Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Of Letters They Are Made, by Jonathan Edelstein

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(Alternate History Fantasy) Taharah’s magic makes language come alive for audiences, but she seeks knowledge of her people’s ancient, forgotten tongue. (6,454 words; Time: 21m)

Rating: ★★★★☆ Clever and Touching.

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 228, published on .

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

Pro: You don’t really need to connect the names and places with ancient history to enjoy the story, but I had great fun trying to map them. Here are some key ones:
SkandarAlexander the Great
TianxiaCentral Asia
Pro: This tells the story of Taharah’s quest for the key to her people’s vanished language. What comes through strongly is her love for learning and her love for her children—including the adopted boy, Muqan. Through her magic, she can coax meanings from old texts, but Muqan's own magic, his innocence, and his enthusiasm give her something she never had before, and together they actually find the documents that are key to restoring Ivri.

When they flee the city, she has to choose, and she chooses the boy over her work, but ends up losing both. And yet despite her loss, she continues her research. Hers is a personal tragedy but a victory of the spirit.

In our reality, when the Assyrians invaded Israel in 722 BC, they scattered ten of the tribes and they lost their identities as separate people (these are the "lost tribes of Israel" one hears about). Only the two tribes in the southern kingdom survived, and their descendants eventually became the Jews of today. In this story, though, it appears that the Assyrians destroyed the entire kingdom--possibly because this world had real magic in it.

Con: There are an awful lot of confusing names in this story.

The alternate-history angle doesn’t seem to be used for anything other than background, and we never even find out who burned Jerusalem and destroyed all the texts.

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Jonathan Edelstein Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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1 comment (may contain spoilers):

  1. Thanks for the background! I didn't realize how closely it mapped to our world. Really enjoyed the story magic.