen Datlow) was published by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: We start with Verena seeking the Maiden Thief, and we end with her having dealt with him. We suspected the girls might be alive, since that was hinted at. Verena even seems to have created the sort of home she wanted. The story has good closure.

Con: There are almost no surprises, though. Jakob is obviously the Thief from the first moment we see him. A few points don't entirely add up. It's unclear why the egg was in particular danger from the blood, for example. And what about the traps and beasts outside the castle?

4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Regarding the egg, Jakob makes her promise: “You must carry it with you while I’m away. Anywhere you go, it must be with you.”

    The implication, as I understand it, is that someone entering the casket room would be so startled, they would inevitably drop the egg. (This isn't spelled out in detail, but I'm imagining something so fragile it must be held in one's hands, and in such a situation it would be trivial to drop it or to set it aside in distress. (And indeed the twelve eggs of the previous girls are bloodstained and several are broken.)

    There's more than a little of Bluebeard in this story. I'm only familiar with the story in broad strokes, but I'm wondering if the egg, and the blood as an indicator of guilt (and its lack taken as an indicator of purity...) is a specific callback to Bluebeard, or some particular variation thereof.

    (The "traps and beasts" are also reasonably addressed, IMHO. The beasts are specifically "set free to roam when I am away," so when Jakob returns the beasts should be contained. And the story's conclusion mentions "Together with the others, I will figure out how to disable the traps he’s set on the grounds," so this is presented as a minor, surmountable obstacle.)

    1. You know, I never read the Bluebeard story before, but the connections are obvious.

      In the fairy tale, the key to the closet is magical. When the wife opens the door, blood sticks to the key, and she is exposed. She manages to signal to her brothers that she's in peril, and they arrive and save her, killing Bluebeard in the process.

    2. You're right about the beasts and traps. I somehow missed that in my first reading of it.

  2. I recognized it as a Bluebeard retelling, and I like that she rescues herself. However, it's so bleak and brutal. The ending didn't feel as happy as it should with the wives still alive and two of them her sisters. Where was the joyful family reunion?