Friday, April 21, 2017

That Lingering Sweetness, by Tony Pi

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(Chinese Historical Fantasy; Candyman Ao) To undo some of the damage caused the last time he invoked zodiacal spirits, Ao needs to lift a pair of conflicting curses cast by two warring spirits. (8,844 words; Time: 29m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Clever, Complex, and Heartwarming

Although this story is part of a series, it stands alone quite well.

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 224, published on .

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

Pro: The plotting is very elaborate. Ao needs his wound healed. The tea can heal his wound, but it’s cursed. Double cursed. Dog can advise him, but can’t solve his problems for him. He has to earn this himself.

Which he does. First of all, his prime motive is to undo the damage from his last misadventure; he isn’t trying to help himself at all. Second, he makes beautiful use of other people’s abilities. Since he can’t make his candy figures, he gets help from Fanmaker Bai. When he can summon no help other than from Goat and Monkey, he gets the help he needs so he can hide the tea. He hides the loose tea amidst a different kind of tea, and then gets widow Yi to use her expertise to separate it back out. And he figures out how Matchmaker Tan can find a person with the right birth signs. Nothing comes for free, though. Every boon has at least some price.

As the negotiation proceeds, Goat and Monkey grow more and more civil to one another, symbolizing the way Ao earns their respect.  His solution to their problem is a clever one. Equally clever is the way that each of the spirits has a noble use for the magical tea; there really is no just solution that would give it to just one of them.

So he earns his cure at the end, and it’s heartwarming that the two spirits—now on excellent terms—choose to let him heal himself as a bonus.

The only loose end is Missus Pan. She’s more than she seems, and promises to be trouble—in a future story.

Con: For all that, it still seems too easy. Why do Master Deng and Mistress Yi trust Ao? Why do they even need him to organize their meeting? In particular, why do they trust him alone with the tea? His guessing her birth sign seems all too small a trick. The same question repeats at the sprit level: why do Goat and Monkey deign to let him judge for them? Are they really that desperate?

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Tony Pi Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Good to see another Candyman Ao story. Look forward to the next.