Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Bone Swans of Amandale, C.S.E. Cooney

(Dark Fantasy) Dora Rose's whole family have been slaughtered. Maurice saves her because he loves her, and is ready to help her get revenge. Even though he's a rat and she's a swan in their true forms.  (28,317 words)

Rating: 4, Recommended

"" appeared in Bone Swans, by published by .

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

Pro: Maurice's cynical commentary is the highlight of the tale, but the setting is amazing and the writing makes it all come to life. Although the basic story is very grim, the author mixes in just the right amount of humor to take the edge off.

The story is filled with symmetries. Here are a few: The swans were swept into nets in the water and died. The rats died in the water and were swept into nets. The whole story starts and ends with Maurice about to eat someone. Twenty swans are sacrificed to make musical instruments and twenty children sing voluntarily to work the magic. Then twenty children are sacrificed to turn twenty instruments into bone swans, while the children dance involuntarily.

It's amusing that the ogre took over the town by rigging the elections. She does almost zero damage because she's an ogre; almost all the harm she causes is because she's a tyrant.

The Pied Piper is unhappy and incomplete. His magic only works in this world, but he clearly misses Faerie. The maimed children are likewise incomplete. Not just physically; they're outcast from their community (in a sense, they have been ever since it turned its backs on them). The juniper tree's gifts make them individually whole again, albeit in a different way than before, and the bone fiddle will give them great power in Faerie. Together, they make a new whole.

A strong message in the story is that what's been destroyed cannot be remade but it can often be replaced by something new and different.

Con: The resurrection of the swans and the comeuppance of the ogre generate no deep emotions. Sometimes the story makes us squirm, but it never makes us cry. Not for sorrow or for joy.

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