Wednesday, January 24, 2018

To Us May Grace Be Given, by L.S. Johnson

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★★★★★ Intense and Powerfully Moving

(Western Fantasy) Addy and her mom barely scratch out a living on their homestead. Bill Boyland is going to take their land away, but Addy’s mom is ready to do a deal with the devil to stop him. (15,368 words; Time: 51m)

"," by (edited by Rashida J. Smith), appeared in issue 10/01/17, published on .

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

Pro: A strong theme of the story is that change is coming. Bill Boyland says that right up front, and Elisabeth tells Addy the same thing. Rule of law is coming to the prairie. More immediately, with or without Bill Boyland, Addy and her mom simply aren’t able to manage the farm; they’re going to have to leave one way or another. Her mom’s refusal to accept change means she doesn’t leave the farm alive.

Doing the right thing is a theme as well. “A woman has to take a stand, but it was worthless if you weren’t standing for something right.” Addy is torn over what the right thing to do is with regard to Elisabeth, for example, and even with Bill Boyland. Her Mom never seems to have doubts, nor does Elisabeth. But Addy’s doubts are a big part of why we love her--and why she survives.

Another theme, reflected in the title, is grace, which, in Christian terms, is “the unmerited favor of God toward man.”  Ironically, it is the devil, Elisabeth, who gives grace to Addy. Addy is innocent—she hardly tries to make a secure deal with Elisabeth—nor does she ever kill anything, so we feel good that she survives and does so with clean hands. She rides off into an unknown future singing “Nearer My God to Thee” having left her old self by her mom’s body.

In terms of tension, the moment we realize Elisabeth wants Abby’s blood, we’re sure something bad is going to happen, and from that point forward, we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Good plot, good characters, good story. Well done!

Con: The story is a little slow getting going. Even once Elisabeth is captured, it seems to take too long to get to the big conflict with Boyland’s men.

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L.S. Johnson Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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