Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cry of Desire in a Shrouded Land, by Emily McIntyre

★★★★★ A Gripping Tale, Spun from Many Threads

(High Fantasy) Lukas has grown rich selling his magic wish-fulfillment tea, but he’s dissatisfied, and his wife is looking elsewhere. Two young people come into their lives and everything changes. (10,808 words; Time: 36m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 248, published on .

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

Review: 2018.189 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This beautiful little story describes the events that changed the lives of four unhappy people.

Lukas has been faithful to his wife for decades, but Vidita tempts him like no one before, particularly when he sees his wife tempted by the exterminator. His wealth and success have left him unsatisfied, and he’s definitely ready for a change. He wants freedom from his job. The price he pays is that he leaves everything behind.

Vidita wants her freedom. Paying for the tea with her body doesn’t bother her since her body isn’t hers anyway, and Lukas at least offers her something for it, which her master does not. She’s very practical and cleverly gets everything she wants. She pays little price (if you don’t count the encounter with Lukas) other than being stuck with the exterminator.

The nameless exterminator is a psychopath and a rapist. He wants freedom from his mother, and the price he pays is effectively castration. It speaks to the depth of his desire for freedom that he considers that a fair price. It speaks well of the author that by that point in the story we find that 100% believable. And we're relieved he won't rape anyone else.

Lukas’s nameless wife is from another country and feels a prisoner in her beautiful house. She has her affair with the handsome exterminator, but it leaves her feeling even worse than before. Out of this mess, she and her husband realize they still love each other, and he gives her what she really wants, which is to return to her home. It’s not clear that she pays a price at all, but then she’s not the agent of her success either.

As for the tea itself, Vidita seems to be wise enough not to use it, heeding Lukas’s warning about the side effects. For the most part, it’s an excellent metaphor for the changes that the characters experience.

So what about the spiders? Their venom is the magic ingredient in the tea, so they seem to be agents of change. Perhaps the way everyone wants to kill them is symbolic of the fact that most people don’t want change most of the time.

Con: The story never says it, but the implication is that the magic tea only works once for any given person. Otherwise Lukas and others might have tried to change the outcome.

The story seems pointlessly vulgar at times, and the exterminator pays a very light price considering his crimes.

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Too vulgar for my tastes, and I didn't find the story or characters all that engaging. Most of the story is told in narrative, which I guess is di rigeur for literary fiction, but which I personally find boring. On the plus side, the writing is at least passable.


    1. I'm not sure I'd agree that literary fiction is mostly told via narration. Anyway, I liked this one for its plot complexity more than anything else.

  2. The author's name shown on the website is Emily McIntyre. Although this is the pseudonym she has on other writing.

    1. Thanks, it looks like the author was updated post-publication (the issue still shows Talisen Fray in Weightless Books). I've updated our review.